July is here, the days seem endless and the gentle warm breeze caresses my neck like my Momma’s soothing hands.
There it goes, carrying my troubles along with it as I gaze across in wonder at the powder blue skies and endless green landscape that fades into the hazy rippling horizon.
Ahh, the world’s a great place ain’t it? This is the exact time of year when the little woman gets busy in the kitchen infusing large quantities of oil with a fragrant mix of herbs and spices which drifts out the windows and on to the front porch like the cooking odours in a cartoon strip.
The pig is in control, you hear? Not you.
The pig abides.
The 4th of July is upon us and the key to having the best time possible is early preparation, and alcohol.
This is the time to celebrate beating the crap out of the British and to get on the horn to Cooter and get him all fired up because I just know that little girl is fixing for a humdinger of 4th July spit roast. Lawd have mercy there ain’t nothin’ better on God’s green Earth than a spit roast on a balmy 4th.
Cooter and the boys will high five that all day long.
Y’all know Spit Roastin’ aint just contained to these here parts, no siree. It’s an ancient ritual practiced the world over. It’s a real group thing that the whole community can get stuck into because, let me tell you, there’s a whole lot of meat between the rooter and the tooter so that means there’s little point in getting it on unless the whole neighbourhood is coming.
There is no place on earth that takes “Pig Pickin'” as serious as we do right here and we like to serve up a roasting with the whole thing on display, not sissy little slices in tin trays. You just sidle right on up and pluck at whatever you want, cracklings being the first port of call. When its over, there’s just nothing left but broken bones.
Listen now, roasting is a time consuming meticulous process that requires real vigilance and obviously involves more than one person. If you really don’t want to roast a big ol’ gal you can always just invite a handful of the boys over and take turns slow basting a nice young, tender suckling.
The main challenge with any hog is that there are so many different thicknesses with different degrees of fat, collagen and the like. The rump is the thickest and most dense. The boys and me find it best when we properly smoke it.
There are tricks to getting everything tender and juicy.
“Roast slow” is pappy’s motto. He’s been roasting with Momma for nigh on fifty years and all their friends say Momma still has the juiciest loins in the county.
I believe in keeping the heat on, so go ahead and take it up to 250°F or so. Remember, there’s lots of fat in there to keep things lubricated.
At that temperature, here’s how long it should take. Approximately. Give or take an hour. Maybe. Hopefully.
The pig is ready when the pig is ready. The pig is in control, you hear? Not you. The pig abides. Remember, the cooking time depends on the thickness of the meat, not the weight, but since thickness is related to weight, we go by weight.
Lets plan on the times below, and if that piggy is ready early you can just go ahead and shut down the heat on your pit and easily hold it there for an hour or two.
Oky doky then, lets get to some timings.
40 pounds, gutted, head on: 3.5 hours
75 pounds: 9 hours
100 pounds: 12 hours
125 pounds: 15 hours
150 pounds: 18 hours
175 pounds: 21 hours
200 pounds: 24 hours
Now I’m assuming y’all have cleaned your pit. No one likes to roast in a dirty pit so get to scrubbing if you haven’t already.
I like to pick up my hog the day before and gut it myself. It reminds me of my days in the jungle and always takes the edge off the PTSD.
When the beast is clean I like to slow rub it with the little woman’s blend of oil, fat, salt herbs and spices. This is also quite a calming task ,very relaxing and therapeutic. Last of all I inject that sucker all over with my own special cocktail of oils and pork brine before I slam it in the chiller overnight.
Having had the early riser discipline drilled into me sure helps the next morning because I’m shaved and showered by 0600 and ready for a quick final rub before I fire up the pit. That final early morning rub really makes a difference. Remember, we’re aiming for around 250°F which will usually take a couple of hours. Time for a few slugs of Bourbon in the coffee as I stoke things up.
At around 8 a.m Cooter comes over. He’s usually real excited because he knows he’s gonna get a king-sized breakfast of eggs and fried chitlins.
Cooter is my trusted assistant when I’m roasting, he’s a good pig sitter. All that time side by side in the jungle, he’s the one person I trust and the first person to call when a body needs moving. He moves the pig to the pit like a pro. Skin side up remember, and don’t forget to remove the pit lid before hoisting your hog. Monitor the pit temperature closely now and add lit charcoal if the temperature drops any.
A 75 pound hog is my preference and that should yield about 35 pounds of meat, enough to make about 70 pulled pork sandwiches and feed about 50 people depending on what else you are serving, average age, gender, time of day, and available alcohol.
1 (75 pound) hog
2 cups table salt
1 gallon of Pork Brine Injection recipe
1 cup cooking oil
2 cherries or grapes to replace the eyes
2 quarts of your favorite barbecue sauce, preferably home made. I recommend one of these, or even all three: South Carolina Mustard Sauce, vinegary Lexington Dip, and/or sweet tomato based Kansas City Classic and bowls to serve them from with spoons
20 pounds of coleslaw
20 pounds of potato salad
1 hog pit and stretcher
1 large cooler or refrigerator
1 table at least 5′ long
4 plastic table cloths, 1 to cover the table during prep, 2 to cover the floor under and around the table, and one spare
1 roll paper towels
1 sharp clean hatchet
1 sharp flexible filleting knife
1 food grade injector
1 disposable razor or butane lighter
1 digital meat thermometer
1 digital pit thermometer
6 bags (18 pounds each) of charcoal briquets
4 bags extra charcoal just in case
1 stack of newspapers
1 wheelbarrow or grill to start the coals in
1 long handled shovel
2 pounds of hardwood chunks
1 pair heat resistant gloves
1 watering can filled with water
1 set Bear Paws or large forks for pulling the meat
1 roll of heavy duty aluminum foil
1 sauce brush
Tongs and other serving utensils
1 bucket of beer
2 lawn chairs
1 assistant/pigsitter to help flip the hog and to take shifts sitting by the pit through the entire cook in case something goes awry. Trust me, if you leave it unattended, there will be a big old grease fire.
Now there’s a few of my roasting tips. Y’all go have a good time this 4th weekend, you hear?
Oh, go ahead and send your own roasting tips right here on this page.
Photo by marcus_and_sue