Baking bread in outdoor oven

From our May 2012 issue

By Syl Kulyk – Saskatoon, Sask.

Growing up on a farm 10 miles west of Wakaw, Sask. in the district called Sokal had its advantages and disadvantages. We learned to adapt and make things work.

Baking bread in the outside oven – ‘peeche’ as we Ukrainians called it – even at 30-below was just another chore my mother did.

Dad would haul a load of wheat by sleigh to the mill at Rosthern, 12 miles east of our farm. He had the wheat milled into flour to become our bread for the winter.

Mother would make the bread dough early in the morning and while it was rising she’d make the fire in the outdoor oven.

The fire would have to be kept going until about noon. She would scoop out the fire and ashes and we would carry the bread in the pans to the outside peeche to be baked. Usually, she baked about 15 loaves at a time.

The bottom of the peeche was made of brick so it would retain the heat for a long time. There was a cover for the front on the oven to keep the heat in while the bread baked. It was energy efficient.

The bread would be baked for about an hour-and-a-half. We would then carry it into the house and mother would smear it with fresh homemade butter. What a treat! (I’ll bet you old-timers can smell that fresh bread aroma!)

Mother would also bake buns, pies, and cabbage rolls in the outside oven. As much as I treasure those memories, when we moved to the city in 1949 it was a treat to have the bread baked indoors and have the aroma stay in the house.

Stella Kulyk with her sons, Bernie and Syl, ready to bake bread in their outside oven (peeche) in the winter of 1947, west of Wakaw, Sask.