Ah, the Pig Roast. The words alone bring to mind an image of a pig rotating on a spit, grotesque yet alluring, the clouds of savory smoke tickling its ribs, gloved men gathered around, moving cinder blocks, poking embers and tossing back cold-weather beer.
So before outdoor cooking hibernates for the winter, give it one last hurrah with the manliest of cooking feats, the kind only braved by barbarians: Do your own pig roast.
First, you need to select a rig. Pig-roasting gear comes three ways: the spit, the pit or the box. Prices range from $100 to $1,000, depending on how much of a do-it-yourselfer you are.
The spit is the biggest crowd-pleaser, favored by old-school roasters; it is also the most expensive. Part gore, part thriller, part Joan of Arc, there's something proud and primal about a spit. Everything you need for a whole animal rotisserie can be found at Spit Jack.
An alternate approach, one that's becoming popular due to its speed and ease is the roasting box, designed by La Caja China. With this approach, the pig is placed in the box, and cooked by hot coals put on top. Roasting boxes can be purchased for half the price of a whole animal rotisserie, and is easier and faster.
But if you're inviting folks over for a pig roast, do you really want them to gather 'round a box? If less muss, less fuss and less spectacle is acceptable, then go for it. I recommend you lessen the disappointment with a game of touch football, maybe some Connect Four, lots of tasty appetizers and a flask of bourbon.
The last option is to create a pit, build a fire in the pit (or use hot lava rocks, if you find yourself in Hawaii), and suspend the pig on top of the fire. You can build a pit with cement blocks or bricks, and purchase some heavy-duty grates or rigging from Home Depot.
For this method, butterfly the pig and secure it between two metal grates so it cooks efficiently and is "easy" to turn. This pig-turning rig offers good visual bang, a bit of ingenuity and is the least expensive of the three. For more details on this approach, visit the self-proclaimed experts, Three Guys From Miami, for details.
You can also roast your pig slowly on a really big grill. But somehow that feels like kissing your sister. You could do it, technically, but it shouldn't be done.
Next , choose a pig. A freshly killed, eviscerated pig should be around 100 pounds, while a suckling pig is closer to 25 pounds.
Take a trip to your best local butcher. Manhattan-based Lobel's is more than happy to fill local orders, but Evan Lobel acknowledges, "It becomes difficult for us to ship. When you start adding on those costs, it's not very green."
So go local. Find a local butcher who works with local farmers, or, better yet, go directly to a farmer. Ask around, surf the Web, make a new friend. Or visit a fresh-kill facility, which are popular in immigrant neighborhoods.
Whole pig roasting is for the ambitious. The kind of man who likes to build his own deck, whittle his own canoe, create a wife from his own rib.
But if the thought of it has you exhausted, wondering who would ever subject themselves to this torture, there are quality pig-roast caterers only too happy to do it for you. As Dawn Brittain, spokesperson for Minnesota-based This Little Piggy Catering says, "It's not the easiest things to cook. We cook our pigs for 18 to 24 hours, turning them every two to four hours." Doesn't sound easy. "And then there's the grease. Where do you dispose of the grease?"
Good points. By the time you pay for a pig, a spit, take the time, alienate your wife and drink all that beer, it sure would be nice to have someone else clean up the whole post-roast mess for you.
If you want to go pro, try This Little Piggy, the Bar B Que People in Chicago or Pete the Butcher from Boston to Middletown, N.Y..