Roasting whole animals is ancient. The original BBQ. Techniques vary across cultures and generations. In Oaxaca they wrap the meat in banana leaves. Other cultures use soaked Agave leaves. I have known friends who done it in giant, metal containers specially designed to fit in an underground hole. My method here is as simple as it gets. Everything I use can be sourced from a garden and a basic grocery store.
One or two days before the roast, choose a young goat, around 6 months is ideal. Holding the goat down, make a swift, deep cut in its neck. This kills the animal.
Meanwhile, tie a rope around its back leg and rig a method for lifting the animal so that it will hang by this rope. We swung the rope over a thick, high tree branch and tied the other end to our truck hitch. By driving the truck forward slightly, the goat lifted.
Start by skinning. Make entry point cuts through the skin only at the neck and the ankles. Separate the skin from the muscle and fat with a knife and pull the skin away as you go. It should peel off easily. Eventually, you will be able to slip off the entire coat.
With a saw, remove feet and head. You can reserve the head for consommé. Eviscerate. Wash the body down with a hose to remove any remaining dirt, hairs or unwanted bits.
Make a brine solution with 5 percent salinity (50 grams of salt per liter of water) I also add a few generous handfuls of peppercorns and a bag of brown sugar (approximately 900 grams).
Fill a large Rubbermaid tote (or other sturdy, lidded container) with brine solution and lower goat into the tub, making sure that it is completely submerged. Add several bags of ice to chill. Cover and leave in a cool, dark space for 24 hours.
On the Morning of the Roast
Start the fire. Keep a strong fire going for at least four full hours. Feed with hardwood. In New Mexico we use applewood and Pinon. Elm in a pinch. Think of it as preheating a very large, very primitive oven.
Remove goat from brine. Rinse and pat dry. Trim any excess fat or hard tissues.
Roll out a sheet of parchment paper large enough for the entire goat to rest upon. Rub the meat with salt, cracked black pepper and oil.
Gather various fruits, vegetables, alliums and fresh herbs – whatever is available to you. I used several different apples, red and white onions, thyme, sage, garlic and oregano. Stuff the cavity of the goat completely and scatter any remaining fruits around the meat on the paper. Using butchers twine, sew the cavity closed.
Fold the parchment around the goat, crimping the edges to seal. Lay down a second sheet of parchment (oriented the opposite way) and wrap the goat again. Do this as many times as it takes to seal the meat completely.
Follow the same steps with aluminum foil. Be sure the goat is entirely sealed. Even a tiny tear will leak juice and result in dry meat. So, wrap well. Finally, wrap baling wire around the sealed foil package like a present and form the excess wire into handles.
Shovel out 90 percent of the hot coals and very carefully lower goat into the pit (as well as any other sealed food you want to cook. We also did a pork shoulder and two roosters. Small packages should rest on top of the largest).
Cover pit with corrugated metal lid. Shovel a thin layer of hot coals onto the lid. Cover lid with 8 to 12 inches of dirt to seal the heat below.
I imagine every homemade roasting pit is different, but in ours, 9 hours was perfection and 12 was too much. Anywhere between 8 and 10 hours should result in succulent meat.
When you simply cannot stand it any longer, uncover. Remove dirt layer, metal lid and finally, the goat. Tear open the layers of foil and paper. Inhale (this might be the best moment). Feast. Share. Feast.