For summer food joy, roast a whole pig

Jennifer Stevenson's pig roast 2016 credit: ZombiLenaAround about our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, by my request, my hubby built a pig roaster. This was constructed of two open-top 55-gallon steel drums, sliced endways and welded back together into a tube that hinged along the back, with a DC motor with a simple speed control that turned once a minute, a spit made of a big old sharpened steel pipe for jooking up the pig, and a hole for a thermometer. He laid some steel mesh on the bottom to hold the coals off the drum-body. Super simple. About six feet long.

We used it for fifteen years, sometimes as often as twice or three times a year. Seventy-five or so people were invited, and of them, some didn’t show, some brought friends, and, well, it got kind of exhausting. With me running things inside the house and Rich minding the pig and the outdoor part of the party, neither of us got any rest until our feet simply gave out and we had to sit down.

That said, a pig roast is a hoot, and can if you just dial it back, Jennifer, sheesh be your easiest and most impressive party ever.

Let’s take it as given that my esteemed readers have a pig roaster such as I described above, or something similar, that can accommodate four-and-a-half to five feet of whole pig, head and feet on, legs stretched out before and behind it.

Start by ordering your pig about a week in advance from a local butcher. For a guesstimated 75-person crowd, I usually ordered a pig that would dress / sell at 40 lbs, give or take 5. Make sure the butcher leaves on the head and feet and >does not remove the pork belly. Setting aside it’s the tastiest, tenderest bit after the tenderloin, you need all the belly so you can sew it up easily. The day before your party, pick up the pig, wash it in cold water, and, in your basement or other cool, enclosed place, lay it in something long enough – I used a child’s plastic toboggan. Cover it with a plastic sheet or saran wrap and pile ice around it. Honestly, it’ll be fine.

On the morning of your party, drain the toboggan. Lay your pig belly-up in the toboggan, pat it dry with a towel, and salt and pepper its cavity. You may have to pry the pig’s jaws open. You can do this by hand, but wear thick gloves, because the teeth are still sharp! This takes time and patience, but it can be done. I never mess with an apple. But you need the jaws open wide enough to accommodate the spit. Jook the pole up through the pig’s butthole, through the abdominal cavity, and out through the pig’s mouth. This can be a two-person job.

Now, using 2-foot lengths of steel wire, move the pig’s forelegs forward and tie them together and to the spit; the wire will go under the feet and around the pig’s neck. Likewise position the back legs, extended as parallel with the body as possible, and wire them to the spit.

Two degenerates and their pig roast 2015

I hardly ever post pictures of myself. Here I am with the genius who invented this pig roaster, and the guest of honor. There was room on the spit for two chickens.

My husband found that the pig tended to shrink as it cooked, and then it would slide around, the head always hanging into the fire, defeating the rotation movement of the spit. To hold the pig still, he drilled a couple of holes about two feet apart in the steel-pipe spit. Once the pig was jooked and wired onto the spit, he made two holes in the pig’s back in two places about two feet apart, and ran a 12-inch-long ¼-20 threaded rod through those holes in the spit. Then he put a nut on each end of each rod to help the wire stay on. Then he ran a strand of wire around the whole pig at each rod and twisted it firmly around those rods. Over the next six hours, as the pig shrank and the wire loosened, he would twist the wire tighter, anchoring it on those rods.

Now it’s time to stuff and seal the pig. Using a leather-maker’s needle and thimble and heavy cotton thread, sew up the cavity from groin to throat, until it’s all sealed up except for an opening large enough to admit your hand. Make sure the two edges of skin are touching firmly. Heat will shrink the pig all over, and inevitably the gap will re-open, and sweet cooked fruit juice will run all over the pig as it turns. You want this to happen as late as possible.

Peel and remove the seeds from one or two super-ripe red Jamaican papayas. Slice the papaya into big slices or chunks. Insert these into the pig’s cavity, along with maybe a one-pound can of pineapple slices or chunks, drained. These will boil inside the pig and steam the carcass from the inside out. Sew up the cavity the rest of the way. Now your pig is ready to go into the roaster.

Prepare your pig roaster by lighting charcoal in a separate grill like a Smoky Joe or hibachi. With a shovel or charcoal-lighting chimney, scoop enough hot coals onto the mesh at the bottom of the roaster to make two long, thin lines. Between these lines, if there’s room, you can place a couple-three aluminum roasting pans from the dollar store. These will catch the drippings, if any. (These days, most pigs are bred too lean to make nice drippings.) You will be refreshing these lines of hot coals throughout the day. You may go through 40 or 50 lbs of charcoal, tops. This the magic of the smoker. It takes two people to put the loaded spit into the roaster. Wear gloves and watch out for the coals.

Jennifer Stevenson's pig roast 2016 photog ZombiLenaIf you get a 40-lb pig into the smoker by 9 am, you’re doing fine for a 4 or 5 o’clock serving. Close the smoker on your loaded-up spit and pig, pop the spike of a meat thermometer in the hole, and open a beer. Watch the thermometer for the first half hour or so until the temperature hangs steadily at around 250 degrees Fahrenheit when the smoker is closed. It can take a minute to get up to temp after opening and closing. If it’s too hot inside, remove some coals; if too cool, add coals. You’ll probably have too many. Every half hour or so, check the thermometer and the coals. This is the easy part. Pace yourself with that beer.

To prepare for pulling the pork off the carcass, set up an eight-foot sheet of plywood on sawhorses at about waist-height or higher. Cover this with a clean, heavy plastic tarp and tape the corners underneath. Have several sizes of very sharp knives handy. Your pork-pulling team should be wearing plastic gloves. The pig will still be too hot to pull for at least twenty minutes, so everybody has time to drool at it and take selfies with the poor beast.

Cut off the hide (cracklings) first and lay them in a pile for afficionados. If your guests have the patience, let the pig cool some more. Then start cutting and pulling. Pulled pork is juicier, although your pig will be plenty tender. The fruit inside will be fully cooked, and its moisture has steamed the pig slowly from the inside while the coals roasted the outside. Tasty and mysteriously savory! Put the fruit aside on a separate platter. Leave the ribs stuck together in clumps or the meat will fall off them too soon. Really, it’s hard to go wrong. Pile up the meat on platters and put it on a table with the fruit, a few cracklings, some round, sliced buns, some BBQ sauce for the philistines, and get out of the way. Pork-pullers get first pick at the meat, by the way, and pickings have no calories.

If you are so inclined, you can simmer up the head and feet to make powerful, intensely gelatinous broth. Or give them to some crazy guest. (I never ask what they’re going to do with it.) Ditto the cracklings, which should, properly speaking, be deep-fried to complete their transformation into food of the gods, but everybody’s different.

After soup-making, I freeze the boiled-up bones and rags and leftover head-and-feet bits in big gallon bags, and then in winter I put these out for my crows. They go nuts.

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Coed Demon Sluts Omnibus by Jennifer StevensonTeam leader and chef Pog has never roasted a pig for the Coed Demon Sluts. I can’t think why. Obviously this means I have to write more Sluts. They could do it on the roof, within a few yards of the hot tub.

People who read these books often complain in the reviews of getting the noshies. This is because, among other perks, becoming a succubus for the Regional Office (▼, as opposed to the  Home Office ▲) means you not only can but must eat a minimum of 4500 calories per day, or else your smoking-hot demon body gets fat. So every three or four chapters, I write in a big fressfest.

The Coed Demon Sluts are five feminist women’s fiction novels featuring succubi, shoes, and shopping, massive amounts of food and controlled substances, all-girl hot-tubbing, riot-grrl rage, rollicking, revenge, renewal, and rejoicing. Six women find out what they’re made of by making themselves into something totally other. Get ’em everywhere.

Jennifer Stevenson

Jennifer Stevenson's Trash Sex Magic was shortlisted for the Locus First Fantasy Novel Award and longlisted for the Nebula two years running. Try her fantasy series Hinky Chicago, which is up to five novels, her paranormal romances Slacker Demons, which are about retired deities who find work as incubi, or her women's fiction fantasy series Coed Demon Sluts, about women solving life's ordinary problems by becoming succubi. She has published more than 20 short stories.

Find Jennifer at the Book View Cafe blog, at the second row at fast roller derby bouts in Chicago, or on Facebook.

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