When our kids were half grown and in college, we found ourselves having rather large gatherings of hungry teenagers. To feed these crowds we decided to perform the ancient ritual of barbecue in a pit. I’m not talking about a “pit” welded up from a used propane tank, I’m talking about a hole in the ground. Those were drought years, and the “soil” behind our house is hard red clay, like a brick. We used the post hole auger to drill a series of holes, then rolled up our sleeves and with talache and shovel hollowed out a pit 4′ x 4′, by 4 foot deep. We had a supply of dead post oak trees, so we burned about a cord of it down to a gleaming bed of coals about two feet deep. We kept adding wood all afternoon. It was a magnificent conflagration. We had turkeys, wild hog haunches, some beef roasts, and even lamb and a javalina. Each chunk of meat was wrapped in heavy foil, then with burlap. Finally baling wire was twisted around the bundle like a Christmas present, leaving a loop sticking up to handle them. We put a sheet of corrugated roofing tin over the coals, then lowered the bundles onto it using a hayhook. Last, we covered the pit with more tin, and shoveled dirt over it until no smoke was seen escaping.
The next evening, we exhumed “the evidence”. (We crossed our fingers) we removed the dirt and tin, and hooked out the bundles, setting them on a makeshift table of sawhorses and boards. After twenty-some- odd hours in the pit, the turkey was so done that if you pulled on a bone, it came out easily and was white and dry. The meat, on the other hand was moist, succulent and had a faint effluvium of oak smoke. The two most astonishing pieces were the lamb, which actually melted in your mouth before you could even chew it, and the Javelina which was sabrosa! Most folks told us Javelina was inedible, but I don’t believe it anymore. It’s a true South Texas delicacy. This may not be a method you’d want to use for everyday cooking. But it was worthwhile for the occasion. My advice is not to do it in a drought year, and maybe hire a contractor with a jackhammer and a backhoe to dig your pit!