Monday, August 27, 2012

Pig Fest

So, I roasted another pig. This is only my 3rd time around and I am slowly perfecting my style. This year I made my grill rather than renting one and I'm so happy I did. I need to fine-tune my build, but essentially I followed the instructions from these guys.
I had all my rebar cut up for me by a local metal shop, far cheaper than Lowe's or Home Depot. I used 4 7-foot lengths and 10 3-foot lengths. I picked up 4 23.5-lb bags of charcoal, 2 big jugs of adobo with cumin, 3 packages of banana leaves (from my favorite Asian market) and 2 bottles of sour orange juice.
When I buy a pig it comes in a bag, in a box. Save the bag, intact, you will need it. First up we had to do a bit of work to get the pig to lay flat. The neighbors were a bit disturbed by the image of me pressing down on both legs as hard as I could to crack some things open, but it was effective.Once I got it flat on the table I scored the skin all over.

Pig skin is tough, so I would recommend you use an adjustable razor knife set to about 1/4-inch depth to do the cutting. You don't want to cut too deep but you want to get all the way through the skin.
Once you have the skin prepped, mix both containers of Adobo (full disclosure this is the last time I will use the pre-made Adobo for this it, is too salty at times, try to find salt-free and season on your own or make from scratch) with 1/2-3/4 bottle of sour orange and about 1 cup of olive oil. Mix with your hands until it makes a loose paste. Add more orange or olive oil as needed.
Rub the seasoning all over both sides of the pig.

Once the pig is seasoned all around the best thing to do is slide it right back into the bag it came in. A large heavy duty lawn bag might work but the bag it comes with is best. You could do this the same day you are going to roast the pig, but I like to do it the night before. As you might imagine, I don't have a fridge big enough to store a whole pig, so I bought 10 bags of ice and laid 5 of them in the bottom of a shower stall, put the pig on the ice, stick at least one bag in the cavity of the pig (outside of the bigger bag) and try to cover as much of the pig as possible with the other bags. Then drape the whole thing in a heavy blanket or quilt. I have done this all 3 times and it works perfectly.

Now that Miss Piggy is seasoned and on ice, it's time to build the pit.

My father and I built up the first layer of cinder blocks and then filled the bottom with a couple inches of sand, conveniently available from the Sodus Bay beach. My pit was three tiers high and used 14 cinder blocks per tier. I draped the bottom two tiers with heavy duty foil before placing the 3rd one on top.

I need to pick up another 4 pieces of rebar for the next one. I offset the 2 halves so that the pig was sandwiched nicely between them but when I flipped it, the back portion of the pig was hanging off so I had to unwire the rig and move it so it didn't fall into the fire. Not ideal but we got it done. Two more pieces of rebar on each half of the frame would be perfect.

For my 96 pound pig I wanted to get it on the grill by 9 AM at the latest to eat about 5. I served at 5:30 so I wasn't too far off. I started the coals at 8-ish so they were perfect to start cooking.

When it was time to cook I divided the coals into 4 piles, roughly in the positions of the 2 hams and the 2 shoulders. I placed a layer of banana leaves on the bottom of the rebar grate (again more bars would have helped) laid the pig, skin-side-up on the leaves, then another layer of banana leaves, then the top grate. I wired it all together with more of the same wire ties I used to assemble the grate itself.

Once it was all wired up I covered the whole thing in foil and began pre-burning my next batch of coals. I used an outdoor firepit as my coal burning preparation area. Basically your task for the rest of the day is to keep the heat right. I shoot for about 220 degrees all day, measured with an oven thermometer hung on the rebar. With the grate set up the way it is, you only need to flip the whole rig one time at about the 1/2 way point of your day. We flipped about 2:30.

After you flip cover in foil again and let it go. Use an instant read thermometer to check your temp, I shoot for 180-190. If you want pork that will shred like pulled pork, aim for the higher end; I tend to go towards the lower end as I like to be able to slice some of the meat. When it was done I picked up the whole rig and brought it to the 6-foot table I'd already covered in foil, for serving.

Once I started carving I stopped taking pictures since my hands were covered in pork. But I find it best to work in sections: pick a shoulder, start breaking it down and put it in a foil serving pan. Once that one is full, move on to your next chunk. Try not to destroy the pieces that people are looking for: ribs, loin, cheek (omg cheek), belly etc. In the end it's a great way to spend a day with friends, food, and beer. And perhaps a pig predator pose.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Wheeeeee Sauerkraut. We have had an abundance of cabbage from our CSA in the past few weeks and since I am the only person in the house who really eats it I had to come up with a solution. I love Sauerkraut but I rarely get it outside of Oktoberfest and as post St. Patrick's Day Reuben.

I followed this recipe (mine is a double batch) and hopefully the results will be good in a few weeks. I will keep you posted

  • 8-10 cups shredded cabbage, loosely packed (about 2 lbs), about 1 cabbage
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
  • 1-2 tsp. un-iodized or pickling salt
  • 1 c. filtered water mixed with 1 tsp. salt
In a clean, non-metallic bowl, mix cabbage, juniper berries, caraway, mustard seeds, and salt. Stir cabbage to release juices. Let rest 10 minutes then mix again. You may let this rest longer (1-2 hours) if needed.
Sterilize jar and lid by boiling for several minutes in water and draining on a clean dishcloth.
Pack into a sterilized quart-sized, wide-mouthed jar, pushing down with a wooden mallet. Add filtered, or non-chlorinated, salty (1 teaspoon salt per cup of water) water to rim of jar and cap loosely with a sterilized canning lid. Place jar on a tray to catch overflowing juices. Keep jar between 65°F and 72°F for 2-3 weeks.
After bubbling stops, check container and top off with salty (1 teaspoon salt per cup of water, warm slightly to dissolve completely) water if level falls below rim. Skim any (harmless) white spots or film from the top, close jar tightly, wipe off outside of jar and store in the refrigerator until you use it up.