Friday, May 6, 2011

Sand Ovens

Of course, these days everyone camps out with propane stoves, modern cookware and utensils, and the car not more than a short walk away. No modern convenience need be done without, even in the middle of the wilderness. Have you ever thought, though, of what you'd do without all those wonderful things? In the Middle East, sand ovens are still common. Bread is baked, meat is roasted, and it all happens in a hole in the ground! These ovens are used because you don't need more than a goat and a knife. There's not much to carry, and you could wrap the meat in just burlap and toss it in! Roasted meat without extra seasoning is still delicious, but I like to add the herbs and things. I hope you'll try this out if you have a chance. It takes some work, but it's worth it. If you do this, take pictures and send them to me!

What you need to do:

Dig a 3' x 3' hole in the sand. I wouldn't recommend doing this in the local playground, but a nice stretch of beach or even a SW backyard would work beautifully!

Dump a good heavy layer of hot coals or hot stones in the bottom
Top with either a cleaned whole goat or hog. I would recommend cutting a whole hog in half nose to tail, and use 2 of these ovens- 1 oven for each half. I'd also recommend putting them split side down so the fats disperse through the meat. and adds all that extra flavor! You'll need more coals for a hog than a goat- at least 2-3 times as much, depending on the hog's size. You could also use leg of lamb.

Rub the beast in and out with olive oil, dress the meat with fresh herbs, salt and pepper. You could put in some slices of lemon or orange as well, especially for pork. For lamb, use rosemary and fresh mint.
Wrap the meat very well in banana or grape leaves, and tie it all up with twine so that all the meat is covered well.  Lay it in the hole, on top of the bottom layer of hot coals.
Dump in hot coals so that the meat totally covered. Top off the rest of the hole with sand. Be sure to mark it!!! You don't want to dig up the entire beach looking for your goat. :)

A small goat will take a few hours. The bigger the meat, the longer you need to cook it. Lamb should be checked in 2-3 hours depending on how rare you prefer it. Half a hog should be in all day, at least 8-10 hours.

Once you dig it out, unwrap it and enjoy! For a modern touch, you could put veggies or potatoes wrapped in foil down in the top layer of coals.

Whether it's on your little section of beach for the weekend, or a fun way to feed the family at this summer's reunion, using a sand oven is a sure way to make friends fast! Cook it, and they will come, I always say!

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