By Greg B. Well, the 2nd annual July 4th pig roast has come and gone. I’ve sufficiently rested up after a long series of sleepless nights and busy activities, but I think we can say it went down pretty well! This year’s pig was 67.5lb after it was cleaned. From a pig this size you can expect maybe 45-50lbs of meat. So I, not willing to run the risk that people will go hungry, (and also for a flavor component) decided to stuff the pig with 12lbs of loose sage sausage, along with various fruits and spices, but we’ll get to that in a minute. (Here’s the link to the end results, though I do recommend reading below!)
The ingredients I used for this pig roast are very straight forward. I purchased a whole pig (head one, not butterflied) from Wagner’s meat market out in Mount Airy, Maryland. If you want to get an animal from them, they are very accommodating, just give them at least a week to get the animal, slaughter it and get it inspected by the local government official. The ‘per pound’ price goes down as you order more poundage of whole animal, so a 75lb (prior to being butchered and cleaned) pig goes for about $2.39/lb. While I was there I also bought 12lbs of sausage, performing a rough calculation in my head about the space inside of the pig (turns out I was spot on). That’s right, the pig for roasting was stuffed with sausage. Delicious, loose sage sausage. No casings to deal with just a giant bag of it. I also picked up some apples to stuff inside. I figured it would help add some liquid to the interior of the pig, help from drying out. And of course, tons of garlic. This goes for the basting solution, as well as stuffing inside AND stuffing under the skin.
- 1 whole pig, 67.5lb
- 12lb loose sage sausage
- lot of garlic cloves, peeled
- fresh sage
- 2L cheap rose or sweeter red wine
- olive oil
- apple cider vinegar
- yellow onion
- bay leaves
- lots of kosher salt
- fresh cracked black pepper
- Needle nose pliers
- Sharp Knives
- stainless steel wire
- cotton twine
- wire cutters
Ideally, if you have a fridge big enough to keep a whole pig, you’ll want to get the pig a day earlier than you want to start roasting it. If you can salt the pig, inside and out with kosher salt or large grained sea salt, as well as rub the skin and inside with lemons, you’ve got a great headstart on a delicious meal. The salt helps bring out the flavor of the meat, while the lemons help break down some of the fats in the skin, giving you a) a more delicious pig and b) that awesome crackling skin that we all love to eat when no one is watching. I did not have this kind of time, so I left just to salting the inside of the pig while I worked fixing it to the spit. I scrubbed down the outside of the pig, just for cleanliness sake, and then went to work.
This is where I ran up against a problem. Depending on the type of spit you have you can skewer and tie the animal up in different, weight distributing ways. Why does this matter? well, first you want the animal to cook evenly. And second, if the weight is not distributed evenly, the animal will ‘flop’ as the motor turns the spit, causing either the spit to break or bend, or as the animal cooks, parts of the animal to break off. Neither is a good option. Unfortunately, my spit was just a little too short for the job, so I ended up skewering the pig backwards. If you have a single rod, with one end having forked prongs, you’ll want to insert the rod through the pig’s mouth, and insert those prongs into the shoulder blades of tbe pig. These are the hardest to secure, and require more attention. In my case, I had to skewer from the other end, since the prongs were not long enough to reach the shoulders securely. So I ran the spit through the rear of the pig, behind the backbone until about 1/2 way up the spine, then just past the shoulder area up the throat and out the mouth. But, there was some typing off that needed to be done.
The best way is to take an ice pick (or, in my case, a hammer and a screwdriver) and find the middle of the pig. Above and below the spine, hammer or pick a hole out to the back of the animal, so you can use wire (stainless steel) to wire the pig’s spine to the spit. This will take a lot of work and is very messy work, be sure to have knives, pliers and wire handy! Do this at least once in the middle of the pig, then at least one 12″ above and 12″ below the middle wired spot. The feet, I broke the knees of the animal and tied up the hooves to the spit after pulling them back, exposing the hams a bit. In the front, I pulled the front feet forward and tied them to the spit right about where the snout was, exposing as much of the shoulder as possible.
Now for the fun part! Slice up a few apples (save one for that infamous apple-in-the-mouth picture!), remove the peels from some garlic and toss them in the body cavity. Then, cover this all with sausage. Just cram it in there! I managed to get all 12lbs into this 67.5lb pig with room to spare. Then the hard part, tying up the animal. Be sure to have some cotton string or rope (smaller gauge is fine) handy and a sharp knife. Slice holes in the animal’s skin near where the butchers cut open the underside of the pig, give room for a hole every 2-3 inches or so, and do this on both sides. Then, just like lacing up a shoe or a football, begin to sew up the pig. This requires some patience, and be sure to get this skin as tight as you possibly can, so the sausage does not leak out when cooking and rotating. Tie it up tight, and trust your knots! Do the same for the hole in the neck of the animal.
Now you’re almost done, the animal looks whole again, but the skin needs a little something extra. Take a ton of garlic cloves (I don’t mean literally a ton, but …almost), and begin to spice under and into the skin and hiding the garlic under there. Don’t slice ‘into’ the animal, as you don’t want to puncture the meat, but slide a sharp knife under the skin, with a fairly large hole, big enough for a clove of garlic to fit. Do this all over the pig’s body (I did them about 4-5 inches apart from each other.). At this point, I was about 8hrs from cooking time, so I left the pig on coolers of ice, covered in ice packs, since there was no fridge big enough for me to hold him! I also would rotate the pig every hour, so that every hour a new side would be down facing the ice. The sides facing the ice (and you can get dryice here in town from safeway) would get very cold… which is a good thing! I also made a basting solution, 2L of cheap sweet red wine, a bunch of fresh sage I pilfered from my friend Jessica’s garden, a few whole garlic cloves, 1 yellow onion, a few bay leaves and some rosemary, along with some olive oil, water, sugar, black pepper, salt and a touch of apple cider vinegar. You’ll want to get a fresh clean cotton mop head to use as a basting implement, so you can really get the liquid onto the pig. But there will be more on basting later, once we start cooking! And this is where I’ll leave you until the roasting and party begins.