The idea for a pig roast was born in a hot tub at my nephew’s high school graduation party. His dad (my husband’s brother, John) had recently gotten a very impressive smoker, which John quickly took to like pig to mud.
Which was apparently all the two brothers needed to decide they were going to roast a whole hog Labor Day weekend. Neither of them gave it much thought until mid-August, but then these no-nonsense Midwestern Scandinavians realized they needed to make good on that early summer whim.
They e-vited an eclectic group of friends, and very quickly the RSVP’s started rolling in. Nearly everyone wanted to witness the spectacle. One guest wrote, “You have made it as a pit master once you’ve roasted a whole hog.” The pressure was on.
We debated cooking methods. Should we do it Cuban-style, splayed out between poled chain link fencing on a makeshift cement block grill? A butterflied animal is easier to cook, but what to do with forty-eight sooty, greasy cement blocks?
Digging a pit was the simplest, cheapest, but least reliable method. A friend shared the story of a lobster bake gone bad—guests politely nibbling on lobster “sushi.” We ultimately decided to rent a spit. The local company said theirs was good for up to a 100-pound animal.
The morning we picked up the pig we start to get the jitters. There are two on order that day–an 87 pounder and another weighing in at 102. Please God let ours be the smaller one. No such luck.
We cart our pig home, fill the tub with water, dissolve salt and sugar and give her (yes, her) a long cold briny bath. We head to bed early and set the alarm for 3:30, just a little over twelve hours before the estimated dinnertime.
But it’s so much more complicated than we thought. Inserting the spit isn’t as easy. Nor is spice-rubbing it, stuffing its cavity with onions and garlic, and trussing it. By the time we get it spit-ready it’s already 5:30. We’re nervous but still in the game.
But here’s where it got stressful. It was only when we returned the spit to the rental company that we learned this unit was, in fact, only good up to seventy-five pounds. Our pig was too big, and so we spent the rest of the day overcoming that challenge.
The downside of every rotation (and there were six per minute) the pig flopped hard and the rotisserie motor and chain were stressed to the point of breaking. At 5:30 on Saturday morning, there were no options. We had to make it work.
Between John’s research (he had bought pipe clamps that we pieced together and used to tighten the pig to the spit) and David’s ingenuity (he anchored the spit with a makeshift weight out of rope and two rock-filled buckets) we were enjoying juicy, flavorful pork more or less on schedule. But it also meant that we had to take turns at the grill the entire time breaking the pig’s fall every rotation. At some point throughout the day we each muttered, “Never again.”
Do my brother-in-law, John, my husband, David, and I feel like pit masters? I don’t. But before the party was even over, the three of us were already making plans to roast a lamb next Labor Day weekend.
- 1 can (16 ounces) refried beans (traditional variety)
- 1 can (4.5 ounces) chopped green chiles, undrained
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus another 2 tablespoons for avocado layer
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 avocados, halved, pitted, flesh spooned out
- 1 cup sour cream
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 jar (16 ounces) salsa strained to equal 1 cup, juices discard or reserved for another use
- ¾ cup sliced canned black olives
- 1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated pepper jack cheese
- ½ cup thin sliced scallion greens from a large bunch
- Taste-Like-Fried Tortillas or a 14- to 16-ounce bag store bought tortilla chips.
- Mix beans, chiles, 1 tablespoon of lime juice, chili powder, cumin, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. In a separate bowl mash avocados with a fork; stir in remaining lime juice and ½ teaspoon of salt to make guacamole. Mix sour cream and mayonnaise. Spread bean mixture, then guacamole, then sour cream mixture, and finally salsa over the bottom of a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate or similar size pan. Sprinkle olives, then cheese. When ready to serve, sprinkle with scallions.