Warning! This "Instructable" will contain graphic images of dead pigs, view at your own risk!
To start with Instructables.com is cool. It's great to know that there is a place where people can share their projects and experiments. That said, the subject at hand is pig cooking. Pig or hog, cooking or roasting in this Instructable means; cooking a whole pig, fastened to a spit, over charcoal, till it reaches succulent doneness. Yum! You surely have seen images of the whole roasted pig with the apple in it's mouth? This is a very fun thing to do and can be a joy for your guests to eat. As for guests, a whole pig requires a lot of them to make sure it all gets eaten; this is a party type of thing. Don't party too hard though, as cook time is very long.
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Step 1: Get It Together
The need to properly prepare for this endeavor is great; so first you need to know some things and think about some things. Judging how much meat to cook can be tough, approximately 2 lb. pre-cooked per guest is safe. That is not etched in stone though; your side dishes and the hunger level of the party can affect it largely. Whole pigs also take a long time to cook, atleast 4-8 hours. As with any large piece of meat, long slow cooking will yield juicy, tender meat. Also, be warned, your neighbors will be able to smell this cooking for miles; so anticipate unexpected guests. Below is a list of materials, your materials may vary due to your choices in pit and spit construction, seasoning, availability, etc.
1. A pig. 50lb. is usually the smallest.
2. 16"x8" concrete blocks. Atleast 30.
3. 4' Level.
4. Long handle shovel and hoe. 5. 1- 3/4"x3/4"x5' Alumium square tube.
6. 1- package Stainless steel picture hanging wire.
7. 1- VERY large needle for sewing flesh ( not yours ).
8. 1- 3/8" drill bit.
10. 1- Large plastic tub with lid.
11. 3-4- Large bags of ice.
12. Seasoning ( more on this later ) but lots of it.
13. 2 rolls Heavy duty Alumium foil.
14. Probe Thermometer - Preferably heat-proof for fire temp. measuring.
15. 2- Pairs Heavy-duty gloves for getting near and handling hot things and another pair for a friend.
16. 2- Pairs Heavy-duty rubber gloves for 1.) handling raw and 2). cooked meat. Keep them separate.
17. 4-5 or more- Large bags of charcoal briquettes 20lb per bag or so.
18. 2- Big bottles lighter fluid.
Step 2: The Pit
Pit building should be done a couple of days ahead of the cooking. A level location for the pit is a must since the blocks will simply be stacked, not mortored; as long as your not more than a quarter-bubble out of level over 4 feet, you should be fine. Use 10 blocks per row, 3 rows high. See the picture for an example of how you can arrange the blocks. Your pit shouldn't be too long, make sure atleast 6" of your Al tube is resting on each end of the pit. If you build over grass, make sure to remove all grass and roots from the bottom. Burning grass will give the pig a bad taste. Also, do not build on asphalt,
unless you like the smell and taste of it; concrete should be avoided too, although it won't affect the taste, the high heat could damage a nice driveway or patio as well as stain it permanently. Additionally an out-of-the-way place is best, as the high heat will make it difficult for grass to grow back on it's own. Notice in the picture how the short sides sit a little inside the long sides.
Step 3: The Spit
The spit described here is very simple. You could make your spit out of anything that will support your pig, except galvanized steel or any other poisonous or bad tasting metals. Some of you may be wary of Al, but this once won't kill you. Some holes should be drilled so that when the pig is attached they line up about behind the shoulders and just in front of the hips. It may be best to wait till you have the pig so they can be drilled accurately.
Step 4: The Beast
Your best bet for buying a whole pig is a butcher; however, in this day and age they are becoming harder to find. A Meats Manager at a super-market may be able to help by calling their people or giving you the number. If you get your pig this way it will likely be shipped to your house, not the
super-market. It will also be frozen solid, maybe even with dry ice, so be sure to order ahead of time so it can arrive about two days ahead for thawing. If you are lucky enough to have a local butcher, go talk to him/her. Tell the butcher you need it to be thawed and that you want it a day ahead of cook day. Most pigs these days come fully cleaned, ask, if not, ask the butcher to remove anything not taken out, but that is unlikely. Generally the smallest whole pig you can get is about 50lb. and that is plenty for small parties with room for left-overs. You are welcome to cook any size pig you wish; though, larger pigs must be cooked painfully slow so not to burn the outer layers of meat. Larger
pigs can also be a hassle to work with, requiring two or more people to move them easily. You may even need a friend to help for a 50 pounder, it's not a lot of weight, but dead meat is very awkward to handle. Pigs come in a box, sealed in a heavy plastic bag, it is fine to thaw in this bag. If frozen solid, go ahead and place your pig in the large plastic tub and fill with water; you can even let the water run slowly to add movement and speed thawing. Once thawed, or freshly brought from butcher, it is time to consider brining. If your pig is to sit for more than an hour thawed, put it on ice, do not risk letting any bacteria get a chance to grow.
Step 5: Pre-Prep and Prep
The brine is not a necessary step, though it can help the cooking process and ofcourse, add flavor. A brine adds a little more moisture to your pig and therefore makes less of a chance of burning it. Put your pig in the plastic tub and throw in a couple bags of ice and fill with water to cover. This is a simple brine of only water and salt, you may find it easier to dissolve the salt in warm water first and then add to your brine. Either way, it may take several cups of salt to reach the proper brininess. Water is heavy and so is your pig, you may want to sit tub and all in a bathtub for ease of pouring the water out later. Let sit in the brine over-night. The next day should be cook day, and you should get up early if you don't plan on cooking into the wee hours. Drain your brine and get your pig onto a table covered with plastic. As with any raw meat, sanitation is important. You may want to setup outside to ensure that pig juices are not dripping all over your kitchen. In any case you want to attach the spit first. Line your spit rod up so that your pig is dead center, mark and drill your holes so that they line up just behind the shoulders and just in front of the hips. Insert the spit through the pigs mouth and out his backside; this will be easy to do, commercial pigs are split from their chinny chin chin all the way down...all the way. Make the holes sit so they are facing the sides of the pig. Get the very large needle, pliers, and stainless steel picture wire. Thread the wire into the needle, then, using the pliers, push the needle through the pig's back from the inside staying close to the spine. Pull some wire through and go back in on the other side of the spine. 24" of wire for the front and back should be fine. Now pull the wire till it is even and you should have one loop over the spine with the ends coming out of the split pig. Push both ends through the front hole in your rod, one through the left, one through the right. Take the end with the needle and go over the spine and back through the hole several times, then repeat with loose end. Leave enough wire so that the ends can be twisted very tightly together to secure the pig. Do the same thing for other hole in the rod. This holds your pig in place and prevents it from slipping during turning. Once the spit is attached, seasoning goes in. As you well know this can take many forms, so season as you see fit; remember though big meat takes big seasoning, use liberally. The pig pictured had a handful of peppercorns, seasoned salt, and lemons that were cut in half, along with a bulb of garlic, peeled. After seasoning, the beast needs to be closed to prevent the precious spices and juices from escaping. Use the SS wire, needle, and pliers and over-hand stitch all the way down, being sure not to go too shallow, or when the pig cooks, shrinking will rip them out. The feet have to be trussed up as well. For the front feet, wrap them tightly together using the wire, then wrap the wire over the spit like the pig is holding it with his mouth, twist or tie to secure. For the back feet, tie them together securely then use your needle to stitch them to the belly. All your wiring needs to be VERY tight, the pig will shrink a lot when cooking.
Step 6: Light the Fire
You could use any fuel for your fire. Charcoal briquettes is preferred here for their ease of control. To start with, pour an entire 20lb. in the middle of the pit and light. Once the coals are ready, use the shovel or hoe to divide them into four piles, then move them to the corners of the pit. Get another bag divide half of it between the four piles. When the new coals start getting white around the edges it is time for the pig. You and a friend carry the pig to the pit and rest the ends of the spit on the short ends of the pit. Your spit may bow slightly but it should be okay. Most pigs when attached will be fairly balanced, this will help when turning. A quarter-turn every 15-20 minutes is a good speed, the fire is hot though, so wear some gloves and long sleeves too. For the first 1-3 hours the piles of coals should be fed, but not so much that they get huge and hot. You want the heat low at first, then crank it up gradually towards the end. The whole time the pig is cooking the pit should be mostly covered with Al foil, this helps keep heat and smoke in, leave some air room for the fire though. You should start building the heat after a couple hours, if you have a thermometer, 300-350F is a good temp at pig level. You can also hold your hand over the fire at pig level, if you can leave your hand there for more than 8 seconds, your not hot enough. It takes a great deal of charcoal to pull this off, so, make sure you have plenty, by the end the bottom of your pit should covered with charcoal, those little piles you made in the beginning won't put out the heat for full cooking. You should also avoid having too much heat on the belly and face, the meat there is thin and will burn easily. The heat should be concentrated on the shoulder and the butt. Once the pig starts to get done you may want wrap sensitive parts like the cheeks, ears, tail, and belly with foil ( shiny side out ) to prevent burning. If your pig is very fatty or farm raised you will want a drip-pan under the pig so the drippings don't put out the fire or smoke. There is one in the pictures; but, that pig put out almost no drippings. Your pig is done when you can stick a probe thermometer in any of the thickest parts of the pig and get 160-165F, NO LESS! The hind area is usually the thickest of all. If you control the heat right, your pigs skin should be reddish and crispy without much burning. It doesn't really matter if the skin gets a little burnt, it just won't be as pretty when presenting.
Step 7: Let's Eat!!!
Now for the true joy of this journey, eating! First use wire cutters to open the pig and remove the spit. In the pictures, that pig was placed on some foil, sliced and eaten. If you know how to cut meat, then cut properly. If you want to take the ribs off after cooking, you will have to break them before spitting the beast, using a hatchet or hammer and large knife. There were no sides served with the pig pictured, and nobody wanted for any, the pig was a star alone. Present the pig however you wish, tradition is to make a giant bed of lettuce, place the pig on top, and stick an apple in his mouth. YUM! Left-overs with this type of cooking can be iffy, cooked meat can be stored like any other, but, the deepest parts, even though they reach temperature, still look pink; use your best judgement. The skin, if crispy, is also good to eat; as well as most all other parts, snoot, snout, ears tail. It mostly all tastes like pork. Enjoy!
Step 8: Not a Step, Just an After-thought...
This is my first Instructable, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy eating hog meat. If you do this yourself, plan out everything, there is no way I could have wrote it all down here. In fact, I only scratched the surface, but this will get you through your cook without too many hitches. I haven't wrote anything significant for years so please tell me about grammar, spelling, and general hard to understand things. Thanks and happy cooking!!!