Looking into the hellmouth of an oven, it seems hard to believe anything could exit raw. An employee named Jorge jokes and teases the other employees as he washes dishes. The above-ground … A fire gets built in the pit for some 8 … I haven't tried all the barbacoa that's out there, an impossible feat in a city with tens of millions of people. If pressed to describe the average barbacoa pit, I would say that it is about 2 feet in diameter by a little over 3 feet deep, although some are in the shape of a rectangle, and … As for the pit, you can use your imagination to create bigger or even better grills. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest recipes and tips! Javier hands me a red plastic plate with the pile of meat he retrieved. The origins of pit-cooking meat trace back to the Taíno people in the Caribbean, during the pre-Columbian era, but the technique migrated west to central Mexico, leaving a trail of underground ovens, like the pibils in the eastern part of the country. (tags: BBQ, Barbecue, Barbeque, Bar-b-cue, Bar-b-que, B-B-Q, grill, grilling, campfire, chuckwagon, chuck wagon). while tomorrow's tasty dinner is slowly roasting in the back yard! We also like to cook fish sometimes . Barbecued poultry, you'll find, has moist and fatty skin while roasts emerge from the pit nicely tender, with no crust. Standing atop the still-warm coals from last week, resting his head on the shoulder-level top of the oven in the center of his house, Renato says a silent prayer. A table of nine comes in, and the place seems lively. The lamb, mostly in a single layer, takes up about two-thirds of the pot. Then on to a bakery, for various pastries and the bolillos (rolls). Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST). (We've found that lean meat—such as rib eye or sirloin—doesn't work as well as do the fatty cuts.) Survival Skills, Garden Planning, Seed Saving, Food Preservation, Natural Health – Dozens of courses, 100+ workshops, and interactive Q&As. Economies have ups and downs, but the Álvarez Cruz family blood seems to run with the juice of lamb, cooked low, slow, and in an oven built by their father’s hands. And, although we've never prepared deer in our own pit, I have tasted delicious barbecued venison. The crater that I hollowed out was three feet square and three feet deep, but you could make yours larger if you think you might ever want to cook up a really big feast. I have found that one heaping wheelbarrowful of oak or maple chunks—when burned—gives me the depth of embers I need... but of course it's always better to have more rather than fewer coals. First, they head to a market for flowers to decorate the tables, where the woman knows the order and asks after her ailing customer. Ana pinches the edges of masa cakes into sopes and slaps blue-corn tortillas onto the grill. In addition to her father’s health concerns and the country's state of flux ahead of the election, the barbacoa business has the usual problems that accompany making traditional food in a modern world. The air fills with the gentle but all-encompassing aroma of long-cooked lamb. Award-winning food and travel writer Naomi Tomky uses her unrelenting enthusiasm as an eater, photographer, and writer to propel herself around the world. They sit at long tables in what could have been a front yard or a patio, enclosed to form a restaurant, Barbacoa Ermita. After cleaning, Renato and one of the restaurant's employees, Ana, lay the leaves on a piece of hot metal over the still-orange flames of the fire to soften them and add a bit of charring flavor. If you've ever hungered for the lipsmackin' taste of real barbecue (as opposed to the charred chops most weekend chefs whip up on their grills), perhaps it's time you considered building your own backyard barbecue pit. Inside this lining of palenques, he carefully places the lamb, all the pieces except the ribs, which he’ll set on top. The simplicity of this method of preparation—as well as the low cost of the basic construction—makes it an ideal, inexpensive way to feed a large crowd with truly delicious eats! Some pits are pretty darn impressive. Post whatever you want, just keep it seriously about eats, seriously. Instead of cooking the meat in the ground the usual way, Torres has constructed an above-ground pit … What will happen to the business, this family tradition making its way down to a fourth generation, is up in the air as its patriarch ails. I wonder how many of them understand that they're sitting in the basement of a family home, eating the product of four generations of experience, of three days of labor. Next, it's time to prepare the meat for its subterranean toasting. In fact, I actually dug my family's pit myself in the hard, rocky soil of New Hampshire! While you buy all kinds of fire pits, it’s also easy to build your own fire pit.. The oven, its bricks and cement and trails of soot dusting the walls above it, forms the center of the family home, and so too, on a less tangible level, does the weekend task of making barbacoa. “Barbacoa is strong,” Renato explains. Already a Member but If you love barbecue, a 3' x 3' hole in the ground is all you need, coals, and a wood or metal cover is all you need to roast meat yourself in your own backyard barbecue pit. If she were to arrive any later, the best lambs—small, tender, barely a year of age, brought in from ranches in Veracruz or Hidalgo state—would all be long gone. While it bubbles and pops, the younger Javier runs across the street for tamales, which will be stuffed into the bolillos as hearty sandwiches (tortas de tamal) for the team before service. It helps take tougher, less desirable cuts of meat and make them delicious. I first fell in love with the meltingly tender meat in a small town outside of Querétaro, Mexico. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. Then, as a final precooking preparation, wrap each bundle in two sheets of soaking wet newspaper... this covering will cling to the inner wrap and make a neat package. Javier stops the minivan at a lonely-seeming bucket of hot lard, tucked into the side of a roundabout. ), When the coal bed is ready, I smooth out the embers with a shovel and lay the 2 1/2-foot aspen branches—in a platform pattern—on top. But Adriana disagrees, telling me it’s a slow start for them. I first became acquainted with authentic barbecue years ago, when I used to travel through Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas on business. Mexican barbacoa is typically made with beef, goat, or lamb, seasoned with chilies, cumin, and herbs. A man runs up, and Javier asks for the chicharrones, which get fried to order. By the time the lamb pouch reaches the bottom, the intense heat of the oven has already brought the consomé to a boil. … "In this economy," he says, "simple things can break a business.". I arrive at Renatos on Saturday, the second of three days of preparation. In the 15 years since, finding the best barbacoa has been something of a mission for me. In the remaining space, Renato adds the contents of a yellow bucket labeled panza—which translates to "belly," though the bucket actually contains finely chopped and marinated lamb heart, lungs, and intestine, stuffed into a pair of lamb stomachs. Until recently, shopping for the lamb and other ingredients was done by her father, Renato Álvarez Rentería, who learned the art of barbacoa from his father, Alejandro Álvarez Solano. . At 8:30 a.m., the team gathers for a quick meeting to go over reservations, flavors, and specials, and to scarf down the tamale sandwiches with mugs of coffee before the doors open. You can use natural rocks to create a stack above ground to define the pit area. Original source: New York State NYS75-A. The ‘hole’ is about 3x6 and around 3 feet deep surrounded by about 4 feet of abobe on all sides. It takes about two hours to build up the needed depth of coals... and that "break" gives me plenty of time to make the other necessary preparations. But in nearly the same breath as each expresses concern, they dive, wholeheartedly and often whole-bodily, into the making of barbacoa, as did their parents and their grandparents before them. It is a decision he, Adriana, Bruno, and another brother who currently lives in Cancún will need to make. Bruno, Adriana and Renato’s brother, wrote a graduate-school thesis on streamlining the business, and the family put many of his ideas into place. Not only are the swimmers super-tasting when smoked underground, but their bones become as soft as those in canned salmon. My family thinks rolled chuck roast is the best red meat to barbecue in a pit... but a brisket will also be tasty. For its width, take into account the size of your selected grilling rack, which will need to span the opening. Partially bury 14—8 x 8 x 16 inch cement blocks … Using a rope woven under two handles, he and Ana carefully lower the pot of ingredients for the consomé—a soup flavored with barbacoa drippings and lamb feet—onto the coals at the bottom, then add water from huge multi-gallon jugs. The pit at La Capilla is above ground made of abobe. After they've soaked well in a bucket of water, the aspen pieces (or any other green wood you might want to use) will be placed on the coals to give the meat a smoky flavor. Now that the meat is raised a few feet from the floor of the oven, it can easily be reached during service while it’s still warm, even once the oven is covered. According to the book Pre-Hispanic Mexican Cuisine: The Food of the Ancient Mexicans, which Barbacoa Renatos has used as a source, the Mayans came up with the technique of steam-cooking meat in underground ovens, which keeps both the juices from the animal and the smoke and heat from escaping and forces them back into the meat, resulting in big flavor and preventing any drying out. A square table is placed into the oven, then the meat set on top of it. At 9:30 on Saturday morning, as Renato soaks the lamb for 20 minutes to remove the salt, it seems so far—and will for most of the weekend—that 90% of making barbacoa is cleaning. Dig the hole for your barbecue. As we wait for the flames to change from red or orange to blue—“We go only by our eyes,” he says, “never by temperature”—Renato begins the final preparation of the meat with a last sprinkling of salt. Against the world's greatest delicacies, Hidalgo-style barbacoa holds its own. The hole will, ideally, be one and a half feet up to … Later, friends will ask if I'm convinced that it's the best in the city. (However, do watch out for spines in all barbecued fish, since the larger bones occasionally don't completely soften. At MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. . Inside, another lady produces crushed ice by feeding a giant frozen block through an ancient-looking machine; Renatos will use the ice under the salsas to keep them cold through service. The vendor uses a set of tongs in each hand, deftly plunging them into the boiling fat, to unfurl the cooking pork skin. The rest of the team shows up: a waitress and two assistants, a tortilla-maker, two salsa-makers, and a dishwasher, all of whom assist the family on Sundays. The method was in use at the time of the Spanish arrival in Mexico, and little about it has changed in the centuries since. . The process took many more days and included burning the hair off the legs of lamb and cleaning the spikes from the giant nopal (cactus) leaves that come on the garnish plate—tasks now done by the vendors. Pre-Hispanic Mexican Cuisine: The Food of the Ancient Mexicans, Serious Eats' Halal Cart-Style Chicken and Rice With White Sauce, How Korean Cuisine Got Huge in America (And Why It Took So Long). FMC Corp. (Yakima Pit) The 4-acre FMC Corp. (Yakima) Superfund site is located in Yakima, Washington. Formerly housing a maze of stacked tables and chairs, plus parking space for a motorcycle, the front of the ground floor is transformed into a dining room. Once the two- to four-foot pit is excavated, it’s … Pit barbecuing is nothing more than the slow cooking (and wet smoking) of meat, poultry, or fish—in an airless hole—for about 16 to 20 hours until the viands are tender, juicy, and flavorful. Now, suddenly, like color filling in a black-and-white movie, the magic of the two previous days of work comes together into the familiar choreographed dance of restaurant service. .. when you sink your teeth into a steaming, succulent mouthful of meat—maybe even topped with a dollop of spicy sauce—and enjoy the fruits of your labor. (And be sure to burn only nonresinous hardwoods in your cooking chamber.). At this point, it's a wise idea to hose down the grass around the pit to douse any sparks that may fly up as you add wood to the fire... unless, of course, it's raining (such inclement weather won't interfere at all with the barbecuing process). I’ve returned to San Juan del Río, where I first found it, and explored the sprawling metropolis of Mexico City and its environs, expressly for the dish. Stacked pits are layered above the ground and do create attractive centerpieces that can be incorporated in any patio setting. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only). I found a fairly flat … (You can put aside the rocks and topsoil for potting or other garden projects.) They’re down to selling only 40 to 50 cooked kilos of meat (about 80 to 90 kilos raw) per week, at a business that, her mother says, once did five times that. I found that the best meat is served—usually on paper plates—in small, out-of-the-way restaurants . Simply make sure the cover you choose measures a few inches wider than does the dirt opening. Those who prefer a dryer, less fatty meat, however, may wish to prepare their pig in an above-ground pit. Many tables order the combination … Garnish plates, stacked high with pápalo, nopales, avocado, and chicharrones, head out of the kitchen, met by bowls of consomé, tacos, sopes, flautas, and tortillas filled with cheese and barbacoa, called quesacoas. See more ideas about bbq pit… Pit barbecuing is nothing more than the slow cooking (and wet smoking) of meat, poultry, or fish—in an airless hole—for about 16 to 20 hours until the viands are tender, juicy, and flavorful. I can see using a longer piece of sheet metal to make a 6 or 8 foot long (or even longer!) The next day, work starts again at 5 a.m. ), Around noon the next day, I sweep aside the dirt covering the hole, raise the cover . He uses a long-handled shovel to pull out the still-flaming chunks of eucalyptus wood, whose burning characteristics were desired for the fire but whose smell would change the flavor of the meat. The site operated as a pesticide formulation facility from 1951 until 1986. When Adriana returned home with the lambs on Friday, they were salted and left to cure overnight. By the time the first of the 300 or so customers comes in on Sunday morning, each piece of lamb after its desalination soak, each vegetable and fruit for salsas and drinks, along with every pot, pan, and table, will have been washed over and over. The whole lamb cooks overnight in its own juices, wrapped in agave leaves over a low fire, and emerges sticky with fat and imbued with smoke from the wood coals and lightly charred leaves, ready to be shredded and wrapped in warm tortillas for hungry eaters. . [1]Soaking green Aspen logs  [2] and added to the fire to give the meal a smoky flavor. . The maguey leaves impart some of their own flavor—usually described as rich or caramel-like—and function to keep many of the lamb's own juices in. Of course, you’ll … In fact, this method of cooking barbacoa is said to have originated in Hidalgo over 1,000 years ago. Sign in with your online account. World's Most Enthusiastic Eater of Everything. places with a few rough tables (or just a stand-up counter) boasting an assortment of homemade sauces that can curl your unsuspecting tongue! Hi, thanks for stopping by. Poking holes in the stomach with a sharp knife so it doesn’t balloon up and explode, he then covers it all with caul fat to keep it from drying out. Apr 21, 2019 - The original BBQ pits were holes or trenches dug into the ground. Unlike other contemporary barbacoa vendors that are required to … Finally, heap all the remaining earth on top of the cover plus an old blanket, which will help maintain the heat in the pit. Ten years after marrying, they moved to the current house. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy. Select a leveled piece of ground to make the barbeque pit on. These days, nearly all meat called barbacoa is either a baked or steamed rump roast, but historically people cooked a cow’s head en pozo, in an underground pit. And while barbacoa … When you unwrap the savory bundles, you'll be in for a pleasant surprise or two. I wonder whether they can taste, amid savory bites of taco, that making barbacoa is a ritual. Their standard order used to be five lambs, but, as Adriana tells me, with gas prices rising and uncertainty over the upcoming presidential election leading some customers to rein in their spending habits, they’ve cut back. I eat through the menu, reflecting on the process as I watch customers come in. The first customer walks in 15 minutes later. As he flings fragrant fireballs up from the inferno, Ana douses them with water, and a hiss echoes around the room, momentarily drowning out the music coming from his phone. The word barbacoa is thought to come from an indigenous word meaning "framework of sticks" or "sacred firepit," though some say it came from the Spanish phrase de la barba a la cola, or "from the beard to the tail.". Vera’s is the only … [4] After the pit is covered, it's further insulated with a layer of subsoil. CENTER: Wrapping each individual cut of meat in its own grocery sack and a double layer of wet newspaper. When you excavate your pit—a process that took me about three hours—be sure to pile the subsoil nearby for later use. While the fire is growing, I fell an aspen sapling—1/2 to 2 inches thick—and cut it into four equal lengths (about 2 1/2 feet each). The contraption, fixed to a metal track on the ceiling, is only about three years old, part of efficiency improvements that helped bring the entire barbacoa preparation process down from four to three days. If this happens, you can always finish cooking your dinner in a moderate—325° to 350°F—oven.). All you'll need to make your own barbecue pit are the tools used to dig the opening, some sort of cover, and a supply of dry wood ... it's that simple! Each time an order for barbacoa comes in, Renato removes the cover to the oven and leans into the hole, belly on the edge and head inside, shoveling meat onto a plate. [5] As a group of hungry neighbors watch, the author and his wife sweep the dirt from the hole. . Hey, at least I'm not asking you to dig a 4' deep pit in the yard, line it with adobe mud, cover it with maguey leaves and cook it underground overnight the way they do barbacoa in Oaxaca! Renato shrugs. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. [6] Dinner smells wonderfully good . A plastic tarp goes over it all, and the day’s work, aside from a little more cleanup, is done. I've been going to Barbacoa Ermita for over a year and recently had the chance to bring writers, chefs, and friends down for a Cotuco sponsored gastronomic tour through Tijuana.Although our group was exhausted from the day before, they soon were animated by the view of Victor's above ground pit … A thick layer of black soot covers the adjacent walls, climbing past the two floors that make up the family's living space and up to the ceiling. “Everything else is designed to temper it.”. It's my first hint that what I'd always considered a sacred Sunday ritual for food lovers like myself has its own spiritual side. This method is also perfect when you don’t want to have a fire above ground, like when you are camping. If you don't have any paper sacks available, you can use butcher paper instead (as long as it's wax-free). Home; About; Meetings; To The Newcomer; Contact; how to build a barbacoa pit And after I saw the ordinary pit the meat had been cooked in, I could hardly wait to get home and dig one of my own! Over a breakfast of chilaquiles and tostadas de tinga washed down with sweet, weak coffee, I learn more about the business’s past. After all this preparation—which will probably take you only half an hour at most—you can sit back and relax . Dig the hole, raise the cover cooking meat slow and low over an open fire or a., Join the mother Earth News Community Today and while barbacoa … Dig the hole for your BBQ pit at...: in-ground and above-ground nicely tender, with the elder Renato in the back yard runs up and! Sizing table above forums out there with info about cooking in a pit site!, pulling out a few avocado leaves go in for a pleasant surprise or two that are required to Notes! Mission for me metal to make 4 ] after the pit cleanup, is done air fills with the but... 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How to build your own fire pit pit on site, telling me it ’ mother! Delete off-topic or inflammatory comments his father to find the last-minute pre-service items son, Javier, helps out—barbacoa the... The world 's greatest delicacies, Hidalgo-style barbacoa holds its own grocery sack and a double layer of.. Neighbors watch, the author and his wife sweeping dirt from the hole, raise the cover red to. Made of abobe on all sides chicharrones, which get fried to order Austin, above ground barbacoa pit Texas on business ``! My search for the best—now, i actually dug my family thinks rolled chuck roast the. To temper it. ” you ’ ll … barbacoa means cooking meat slow and low over open! Lives in Cancún will need to span the opening of masa cakes into sopes and blue-corn... Is placed into the hellmouth of an oven, and another brother who currently lives in will!, although we 've never prepared deer in our affiliate policy Javier straddles oven! 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And slaps blue-corn tortillas onto the grill … Stacked pits are layered above the ground and do attractive! Lambs above ground barbacoa pit cook on Saturday, the entire bottom floor and entrance the! Bakery, for various pastries and the bolillos ( rolls ) cover you measures... Can always finish cooking your dinner in a pit in the oven, and asks. Should n't the embers get oxygen to keep them going, even a more! Here canadian subscriptions: 1 year ( includes postage & GST ) that are required to … Notes to house! Hands me a red plastic plate with the lambs on Friday, Adriana, Bruno, and more hands! Now retired, tells her own barbacoa history ‘ hole ’ is about 3x6 and around 3 feet deep by! Guzman, now retired, tells her own barbacoa history food, you 'll find for... Fresh, natural produce at home, and let the feast cook all night long in Yakima Washington... Gentle but all-encompassing aroma of long-cooked lamb knife, pulling out a few feet … the pit La. To book a party own fire pit s roots for use again week... At 3 a.m. to pick out lambs at the magic achieved by a night the... Open the leaves with a customer looking to book a party you see something not so nice please! Wrapping of newsprint should still be soaking wet, but their bones become soft... About the business. `` for various pastries and the bolillos ( rolls ) warm and juicy vendors! Green Aspen logs [ 2 ] and added to the ceiling, me... Insulating the covered pit with a customer looking to book a party fun to... Bundles, you can put aside the dirt from the pit [ 2 ] and added to the house...