Monday, 2 September 2013

Whole pig spit roast setup (2)

I said in my last post that I'd share some photos of my pig roaster all set up. Well mes amis, here we are. Sorry it's taken a while to get this post up: I've been away working in the Far East and only recently got back (I travelled out the day after we held the hog roast). Then I've been busy decorating (rock and roll eh!). Anyway, on with the story...

There was an administrative 'mix up' and the frozen suckling pig didn't arrive until Friday ahead of Saturday's planned festivities. I thought it was going to be pushing it to get it defrosted in time. Luckily we'd been experiencing a heat wave, so piggy actually defrosted pretty quickly. Even so, at the time I was concerned that on Saturday I'd be staring down at a frozen suckling pig with 30-odd people about to descend on the house expecting a hog roast. I consoled myself with the knowledge that, in the event it all turned nasty, I could use the frozen carcass to shield myself from their blows. Perhaps if I could see the rage building in advance I could even club a couple of them with a frozen leg...

The only thing I could do was use the 'bag and submerge in water' method and keep everything crossed that it would defrost in time. Long story short: it did defrost in time. That done, I needed to give it a rinse. The only place big enough to do this was, of course, the bath.

Like the shower scene from Psycho, only
potentially more delicious
The pig went into the bath on top of some plastic bags and I gave it a good blast under the cold shower before drying inside and out with kitchen roll. To help the skin to crackle I scored it using a Stanley knife with the blade barely protruding from the end. The inside cavities were then rubbed with a mix of crushed fennel seeds, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.


...became this
The pig was then re-bagged and the bag covered in ice to keep him cool overnight.

An icy rest overnight
On Saturday morning I got up early to prep for his final journey. I man-handled piggy out into the garden and onto a wallpaper pasting table covered in foil, later to act as our carving table. Note to self: it turns out wallpaper paste tables are really flimsy; especially if you buy the cheapest one you can find. The skin was rubbed with rosemary and salt (remember I had scored it the night before).

Rubbed with salt and rosemary

Getting the spit in was the easy part, just a matter of sliding it in one end and out of the other (so to speak). Next came the most difficult part - securing piggy onto the spit. We finally managed it with the help of our neighbours (we needed Jo's surgical skill  she's a nurse); it involved drilling holes either side of the spine and attaching U-bolts around the spine and spit (see here for the previous post describing the kit). The U-bolt in the middle of the back went in fine; it was the second one around the shoulder area that caused a major headache. It turns out that spines are not perfectly straight (who knew?); the U-bolts could also have done with being a bit longer. In the end we resorted to cutting the fat away from the back of the neck almost down to the spine, this allowed us to get the u-bolt in and get it secured. We were ready to roast some hog!

The pig weighed around 12 kg. I started the fire at 09.30, and put the pig on just after 10 am. It was ready to eat around 15.00, so 5 hours or so. As you can see from the photo below I had indirect heat on both sides, with a slight gap in the middle for the fat to drip through (and into foil trays). The fire was hot enough that you could hold your hand at pig height for about 10 seconds before it became unbearable. The pig was about a foot (30 cm metric lovers) above the fire level. 30 min before the end of cooking we built up the fire to crackle the skin. I have to admit the motor was an absolute marvel, far, far easier than turning by hand. All I did was check it every 20 min or so to make sure it wasn't burning. Of course, once people started turning up I loitered next to it holding a beer and made out that I'd been slaving away for hours. I had a meat thermometer to hand and kept checking the pork to make sure it reached 70°C internally.

Almost ready!

We carved it up on the paste table, which under the juices and fat became more unstable by the second. It was delicious. The pork was meltingly tender, with a smokey taste and a hint of the fennel and garlic coming through. It didn't need anything extra; in fact, after the second pork roll I abandoned the bread and resorted to just carving bits off with a knife.

Once everyone was done there was nothing left, not a scrap: it was like a scene from a cartoon where piranhas strip a whole cow to a skeleton in 5 seconds. Sadly I have no photos of carving or eating as I was too busy stuffing pork into my greedy fat face. Glorious!