Saturday, 01 April 2017 17:23

Underground Pit Cooking in New Mexico

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When I was growing up in Tesuque, every fall my father would host a party for all of his friends and their families.  He would cook a quarter beef underground.  This method of cooking in New Mexico was thought to originate with the pueblos and then passed on to the Spanish.  The method was quite simple. A large hole was dug and lined with rocks.  A large fire was built and allowed to burn down to coals.  Whn the coals were ready,they were removed,  the wrapped food was placed in the pit, the coals were put back into the pit, a cover was placed over the food, and the whole thing was buried.  After several hours, the pit was dug up and the food was served.

My dad used the same method, but the materials were updated.  His hole was lined with brick, and the cover he used was old roofing tin.  At 3:00 on the morning of the party, we would fill the pit with firewood and let it burn.  In the meantime, he prepared the beef.  He salted and peppered it and wrapped it in cheesecloth.  He wrapped several layers of wet burlap (which had been soaking overnight) around the meat and secured it with baling wire.  4 hours later, when the coals were ready, they were removed from the pit, the meat was placed on the bricks, and it was covered with the roofing tin.  The coals were shoveled on top of the tin and everything was buried with the dirt.  It took 8 - 10 hours to cook.

The photo is of my dad (right) and Herman Barkmann pit cooking at the Santa Fe Winter Sports Club in the 1960s.

--Mike Lord

Read 1380 times Last modified on Saturday, 12 August 2017 22:40
Mike Lord

4th generation Santa Fe Gringo.

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