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Monday, March 24, 2014

A Chacra and a Pig Roast!

Note: Vegetarians may want to skip this post!

I actually decided, not to add a graphic, front facing, close-up of the finished product only some rear shots but the photographer in me found everything fascinating so I did take some. I am talking about a photo of the cooked, in the ground pig that I recently had the pleasure of eating. Sorry, to you but I am a meat eater!

I once lived in the Hawaiian chain of islands, USA, on the island of Maui and also on the island of Guam in the South Pacific. Those Islanders in both places really knew how to cook and roast a pig. They did it Island style or in an imu. An imu is an earth oven. It's a pit oven, dug into the ground. A fire is built down into it and then is allowed to smolder. It's often lined with leaves (to steam the food) and heated rocks to trap the heat and cook the meat. Sometimes, burlap is used or leaves (edible) in order to wrap the boar or pig up into. Then once the meat is securely wrapped up, the dirt and rocks are shoveled back into the pit to cover the boar. It then bakes at least 8 hours under ground. Boy, is that meat tender and delicious when brought back above ground.

Sometimes, Expats start to miss some of the more flavorful meals that they once enjoyed back home and we get to talking about that at gatherings. I was at an asado (a BBQ, Uruguayan style) and we started to talk about that. I mentioned the boars that were hunted on both islands, cooked underground and how tasty they were.

Jerry aka "Oso"
An expat named Jerry mentioned that he knew how to cook a pig that way and that he should do that at an expat gathering before the summer weather completely went away. Which is exactly what he and another expat named Jim did.

So Jerry put the word out via email and he invited a bunch of expats to spend the evening, eating and listening to music out at his place in the campo or rural pastures.

Jim took over the major task of cooking the pig and also overseeing a separate asado grill of meats and vegetables and Jerry supplied the place, his chacra.

A chacra is a small farm, counted in hectares of land (sometimes a 1/2 a hectare) but always smaller than a hundred hectares. A hectare is 2.4711 acre each.  It can also refer to a country house.

Down a dirt road, in the department of Canelones is Jerry's (aka the "bear" or "Oso" in Spanish) chacra. It is a bachelor's place with all kinds of stuff. It's a little ram-shackled but it's also kind of cool.

It has an old western town like vibe, with chickens and geese running around and yes some cows far off in the distance, grazing on one of his many acres.

It was very picturesque, a perfect place for a gathering of expats that have moved to Uruguay and now call it home.

I try and let, at least, a few expats know that I'm still alive and living here. That way if there is anything important that I as a foreigner might need to know, the expat community will keep me in the loop, information wise. There where a lot of new expats there at the gathering who had moved here that I didn't know. I knew Jim the cook, (for that day) and his wife Mariellen because they live right around the corner from my house in Marindia so I knew them and a few others I remembered from other gatherings were also there.
It was interesting to be able to hear and speak so much English again.

I had bummed a ride with Mariellen and Jim since I didn't know where Jerry lived and many street signs and address numbers are lacking here.    

Right as we entered the property, I saw the pit that Jim had dug earlier that morning. He had come back to Marindia to pick up his wife and me later that evening to go to the Chacra.

There were many expats that had heeded the invitation and were gathering there. One expat brought a truck load of watermelons and cucumbers from his own chacra and was giving them out for free.! The weather had been terribly rainy the whole last week and he didn't want the watermelons to go to waste, I think his name was Larry. So again, thank you Larry, for your delicious watermelons (I took 2!).

Jerry's sister was visiting Uruguay at this time and she played a tiny little bass guitar for the evenings' entertainment. Soon other guitars started to mysteriously appear and Jim brought out his harmonica and the music flowed!

When the time was right and after a full days' cooking in the ground we all gathered together to watch the great unveiling. I thought it was interesting that heated stones had been put into the pigs belly to help it cook internally, prior to the pig's being buried down into the pit. It was well cooked!

The dirt was shoveled away and the pig was brought up to the surface and unwrapped! It was steaming hot and very tender.

Then it had to be lifted onto a board to be carried away to the prep station. Jim handled the de-bonning and serving. I have other close up pictures that I didn't include because I'm trying to be sensitive to you blog readers.

All I can say, is that the meat was tender, moist and appreciated by all who partook of it. It reminded me exactly of the delicious pork meat dinners I had had on the two islands that I had lived on before, Maui and Guam. I only wish I had taken some leftovers home with me because it is now "Fall/Autumn" down here in South America. We have now set our clocks back 1 hour and I don't foresee any more warm summer evenings spent eating a roasted pig and listening to music on a chacra at least until "hopefully" next year.

Meanwhile, I will just have to rub my belly and say "yum" when I remember that night.


Jenn Swen said...

I hope that when we move from the US to Uruguay we can enjoy something like this, even if I don't eat pork :) What does it cost to rent out there and do you know if its hard to find English teaching jobs? We have a family of 5, how much money do you think would be good to bring?

ziuma said...

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