Twas the season and Christmas was fast approaching. I volunteered to cook for our large family Christmas gathering and an underground oven was calling my name.
What I envisioned was a casual menu of freshly made tortillas holding chunks of slowly cooked fork tender pork topped with killer homemade salsas.
From this vision came the following menu:
I started two days before Christmas by making an Achiote Rub with the aid of a molcajete. To the rub I added orange and lime juice to make a marinade that was injected all around a 55-pound pig. The pig was then packed in ice and allowed to marinate overnight.
On Christmas Eve logs upon logs were packed into a 5 foot deep by 5-foot wide underground brick oven and ignited to create an inferno.
While the fire was roaring we laid down a large piece of chicken wire on top of a table. We then layered on top of the wire banana leaves to serve as a bed for our marinated pig.
Kosher salt and black pepper was then rubbed inside and out of the pig. Once completed the pig was then rolled up within the leaves and chicken wire like large tamale later to be nicknamed the “Tamalazo.“
Once the walls of the oven glowed red hot and nothing but burning embers were left the oven was ready to cook.
A wire was fed through each side of the Tamalazo and it was carefully carried to the oven.
The oven was incredibly hot and with a great deal of patience each end of the wire was fed through 4 wired loops that was secured to the top rim of the oven.
The tamalazo now hung suspended in the oven.
We quickly covered the oven with two iron doors and then with two large sheets of plywood. With the loss of oxygen in the oven white smoke started to billow through the cracks signaling that fire had been snuffed out and the cooking had begun.
The pig cooked overnight for 20 hours.
On Christmas Day we raised the pig from the oven and cut open the chicken wire and banana leaves to find the pig fully cooked, hot and fork tender. We carefully removed pieces of pork and placed them into roasting pans to be quickly transported to our Christmas Day table.
As family members began to make homemade tortillas an assembly line of ingredients quickly formed on the main table with the Cochinito Pibil first in line followed by all the fixings to make some great tacos.