Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving "Wilkes" Style!

My family usually doesn't do any holiday "traditionally."

We didn't have the Easter bunny growing up - we had the Easter pig (a javelina that made its way into our backyard one Easter and ate all the hidden eggs).

While I was a tweenager and a teenager, we fed Christmas dinner to the homeless on Christmas day - foregoing our morning of sleeping in and opening presents.

Thanksgiving is no exception! We don't cook turkies in the oven. We cook them in our PIT!

What is a PIT? It's a brick-lined hole in the ground that cooks the meat overnight. Here's the steps.

STEP 1: Mom starts the fire at noon on Wednesday. This is a TREACHEROUS job involving gasoline, an empty milk carton, matches, newspaper, and lots of wood.

STEP 2: Mix the spices. Each turkey/slab of meet is doused in spices. What's in the spices? Only my dad knows!

STEP3: Jared makes the beans (a combo of beans, raw bacon that cooks in the pit, and white onion).

STEP 4: Load up the turkeys/slabs of meat on the table, ready for the assembly line preparation.
The line goes like this:
a. unwrap the bird
b. spice the bird
c. replace the bird back in its aluminum pan
d. double bag the bird in muslin sacks
e. tie a wire around the neck of the bags
f. attach a metal tag with a number on it (how we keep track of who's turkey is who's)
g. place on pallet awaiting fire

STEP 5: Stack the "packages" on a pallet. This year, we put close to 40 "packages" of meat in the pit.

STEP 6: We don't put the sacks right on the fire (for obvious reasons). First, they're soaked in water. Next, a couple of metal plates are lowered on to a lip on the inside of the pit. This cuts out the oxygen and forces the fire to burn down to coals. In the following steps, you'll see how the heat is kept in to do the cooking. In this picture, you can see the huge hooks used to pick up the metal plates and lower them into the pit.

STEP 7: The "packages" are carefully lowered, by hand, on to the metal plates. They're kept flat because as they cook, they secrete yummy juices. You want to keep these juices in the pan...they make amazing gravy!

STEP 8: Put wood planks on top of the pit (no picture!).

STEP 9: Lay a tarp on top of the wood planks (you'll see why in a sec).

STEP 10: Cover the entire area with dirt (hence the need for the tarp - this keeps dirt from getting down in the pit, and into the meat). The dirt is then sprayed with water to make a "seal." No heat escapes!

STEP 11: Cook the meat overnight. Essentially, you have a giant crock pot that is cooking the meat via steaming. There's mequite wood in the bottom, so you have mesquite-smoked, home-spiced meat that falls right off the bone. It is AMAZING and we love doing it every year!

STEP 12: Watch helplessly as your 16 month old finds a giant puddle to play in. Once she found the puddle, she immediately dropped to her knees and started splashing. It was a lot cause.

We sure missed all our family that wasn't with us, and we commented several times about how it just wasn't complete with them all here.

I hope everyone else had as nice of a Thanksgiving! We sure are blessed.


Anonymous said...

Wow, that looks like fun and really yummy!!! I love unique family traditions, it's way more fun that way.

Jason and Amy said...

I love Wilkes Turkey thats for sure! Love that cute little dirty face too

Matthew and Courtney said...

You better have missed me, even though I was there for about 24 hrs!!