Luau Style Pit Goat Roast

IMG_6229 - CopyAs some of you know, I’m on a mission to elevate the goat in many ways, including as a culinary staple and delight. With that in mind, I’ve wanted to try roasting a goat in a luau style pit for some time. As with many things, I’ve found if you commit to it publicly or with a contract, you’re more likely to actually follow through, so I announced that our farm’s fall potluck would also be a goat roast.

Most online information about pit roasting is about cooking a whole pig, which is somewhat easier thanks to their skin and fat layer helping keep the meat tender during the roast. Goat, on the other hand, is not only skinned before roasting, but is also much leaner. I found a couple of other articles on roasting cuts of various types of meat wrapped in everything from foil and wet newspaper, cabbage leaves, agave leaves, and of course  the traditional luau banana leaves. I chose to work with foil and newspaper as we were fresh out of agave and banana leaves (ha ha) and I was concerned that cabbage would add a cruciferous flavor.

 

After an initial fire that didn’t roast the meat as long as needed, we had great success with the second batch (the same day). We’ll be trying it again and experimenting with a few other ideas, but this will get you started! PS. DON”T FORGET TO CHECK WITH FIRE OFFICIALS IF YOUR ROAST IS TO OCCUR DURING FIRE SEASON!

  1. The Goat: I harvested an 18 month old, 100 pound, Nigerian/Lamancha cross dairy wether, aptly named Luau, 4 days before the feast. I butchered the carcass into primal cuts and brined those cuts. The brine mixture was 2 gallons water, 2 cups sea salt, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup cider vinegar, 6 bay leaves, and 1/4 cup mixed pepper corns. The meat went into pots and was submerged in the brine using ziplock bags filled with water. Then all went into a large ice chest with ice jugs to keep it cold. IMG_20180902_115250429_BURST000_COVER
  2. The Pit: We dug a 24″ x 48″ x 24″ deep hole in our lawn. I lined the bottom with concrete pavers and then placed 8×16″ cement blocks around the edges. I offset the second row, creating a ridge for a grate to rest upon. We cut the grate from a strong fencing panel with 2×4″ openings. Before roasting, wet the earth around the pit significantly to help create steam.IMG_20180902_102510729
  3. Preparing the Meat: Drain the brine and wrap each primal cut in a layer of foil, keep all of the seams at the top as you will be creating a container for the moisture. The steam must be able to build up and remain in the packet in order to keep the meat moist and tender. Wrap this packet in at least 8 layers of wet newspaper (keep track of where the top is on the inside foil layer). Then wrap this in another layer of foil, again, creating seams on top to hold in the moisture. (When the roast was over, we rinsed and recycled all of the foil and composed the newspaper)
  4. The Fire: Build a thick base of white hot coals over a couple of hours of burning. Just before adding the meat, add a couple of larger pieces of hardwood. Don’t allow them to start burning as you want to add the meat and cover it all up before flames are high.IMG_20180902_115704084_HDR
  5. Adding the Meat: Place the grate on the edge over the coals and wood. Add the packets of meat, you can stack them.
  6. The Thermometer: I was SO GLAD that I invested in an affordable, remote thermometer and hope you will too! Place the probe in one of the heavier cuts of meat and run its fireproof cable up and out of the pit. IMG_20180902_155514579_HDR
  7. The Cover: Place one to two layers of plywood over the pit. We had two small pieces cut that fit down onto the last layer of block, but were still beneath the top layer of soil. Cover that with large pieces of plywood that extend out over the surrounding ground. Cover that with a couple of pieces of roofing metal. (The plywood in the photo had an unpainted side that we put towards the meat)IMG_20180902_124634963_HDR
  8. The Cook: It took our roast about 12-14 hours to get super tender. The temperature it reached was just under 200 F. The meat was technically done much sooner, at about 150 F, but hadn’t built up the steam and heat in the packets needed to make it so succulent that it just fell off the bones. So give it time! The photo at the top of the article was after the 14 hours of roasting, there was still whole pieces of wood in the pit, which was great, it meant we had kept the oxygen level super low, creating a slow, gentle heat. IMG_6232 - Copy

 

When done, have some heavy duty oven mitts or welding gloves (thank you husband) and pile the packets into pans. You can up-wrap and shred it or let your guests do a bit of the work. We served ours with rolls, mustard, and optional BBQ sauce. I hear it was delicious!

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Philosophy of a Vegetarian Butcher

I’m a vegetarian. Lacto-ovo. For almost a quarter century. I also harvest (as it’s so appealingly called these days) meat for my omnivore family. In addition I’ve found it gratifying to teach others how to respectfully take the life of a gentle beast and convert its life into sources of life for others.  I don’t find this a conflict at all.

Vegetarianism in all its forms is a luxury of time and situation. In my case, I have never liked to eat meat. When I was a kid, the only way I enjoyed it was if it was marinated and then cooked to well done. I don’t like the taste of fresh milk or eggs – especially healthy, farm eggs. There is just something about my system that doesn’t crave, enjoy, or seem to need meat. But I am fortunate to have access to homegrown fruits and veggies and an amazing spectrum of local products, rice from our region, beans from many places, organic tofu, amazing cheeses, and numerous other foods and supplements that seem to provide all I need. But to practice abstinence from animal products as a superior lifestyle is to disrespect indigenous cultures throughout time, those living in less bountiful societies, and indeed, our own origins as a species.

To believe that vegetarianism is more evolved and more ethical is the ultimate arrogance. It implies that humankind is above and separate from nature – indeed we seem drawn to this paradigm in almost every aspect of how we treat the planet and its systems. When it comes to eating meat, however, humankind can rise to a level that our non-speaking predator animal kin cannot – we have the potential to take the life of another creature for sustenance with respect, honor, and appreciation. It’s the lack of realizing this potential that is the true tragedy.

To blithely shop the supermarket meat department, its refrigerated cases stacked with tidy rows of bright claret steaks; to selectively dine on primarily just the choice parts of the animal – bacon, chicken breasts, lobster tails; to expect flesh to be inexpensive – all of these things support and create high efficiency, large-scale farming, where the animal, the human worker, and the environment pay the price. Meat, of any kind, should be relatively costly and eaten in proportion to what the animal, the workers, and the land can, without undue compromises, provide.

I don’t expect everyone to be able to learn to slaughter and butcher. Even 15 years ago, I harbored a prejudice toward friends who were able to kill their own chickens, it just seemed a bit barbaric. I was raised on a farm by parents who were not from self-sufficient upbringings. But they aspired toward that. In addition to a massive garden, orchards, and a home-scale wheat grinding mill, we also raised animals for milk and meat. But others were paid to kill and process them. It was so hard for my mother, in fact, that she would load me and my sister in the car and take us to town on the day the kill truck came. I took the next step. And my children have a more innate sense of balance regarding life and the food chain than even I do.

In 2003 I told my husband, a happy omnivore, that I wanted to raise a batch of meat chickens. He was uncomfortable with the idea. He was raised on what I call a rural suburb – small lots, dads that worked 9-5 and whose farm skills were topped out by mowing the front lawn. So we made a deal. I’d do the entire processing, serve it up, and if he and our girls could tell me that the meat wasn’t superior, I wouldn’t do it again. You can guess who won – we all did.

The first goat I butchered was named Minerva. She was an adult Nigerian Dwarf doe, but without a good future. Other than being cute, she wasn’t a good milk goat, had an unbalanced personality, and was very noisy. To have given her to a pet home would have likely doomed her to a string of unhappy owners and poor living conditions. I had taken the lives of a few goats before – using a bullet to euthanize them for various sufferings. But I had never processed a larger animal into meat. I printed out instructions from the internet, bought an inexpensive set of butchering tools, and steeled myself.

I made a good portion of the harvest into jerky. I’ll never forget what happened next. I handed a slice to my youngest, an animal lover whose dream was to one day open a cat sanctuary, but who also relished a good steak. She skeptically put a bit in her mouth and chewed. Her eyes widened and she said “Is there anyone else we can off?” The wall had been breached.

It has been my privilege to grow to the point of being able to share these moments with others. Hopefully helping them on their own journeys of returning to balance in the food chain. Life is sacred and so is death. Both must be respected and neither can be avoided. If you aren’t ready for direct involvement with this process, you can still try to honor it. Purchase only “expensive meat” from local farmers who care and are involved with every step of the harvest – even if that means they oversee the animal’s last moments at an FDA approved facility; if you must by from an unknown source, seek out humane certified producers or failing that, organic; don’t eat fast food meat; don’t eat much meat; and finally, try to eat the meat in proportion to what the animal offers, after all there’s much more to a pig than bacon. If you have children, you can guide them toward a level above your own – let them raise an animal, help a farmer harvest meat, learn to cook meat, and above all, never to waste meat.

I sheep farmer friend once taught me the following mantra, and its one omnivores should live by: “Every animal deserves a good life, a good death, a good butcher, and a good chef.” Amen.