Alex's Recipes



Fire Pit Turkey 2001


Recipe and photos by Dave Norton (Illustrated)

Dave's (you Are what you Eat) Turkey



20-25 lb turkey
uncored green apples
olive oil
fresh spice leaves for poultry seasoning
bacon strips


The Bird:

  • 20-25 lb bird. Clean, remove giblets, use for stuffing or to throw at the cat.
  • Fill cavity completely with small hard whole, unpeeled, uncored green apples (God DOES make little green apples, just for this purpose!)
  • Oil bird liberally with Olive oil (so his wings don't squeak).
  • Liberally dot outside of bird with whole fresh spice leaves: sage, rosemary (parsley and thyme if you're musically inclined), cover about 1/4 of the surface.
  • Lay uncooked bacon strips over the top, pretty much cover the dang bird.
  • Wrap this with rinsed wet cheese cloth (leave the cheese at home), about 3 packages worth.
  • Wrap next with clean, rinsed, wet muslin (or old sheets, leave the blankets at home), enough to make maybe 10 wraps all around. We used 12 yards to start (including the neighbor's). It gets shorter and more colorful (see photo!) in successive years.
  • Cover next with 6-8 wraps of heavy-duty aluminum foil, getting as good a crimped fold as you can.
  • Wire this hefty lump to a sturdy wire rack, and (here's the tricky part) fashion a STURDY wire loop arrangement over the top of the whole magilla, so you can (1) get it into the fire, and (2) get it out of the fire.

The Whole Hole:

  • Dig a hole 4 ft deep, 3 ft wide, 4 ft long. Do this late at night so the neighbors suspect the worst.
  • At midnight (38 hours before dinner time), build a tower of firewood in the bottom of the hole, and torch it off. (DON'T use gasoline for this!) Use good hardwood, we use the neighbor's oak. Neighbors are sure handy.
  • Keep stokin' the fire 'till you have a bed of coals 2 ft deep, and the logs are all broken down into coals. This takes about 2 hours, and a half gallon of hot spiced cider.
  • Scoop out a dip in the middle of the coals and lower the poor bird into its final roasting place.
  • Shovel as much coals onto the top as you can, then carefully refill the whole hole with soil.
Reader reports show that soil composition and the size of the fire pit hole is very important. Larger pits may require more coals, and more lead time. All other things being equal, a 6x6 hole may not cook the bird at all. The formula above has produced excellent results for many years in a sandy soil.

If you have soil that is mainly clay or adobe, consider lining a larger pit with cinderblock and backfilling with sand, leaving a porous 4x3x4 pit so the coals can "breath". Avoid pits in nonporous, landfill, soggy or contaminated soils, particularly if the fire pit has not already been lined and "seasoned" through heavy use. Experiment. Have a backup bird. This is an ages-old method of slow cooking, and, with patience, you will get it right.

End Result:

  • After 36 hours (don't cheat), invite the neighbors over and give their kids the honor of uncovering the bird. Aren't you glad you remembered the sturdy loop on top with which to hoik it out of the hole!
  • Hoik it out of the hole.
  • Shake off all the excess coals, dirt clods, weeds, scorpions, cats, and kids before you take it into the house. Do the same to the turkey.
  • Unwrap the affair on the kitchen floor. Don't worry, a new layer of wax and it'll look almost like new.
  • Here's what you'll find:
  • It's all steamy burny HOT, giving off the most wonderful aromas!
  • The apples have melted into the general mish-mash inside, yielding their juices into the meat. They're flat gone.
  • The spices have imparted their color and intense flavor down into the meat, giving a color almost like that of smoked meat.
  • The bacon has kept the whole bird moist and flavorful.
    The bones are almost crumbly, and have the look of having been bleached. Even the marrow has leached out into the meat.
  • Enjoy!

Illustrations (In sequence)

To view a large-size image of any of the 2.5" images below, just click the image.


©2001 by Dave Norton




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