Its that time of year again! Thanksgiving! Even though we are not pilgrims and our ancestors were in northern New Mexico before Plymouth Rock, we still like to get together, give thanks, and feast! We figured this will be the sixth time we use our two-year-old horno. As in last year, we are cooking several turkeys. We are also going to cook a leg of deer that one of our students, Jesus Gonzales, harvested from the local mountains.
The basic process for cooking meat in the horno is similar to making chicos in that we have to build a fire and heat up the horno for several hours. We prepare the turkeys for cooking by smothering them in butter and spices and rolling them up in aluminum foil.
When the horno is adequately heated for a few hours, we get the turkeys ready by wrapping up the aluminum-foiled turkeys and deer leg in burlap bags. We wet the bags first so that there will be a steaming process in addition to preventing the turkey from burning. Undercooking the turkeys is not likely, the real danger in horno-cooking is burning your food!
Once everything is ready, we drown the fire as in the making of chicos. Prior to this we have already mixed a batch of mud to seal the door and the chimney hole of the horno. After the fire is drown, we carefully place the burlap bundles in the horno and quickly seal the openings of the horno. After the horno is sealed, we inspect the outside of the horno for about an hour to plug up any leaks with mud. The leaks are obvious as steam starts to sneak out of the mud and sometimes even creates bubbles. We want to seal as many leaks as possible in order to keep the heat, steam, and pressure inside the horno. Its always a restless night that we cook in the horno, hoping everything goes well but more so in anticipation of the delectable meal that awaits!