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How Traditional Hidalgo-Style Barbacoa Is Made in an Underground Pit


Gonzalo Ramirez is one of the only barbacoyeros in the U.S. who raises and butchers his own lambs, using the meat to create traditional Hidalgo-style barbacoa that he sells street-side in Los Angeles. Ramirez and his family are fourth-generation masters of the Hidalguenese barbacoa tradition, originating from the Hidalgo state of Mexico.

After butchering, the lamb’s shoulders, tailbone, spine, and other meaty parts are used for the barbacoa and consomé, and nothing goes to waste: the intestines and stomach are used to make pancita (offal-stuffed stomach) and moronga (blood sausage).

To make barbacoa, Ramirez uses a pit in the ground, which is cleaned before every cook. Once the fire is set in the pit, Ramirez places in the consomé and set a grill over the pit so the meat has something to rest on. The grill is covered in maguey leaves “to enhance the flavors,” says Ramirez. “And it’s going to help prevent the meat from burning.”

The meat then gets laid over the top of the leaves and is arranged in a specific way, every time they do it. “If we don’t arrange it properly, the meat might still get cooked, but not the way we want it,” says Ramirez. “I can’t change the layout.”

The pit heats up the consomé at the bottom, creating steam that rises to the top of the pit and circles back down. “The pit is actually hotter at the top,” says Ramirez. It’s this steam that cooks the meat.

Twelve hours later, Ramirez extracts the meat from the pit. The cooked pieces of meat get separated per cut and put into boxes to be sold.

Watch the full video to see how Ramirez and his family make consomé, pancita, and moronga.

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