Going Big With the Pig
A little while ago I asked my Uncle G. the secret to roasting an animal on a spit. Not to be outdone, my brother, MC, in a last ditch effort to be father of the year, decided to roast a pig for his daughter’s first birthday. Of course, there’s no way any sane mother is letting her kid near a burning pig on a spit that has been put together by a bunch of ne’er do wells with a lot of beer and a flimsy plan. So, little MC missed the best part of the pig roast but had a kickin time, nonetheless.
Unlike Uncle G., MC did not go to his local Whole Foods for the pig carcass but made a trek out to a farm outside of Hagerstown. His advice: Don’t go to Hagerstown at rush hour. Plus, a bonus for you ESers: do not go to the bathroom at the place where they butcher the pigs. Trust us, don’t do it.
Once again, you are going to need a few things before you get started. We did not actually need to procure any of these things because we had The Serb. He is MC’s friend for whom roasting large animals is a passion. He had the van, tools, and know-how to make the whole thing happen. You can certainly roast a pig without The Serb. I just don’t recommend it.
Here is the list:
1. A vehicle large and laid-back enough to put a 50 lb. pig carcass in, overnight if you buy it beforehand. A note on this – if the pig is frozen it is going to take a while for that bad boy to thaw. We were almost foiled by the pig’s frozen head disturbing the weight ratio to the spit. I imagine the farmer will have more information on this for you.
2. A large open space where you can kinda burn a large piece of grass and the neighbors will either not see or ignore a large man in a jumpsuit cleaving an animal and then sewing it to a pole.
3. A large, sturdy pole on which to put the pig. Ideally, the pole goes through the pig’s mouth. Our pig had a frozen head and we couldn’t get it through there so we had to tie his head on and then, using a welding tool and twine, sew up the stomach cavity around the pole. It worked but we ran into trouble with the spit’s turning mechanism. I’d like to point out that if you are doing this yourself, the bondage to the actual spit is the rate limiting factor. This happened with the lamb, too.
4. A place to put the pig inside overnight so country critters don’t get any ideas. That is, if you cook it the night before, which, given the next part, I highly recommend.
1. This is when the thing almost became the biggest Friday Fuck Up of all time. Because the pig’s head was on top of the pole rather than around it, the top of the spit was heavier than the bottom. The Serb had a homemade structure to hold the pig above the flame at the right distance and had made paint rollers into handles with which to turn the spit (and the rollers make comfy handles – genius!) Because the weight distribution was off, however, they kept snapping like matchsticks. We had a frozen(ish) raw pig, it was pitch black and freezing, and except for the Serb the rest of us were standing around mouth breathing and considering whether or not they delivered pizza to the sticks.
The Serb, however, would not be deterred. His van of drills, back-up drill batteries, all manner of screws, 2x4s, and miscellaneous handy stuff produced the turning thing you see here. The fact that there is no beer in his vicinity is a testament to his serious-ness. Once the pig was on the spit and the spit was on its pillars we realized it would be too close to the fire. Our solution, raise the fire. We put a metal sheet on top of some bricks, some regular charcoal on top of the sheet, doused it with lighter fluid and let out a collective phew. Everything looked a whole lot brighter –and warmer.
2. Once the pig is ready to turn, Tom Sawyer your friends into turning it. It took about seven hours until the pig was done, so there is a lot of turning to be done in there. I think we rubbed it down with some kind of oil or butter and lots of salt…details are hazy but, again, unlike the lamb, the basting was a lot less involved than the turning (if you’ll recall, the lamb rotated on a mechanized spit). No need to knock yourself out on the seasoning besides salt; the pig really sells itself, taste-wise.
3. About 4-5 hours in, the pig will look less piggy and more roasty. This is when we started to hack a little bit. We also did something that I have had recurring dreams about since: we took pieces of bread and wiped down the roasting pig with them, so that we could eat the greasy pig juices. You know that game where people talk about what they would eat at their last meal – this is my final answer. Period.
4. Now, about 6-7 hours in the pig should be done. Put it in your inside place overnight and let it sit for a few hours while you get a brief snooze. Then, hack up that pig six ways from Sunday and get ready to have pig sandwiches for the next 3 months. We had 25 adults at the party the next day and did not even make a dent in the meat. Most importantly, perhaps, little MC had a happy birthday, sated on roast meats likethe rest of us. If we keep this up we will be grilling giraffes at her sweet sixteen.