Have you ever heard of earth ovens? Pit cooking? Peruvian Pachamanca? Mexican Pib? Or Hawaiian imu?
Yeah, me neither. I mean, I had researched before about how to make Cochinita Pibil, but never had I imagined the level of history this cooking technique has.
People have been cooking this way for hundreds of centuries, as it held the purpose to celebrate and feed big groups of people, utilizing little to no equipment, and less negative impact on the planet. If earth oven still doesn't ring a bell, the technique consists on:
- Digging a hole and setting a fire in it.
- Adding rocks and letting them heat up.
- Layering and wrapping the meat and vegetables in green plants (like plantain leaves) to give moisture, or in this case aluminum foil.
- Finish it up covering it with the earth's soil.
In order to celebrate the end of the most inspiring and eye opening year of my life, with the most food curious people in the planet, we decided to conduct our first ever earth oven ceremony. I even asked if it was legal to open a hole in a piece of land to cook and animal, and I am guessing in Italy it is, because we went through with it.
Since the crack of dawn, the leaders of the pack started the process of lighting up our cooking pit. It might have taken longer than expected, which could be obstacle, considering the sunset would happen in 5 hours and a half, but we would need at least 5 hours of cooking.
It was decided to source a high-quality baby lamb (that weighted 14 kg) from a local farmer. Smoked lamb's meat is quite unmatchable and easiest to cook without risking overcooking, or undercooking *crosses fingers*.
I arrived midday, when the beast was already underground, and helped prepping some pumpkins that would be cooked on the fire we would set next to the underground oven. Even though I couldn't wait to try a bit of the lamb, there was nothing compared to the fire roasted pumpkins. The natural sweetness with the hints of smoke were glorious with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. As the hours passed by, and the afternoon crawled upon us, more and more Gastronomes started to arrive with goodies to enjoy with the lamb. From homemade pita bread, flatbread, Piedmontese corn tortillas, tzatziki, chimichurri, chutneys, cooked and fresh vegetables, pasta salads, and even cake for dessert.
I believe we were over 40 people gathered and waiting to see the resuscitation of the holy lamb (lol). Once it happen, the sun was just setting and the skies were pink like cotton candy. It felt magical, like a true ceremony, or sacred sacrifice.
It definitely felt like an outer body experience. Maybe it was all the wine, or the lamb brain I got to try.
Thankfully I didn't get any crazy lamb syndrome and was able to make lamb tacos and gyros.
Had you ever heard of this cooking technique before? Would you ever try it?
Let me know in the comments below.