This section is from the book "Camp Cookery", by Horace Kephart. Also available from Amazon: Camp Cookery.
This is a modification of braising. Dig a hole in the ground, say 18x18x12 inches. Place kindling in it, and over the hole build a cob house by laying split hardwood sticks across, not touching each other, then another course over these and at right angles to them, and so on till you have a stack two feet high. Set fire to it. The air will circulate freely, and the sticks, if of uniform size, will all burn down to coals together.
Cut the fowl, or whatever it is, in pieces, season, add a chunk of fat pork the size of your fist, put in the kettle, pour in enough water to cover, put lid on kettle, rake coals out of hole, put kettle in, shovel coals around and over it, cover all with a few inches of earth, and let it alone over night. It beats a bake-oven. In case of rain, cover with bark.
' Experiment with this two or three times before you risk much on it; for the right heat and the time required can only be learned by experience.
If the beast is too large to bake entire, cut off what you want and sew it up in a piece of the hide. In this case it is best to have the hole lined with flat stones. Rake out embers, put meat in, cover first with, green grass or leaves, then with the hot coals and ashes, and build a fire on top.. When done, remove the skin.
A deer's head is placed in the pit, neck down, and baked in the same way: time about six hours.
This hermetically seals the meat while cooking, and is better than baking in a kettle, but requires experience. Draw the animal, but leave the skin and hair on. If it be a large bird, as a duck or goose, cut off head and most pf neck, also feet and pinions, pull out tail feathers and cut tail off (to get rid of oil sac), but leave smaller feathers on. If a fish, do not scale. Moisten and work some clajf till it is like softened putty. Roll it out in a sheet an inch or two thick and large enough- to completely encase the animal. Cover the latter so that no feather or hair projects. Place in fire and cover with good bed of coals and let it remain with fire burning on top for about 3/4 of an hour, if a medium fish or bird. Larger animals require more time, and had best be placed in bake-hole over night.
When done, break open the hard casing of baked clay. The skin peels off with it, leaving the meat perfectly clean and baked to perfection in its own juices. This method has been practiced for ages by the gypsies and other primitive peoples.
Frank Bates recommends another way: "Have a pail of water in which stir clay until it is of the consistency of thick porridge or whitewash. Take the bird by the feet and dip into the water. The clay will gather on and between the feathers. Repeat till the bird is a mass of clay. Lay this in the ashes, being careful to dry the outside. . . , Bake till the clay is almost burned to a brick".
To bake a fish, clean it—if it is large enough to be emptied through a hole in the neck, do not slit the belly—season with salt and pepper, and, if liked, stuff with Indian meal. Have ready a good bed of glowing hardwood coals; cover it with a thin layer of ashes, that the fish may not be burnt. Lay the fish on this, and cover it with more ashes and coals. Half an hour, more or less, is required, according to size. On removing the fish, pull off the skin, and the flesh will be found clean and palatable.
A bird, for example a duck, is baked in much the same way. Draw it, but do not remove, the feathers. If you like stuffed duck, stuff with bread crumbs or broken biscuit, well seasoned with salt and pepper. Wet the feathers by dipping the bird in water; then bury it in the ashes and coals. A teal will require about half an hour; other birds in proportion.