Thursday, July 12, 2012

Camp Cooking: Pit Cooking Pork (Cochinita Pibil)

I recently went Mamping (Man camping, duh) with 2 of my good buddies up into the local mountains. It really isn't the best time of the year to go camping, the water is mostly dried up, the plants are dead and it's pretty hot, but we wanted to get out of the city. We did find a small campground out in the Cuyamaca Mountains that had plenty of shade, higher elevation (cooler temps) and within an hour drive of downtown San Diego called Cibbet's Flats. The main purpose of the trip was to have some fun, drink some beers and eat some good camp food.

Speaking of camp food, I have wanted to try pit cooking for a while now. The basic idea is you dig a hole, make a fire, wrap your meat and bury it for a while. It is the primitive way of slow cooking. So basically you can do any dish that you would normally slow cook. Think Crock-pot meals except I would advise against anything stew-like unless you have a dutch oven. To me slow cooking means pork. Pork is great because it is highly fatty, which breaks down over time into moist flavors.

After looking through a bunch of online recipes I decided on Cochinita Pibil. I'm still not quite sure if it is Mayan or Yucatecan, more than likely both.

Here are a list of the best recipes I found:
- Simply Recipes
- Dad Cooks Dinner

The Basics and you can scale howeer you need:

  • 3 lbs pork chopped in chunks (get the cheapest, fattiest stuff you can = more flavor)
  • Marinade - Blend until smooth(ish)
    • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
    • 2 bell peppers - pick your favorite colors
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • ~4 oz of achiote paste
    • 1 orange (sour or Seville preferred, I just used under ripe Valencia Oranges)
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • oregano -  If fresh, a small bunch, dried 1/4 tsp.
    • 2 bay leaves

Marinate for 24 hours in ziploc bags.

Wrap in Foil (Traditionally banana leaves, but these were harder to find than I thought) - don't be shy with the foil - this is the only thing preventing dirt in your food. I used the weave technique and had good success. And then I added a second layer over the whole package.

Dig a hole or use a fire pit. Then line the pit with rocks (these retain your heat).

Start a fire - A decent sized fire with some charcoal added helps. We cooked our bacon-wrapped veggie burgers over the coils for Friday night's dinner. Side note: Bacon wrapped veggie burgers are legit, you can wait till the bacon is cooked without risking the burger getting overcooked. Top with caramelized onions and Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce.

Once you are done with you fire for the night. And done drinking (we got to taste a bunch of homebrews), then put the foil packs right on the coils.

Bury the "goods" with dirt to trap in all the heat.

Open the foil carefully and get ready for beautifully cooked pork.

Serve on corn or flour tortillas with eggs, potatoes and hot carrots for breakfast. And then for lunch or dinner, serve on bolillos to make great tortas.

Yum. Ideas for next pit cooking session include: Carnitas, Chile Verde, Beer BBQ Pulled Pork

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