Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pig Roast Redux

Pig Roast 2008 was a success. So much so, in fact, that I created a new tag for my blog: Epic Undertakings. Not since the (poorly-photographed, but delicious) cassoulet last winter have I felt more triumphant and exhausted.

Thank god my brother-in-law, Joe, was there to help. He's a chef, and although we were both relatively inexperienced dealing with pork en carcasse, he was ready to jump right in. I insisted Scott take it easy since it was his birthday, but he was on hand to apply rub and fetch clean towels and fresh beers.

Even though I knew we were unfolding a tarp with a dead pig in it, I wasn't really prepared for the flashback to 10th grade A&P, when we had to dissect fetal pigs. That smell isn't formaldehyde after all. It's the smell of a dead mammal. I felt it necessary to look in her eye and really soak in the fact that I would be cooking and serving her to 40 of our closest friends.

We began by slashing the skin all over to get some of my dry rub into the fat. I, being a 12-year old boy, instantly began to snicker.

"Tastes like salty milk and coins." This photo is for Syd. She has a special category for things of this ilk.

After using up my whole jar of rub on just one side of the pig, we decided to leave one side less rubbed, with just some salt for seasoning.

We had to split the sternum and spine to get the body completely flat, which was imperative for even cooking. If we had been spit-roasting the pig, we would've omitted this step.

The sticky Korean-style barbecue sauce I made was slathered on the ribs: gochujang, copious amounts of ginger and garlic, some sesame oil, palm sugar and tamarind paste.

All wrapped up tight in her body bag, I was inspired to name the sow Laura Palmer. She took an overnight nap with some bags of ice in the chest freezer (turned off).

After sitting in the rub overnight, Joe and I hoisted the pig over to the pit, which had been heated with two bag of cowboy lump mesquite and dampered with wood chips. After the initial flare-up, we remembered to soak the wood chips in water before adding them to the coals. Hickory and mesquite added excellent smoke and the entire neighborhood could smell it.

Note the pit. A hybrid between the Hawaiian style pit and the Cuban style oven, this was two CMUs (concrete masonry units, or cinder blocks) high x four long x two wide, on top of a pit dug to ~24". Having not seen the pig until we already did our CMU shopping, I'd say we did a pretty damn good job gauging how many we'd need. We lined the hole with aluminum foil to reflect the heat, then covered the pig with industrial-sized sheets of foil to keep the heat in (and the flies off).

We fashioned a grill out of steel rebar (washed twice) and metal mesh (the kind used for reinforcing concrete), lined with hardware cloth. It was necessary to use the mesh for concrete jobs because other steel meshes (including "cyclone" fencing) tend to be galvanized, and that is not good eats. The hardware cloth prevented meat from falling off into the fire, assuming we would cook it long enough for that to happen. A second grill/screen was constructed and clamped to the other using metal hose clamps. This enabled a flip midway through the cooking process. By the by, we adapted the idea for the pit and grill from this extremely helpful website.

Half cooked and pre-flip, this is the pig after about 4 or 5 hours at a temp that we tried to maintain at ~250°F. Note the nice golden smoke color on the skin. This is when the second grill screen was attached to the top of the pig.

After the secong grill was attached, the pig got its flip and finished cooking for another 3 or 4 hours.

Don't judge me. When you get up at 7:30am to start cooking a pig, it's perfectly okay that you're on your 5th or 6th pink lemonade chuhai by 6:00pm. Although daytime drinking + sunshine usually = my violent demise, I managed a steady buzz all day and didn't even puke, not even a little.

Not to get on a high horse, but I think it's easy to forget that our dinner comes at the sake of another life (unless you're vegetarian, to which I say "been there, done that"). It's healthy and completely necessary to come face to face with your food once in awhile. Frankly, I think it should be required.

* * *

In the busyness of getting everything ready, I didn't get any photos of people just enjoying themselves and eating sammiches and tacos. Hell, I didn't even get a chance to sit down and chat with my friends until an hour after the meat was all carved up and sauced. But today's leftover baked beans (in the oven yesterday for 6 hours), pasta salad (with leftover roasted veg tossed in), and a barbecue pork banh mi was the best damn hangover cure a girl could dream up.

When Susan and Shin came over to help clean up, I made Shin a banh mi (with a dab of the leftover Korean barbecue) and Susan, being from Ohio, wanted nothing more than plain pork, mayo and pickle on bread. I sent them home with a gallon-sized bag of shoulder and another half gallon of meat from the face. The skull is sitting in the dirt in the yard to let the bugs clean it up for me, as a souvenir of our adventure. The remaining gallon-bag of leftovers are going to be turned into chile verde enchiladas, and maybe some mu shu or fried rice. Then I don't think I want to eat pork again for a very long time.


glamah16 said...

Whoa. I impressed. I love how the pig is posed all splayed out. I would love to attempt this for CS next year, but probally would get quesy with the cutting. Maybe I could fly you out to Sweden and you do it for us! They will be talking about your party for years. Brilliant job girl! You deserved your drinks.

Peter M said...

YEAH! That's metal...the tatts ya got, looking the dispatched pig in the eye(s) and rendering it to fork tender meat.

I'm curious as to your neighbors' reaction to witnessing this, we always get "look at the axe murderers next door" looks!

Righteous BBQ Heathz.

Syd said...

Ghaaa!! Graphic much?

Honestly, it looks awesome. But I can not WAIT to email this link to some of my tree huggerish, veggie type friends.

What a gift...

Ian said...

Wow! Nice job on the roast. Looks like you had some delicious food for the guests. That is some major preparation. Did the pit take long to get together?

Manggy said...

"Although daytime drinking + sunshine usually = my violent demise"

BWAH! Hahaha. Great post. Salted milk and coins? Whaaaa--?
I've never seen a pig cooked that way-- here when you say whole pig it's invariably spit roasted (giant bamboo pole impaling it mouth through bum). Looks really yummy!

Emiline said...

Pig Roast 2008 rocks! I hope there's a Pig Roast 2009.

I don't blame you for not eating pork for a very long time after this. Did you eat any of the other parts? Feet, ears, tail?

This sounds like a lot of hard work. I would be so stressed out. Drinking was definitely the way to go.

Anonymous said...

It was crazy....and now seeing the photos, even more crazy. I grew up on farm and pulled all the cow parts out of 5-gallon buckets and don't remember seeing this much crazy. Thanks so much for being you and the food wonder you are.....

It was some delish dish. And you did't seem like you had that many drinks by 6.

Tammy! said...

OOOPs, that was Tammy with the above comment!

Peter G said...

Laura Palmer...LOL! Only you could dream up that line. What a feast! You're a champ Heather...amazing!

Foodycat said...

As ever, I am in awe! How many people did it take to flip the pig?

Nilmandra said...

Awesome, roast pig as it should be cooked! What a wonderful day that must have been, with a load of friends and family.

Nikki said...

So is it safe to say that your house is the new Porkopolis? You must be exhausted. Thanks for sharing your experience.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Wow Heather - that is quite an undertaking. I was able to attend a Cuban pig roast right around Christmas and it really was a lot of work, but amazing none the less. I couldn't agree more about coming face to face with your meat every once in a while. I think everyone who eats meat should experience something like this at least once to get some respect for the animal and for the people that bring us the meat. I can tell you, that being part of a lamb slaughter and roast really had a profound effect on my life and relationship to meat.

[eatingclub] vancouver || js said...

Absolutely fabulous. There's nothing more festive than whole pig. Lots of hard work for sure, but, my god, that was so freaking satisfying!

The head, the head: did anybody fight over the head?

Heather said...

Coco - I would come to Sweden to roast a pig!

Peter the Greek - If the neighbors weren't afraid before, they will be after seeing the skull half-buried in the (now dirt-filled) pit.

Syd - Which part? The salty milk and coins?

Ian - The pit took a lot longer than I thought it would, but Scott got most of it done while drinking heavily when I was in Medford.

Manggy - I thought about the spit-roast too, but it seemed like more work to have to turn it all day. How do you get around that?

Em - Funny, a 5-year old crunched on the tail. No one ate a trotter, sadly. We have all the face meat in a bag.

Tammeh! - If I didn't seem drunky-ish it's because I was too busy running around for you to notice. :P

Petah - We had some Twin Peaks fans at the party. :)

Foodycat - I was busy tryna get the sides/sauces out, but I think it took three men to turn the beast.

Nilmandra - It was great to have so many people at the house. It was almost as many as were at our wedding!

Nikki - If our house isn't the Porkopolis, then I don't know what is.

Jenn - I think next time I would go a little smaller and break the pig down into parts first. In Cuba they even have to make their own coal! I don't think that sounds like very much fun. :P

Eating in the 'Couve - We saved the head to split between ourselves and Shin (the other birthday boy), so no fighting. The thinly-sliced guanciale and sweetbreads would be wortha fight!

cookiecrumb said...

Laura Palmer!!!!


I'm forwarding this post to my pal, the Rev. Biggles at Meathenge.

michelle @ TNS said...

sweet merciful jesus.

i'm emailing this to brian right now and he is going to be SO JEALOUS that he will weep at his desk. he wants to do a whole pig so badly.

i meant roast a whole pig, get your minds out of the gutter.

cookiecrumb said...

I had to come back. What's with the Abu Ghraib pose!

Norm Schoen said...

I am here to say that Heather was the perfect hostess.
The atmosphere was festive and she and Scott have a fun group of friends. People nibbled side dishes and slurped beer and wine waiting for the "unveiling" of the pig. I did a quick blog of my "outsiders" view of the event. One quick thing (Heather didn't mention she bought a Durian for dessert!!!) -Thanks Heather!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

A little scary, but food has to come from somewhere....

I want some of those pink lemonades with my pork please!

Judy @ No Fear Entertaining said...

Wow Heather...absolutely incredible!!!

I love the part of your post where you mention that all people should come face to face with their food. It may give people a bit more respect for their food source and start treating and handling it better!

Heather girl, you totally ROCK!!!

Heather said...

Cookiecrumb - The pig just looked so Lynchian all slashed and wrapped in clear tarp, s'all. Yeah, the Abu Ghraib pose was a bit much. :\

Norm - You were an ideal guest. Thank you for getting those great photos! I wish I could've gotten more, alas.

Rachel - My second choice (after shochu) would be pink Lynchburg lemonades. :)

Judy - I think if we all had to look a dead pig (or cow, or chicken) in the eye, there'd be a lot more vegetarians. :D

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

What an undertaking, Heather! I can't believe it. Well, I can believe it of you, Ms. Tackle-Everything-Girl, but just thinking about it bowls me over.

Cynthia said...

I read your post twice! This was thrilling, exciting and I can only imagine how delicious. Fantastic stuff!

We Are Never Full said...


IT'S OFFICIAL. That picture of the eye... that eye!!! how can you not bond w/ that thing before you eat it?

giz said...

Okay...this one was over the top for me. Tell me something...was this kosher? just kidding - yowzah..what a piece of work

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

Wow you weren't kidding where you said "pig". Makes my pork butt seem dainty. Love that you used rebar and cinderblocks for cooking, makes me want to cut some prosciutto with my laser guided compound miter saw.

Think we were on the same vibe about the gochujang bbq sauce though!

Heather said...

Michelle - I pwned myself in the ass doing that pig.

B - Your comment didn't show up here, but I saw it in my email. Holy fuckamoly indeed.

Jen - I wouldn't say I tackle everything, but I'll try anything. :)

Cynthia - Living in the Caribbean, you must get lots of opportunities to eat this kind of food. Next time, we roast a goat!

Amy - No you are! The eye definitely drove it home. It looked eerily human.

Giz - At least it came already butchered! Over the top for me would be putting a gun to its head.

Marc - I couldn't do a whole pig and not have at least one Asian flavor on there! The tamarind went well with gochujang.

Foodycat said...

You've got my husband all inspired and he's now talking about building an umukai this weekend. Competition pig cooking! I'm going to have to see if I can find taro leaves...

Bellini Valli said...

The pigs head was very Godfather-ish...wink...wink...You are the Queen of the BBQ and I bow down to you!!

peter said...

Nice job; you clearly did amazing, delicious work. I'm particularly impressed with how you seamlessly incorporated Twin Peaks, Abu Ghraib, and adolescent pussy jokes into the post while still making it look appetizing.

Anonymous said...

Where'd you get the whole pig? Who delivered it?

Heather said...

Foodycat - I've created a monster, haven't I. :)

Valli - Haha, I guess it was a bit Godaftherish. Except I would never waste perfectly good guanciale by putting it in someone's bed.

Jube - You really can count on me to keep it classy. :D

Mystery Person - My friend Shin (the other birthday-haver) ordered it from a meat purveyor. I think they have those in most towns?


10th grade A&P?? Did you go to Benson?

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Wow - that's one serious pig roast. And respect for not throwing up. Which was the greater achievement?

Brittany said...

Wow...and suddenly, I have a touch of pork guilt...not enough to not do this myself, but looking Laura Palmer right in the 'ole eye is a little life changing.

I can't even imagine how fantastic the sammies and tacos were, I am insanely jealous!

Jeff said...

Am I to late to claim the cheeks?

That looks awesome and I love a good whole hog roast especially since damn near everything is edible.

I also agree being face to face to what you are eating is something we all take for granted in a life of shrinkwrapped packages.

Núria said...

Caramba Chica!!!!!! That is a porky :D

What a hard job and what a wonderful day... why is it that a fire and some barbaqued meat are so appealing to humans? We haven't gone that far have we?

I wish I could have seen you, next time what about some video tapping?

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Who ate the face? I always eat face when at a whole hog roast...forehead's the best part. Oddly enough, the former governor of Virginia gave me that tip.

Nice work. You'll have to come down for our annual Big Fat Greek Party, where we do a whole lamb.

BTW, I like the salty milk description.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap! You're the pig roast crowned Queen! I bow to you.
Quite an accomplishment! I'm impressed. Thanks for sharing the gore with us. hahaha. You badass!

Cathy said...

Wow that was amazing - I am not sure I could do that unless there was alot of wine involved first.

Cheers to you - Go girl impressive...


cook eat FRET said...

holy shit
i am speechless

just absolutely AMAZING

Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm) said...

I wanted to do a post of tripe next week and I think you've just eased the faint-hearted into this. Thanks for this lovely post, I really enjoyed reading.....

Jeremy said...

Very nuce Heather,

Maybe you ought to make some Tamales with that critter?

Good work!

Kevin said...

That looked like an adventure!

Chris said...

I only have one word...

Heather said...

Soup du Jour - Naw, I was just a big nerd (I went to Cleveland, which had a great science department in the 90s). :)

Sketti - Since it was already gutted, throwing up wasn't a risk. :D

Brittany - The tacos are good, but the empanadas and tamales will be better!

Jeff - Sadly, yes - we loved that part the most.

Núria - Video, of course! Next time, for sure!

Hank - We saved all of the face meat separately, for only us to enjoy. :)

M. Zen - Next time, a goat or lamb! Or ten chickens.

Cathy - Oh, there was definitely drinking going on.

Claudia - Try it sometime! I dare you. :)

Nina - Yes, I think our readers are ready for la tripa now!

Jeremy - Tamales are definitely in the plans. :)

Kevs - It was! This is one of those "once a year"-type things.

Chris - Aww, shucks. ;)

doggybloggy said...

this is the most impressive thing I have seen since my childhood 'matanzas' kudos to you

kittie said...

When I grow up I want to be you. Can I come over for Pig 2009? Or whatever mammal you decide to brave next??

Recess said...

Heaths you are a total studette.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god, that looks cruel but delicious at the same time 'cause I really love pork. In fact my uncle who likes to visit Viagra Online used to made this on Christmas.