Warning, this post contains pictures of a whole pig. Dead. It might be disturbing to some. It would have freaked me out a couple of years ago- so, no judgment.
So, this whole pig roast was conceived almost 2 months ago by my friends Marshall, Kristi and me, while having dinner at a Dai Due Supper. I think it was mostly Marshall’s idea, and we jumped on the band wagon. Digging a hole in the yard was discussed, but renting a Bobcat seemed out of the question. Our mutual friend Addie suggested we think about La Caja China. (www.lacajachina.com) Marshall contacted La Caja China and they graciously sent us a pig roasting box.
Marshall ordered a 50 pound pig from Richardson Farms, three weeks in advance, and started reading up on cooking a whole hog. We invited some friends over to watch the UT game (and Marshall’s Arkansas game) and had a plan.
Kristi made pork belly rillettes, and I assembled assorted sausages from the Kocureks and some from The Noble Pig. Christian brought over the newly tiled Bola Pizza Oven.
Pick up time for the pig was 8:00 a.m. yesterday. Marshall had already received the news the night before that the pig was frozen. It was not supposed to be. And it was almost 10 pounds larger than expected. Once we all got back to my house at around 10:00 a.m., we started trying to thaw the pig. It was not just a little frozen, it was frozen solid.
This was a scene I’d never imagined, my friend Marshall, resting on a frozen pig foot, in my kitchen. We determined that we needed to put the pig in water, but really had no idea where that would be. We put the pig in several layers of trash bags, sealed them tightly, and moved him to the bathtub where we put about 3 inches of water. Trust me, no pig touched the bathtub, and it has now been bleached. When you have a frozen pig in your bathtub, a mobile pizza oven in the driveway, and 8 pounds of sausages in the fridge, you just know it is going to be a good day. After a couple hours in the tub to no effect, Marshall and Kristi headed out to buy a new trash can, in which to submerge the pig. I started cooking sausages for pizza, and Christian fired up the pizza oven.
By the time we were ready to submerge the pig into the trashcan and fill it up with brine, it had started to thaw, or so we thought. After about an hour in the trashcan, we pulled it out and Marshall began the process of cutting the pig, so that we could flatten it out in the roasting box. The hacksaw, minus its porky blade, is still in my kitchen window. Marshall worked it out, then the process of flattening the pig between two metal grates (for turning) began. This took several people, a step stool and a coat hangar. No lie. Eventually the pig was transported to the box and stuffed in. We had already fired up charcoal on the top of the box.
So, finally, by this time, others had started to arrive for game time, and we had the pig in the box, and ribs and sausages in my smoker.
After all this, we were hungry. Thank goodness Christian was on hand with Bola Pizza. Game on, pig in box, full smoker and we need pizza! And out they came:
It is nearly impossible to get between a hungry crowd and Christian’s pizza, so I didn’t manage any photos of whole pies. Best pizza ever.
As the Horns started to implode, people migrated outside and away from the game. Unfortunately Marshall’s Hogs didn’t prevail either. Not a good football day.
After 3 hours, it was time to turn the pig. We pulled the hot top off the La Caja China, to see how it had progressed.
When push came to shove, it ended up being the girls that hoisted this pig out of its box and flipped it over. Good Job Kristi and Jenna. Girls rule.
By around 5:00 or so, the others had arrived, some thankfully bringing vegetables. Lisa brought Kale Salad with Butternut Squash and some yummy dessert bars using Stephanie‘s yummy preserves. Natanya brought a tomato, cucumber salad.
Once it became time to take the completely cooked pig out of its box, we started wondering how that was going to happen, where we were going to take it, and how to deal with a whole pig. We determined the best course of action, was to move everything off my kitchen island, line it it paper bags, then plastic bags, then a layer of fabric. We used an old table cloth and an old cotton duvet cover, clean of course. The end result, was something that looked like a white table cloth, but could be discarded. So, out, and in came the pig.
Yes, it looks slightly gruesome. If we had wanted a pork chop, wrapped in plastic and sitting on styrofoam, we would have gone to Randall’s and we would not have this image of a whole hog. But, in reality, we all are personally acquainted with the source of this pig, the Richardsons; we know that it was raised humanely, fed well, treated well, not loaded down with growth hormone and antibiotics; and raised by a family committed to treating their animals in the best way possible. We know that it was processed by a U.S.D.A. approved facility, and that it is of the highest quality possible. And we celebrated it by eating it, enjoying it, and learning from it. And it was good.
Then we ate cake! Thanks to uber everything Michelle who rocks the planet, and her lemon cake.
And, she showed up in this shirt!
In the end, we learned a lot. We kept the party smallish, so as not to be intimidated by our lack of knowledge of how to pull this thing off for a larger group. We had a great time, although the day was full of losses, sports wise. There was also a great amount of folly, looking back on us moving that frozen pig, feet up, from room to room. Memories like these are hard to come by, I’m thinking, and I wouldn’t have changed one single thing about the day. Yes, we’ll do things differently next time, but all in all, it was a perfect day, because of the people I got to spend it with.
Special thanks to Zack Northcutt, Mulberry Executive Chef and soon to be Haddington’s Executive Chef, for the whole hog butchery advice, support and amazing Fois and pork sausages!