Sunday, 15 July 2007

The Pig Roast

The time finally came this weekend, to decamp to the brother-in-law's house with a suckling pig on the back seat and expectations of him cooking it for us. There were 8 of us gathered for the occasion, planning on a full day of eating and drinking while we whiled away the 7-something hours until the main event.

The pig-roast was given as a Christmas gift, to be held whenever Rob (the brother-in-law) decided enough planning had gone into it. 7 months of thought, therefore, went into fine-tuning the barbecuing method and the ingredients for flavoring the pig. Of the flavor options, Rob determined that of the 3 main schools-of-pig-roast thought (American style, Chinese/Asian style, Spanish style), the Spanish style would not only taste very nice but also allow a nice tapas theme to run throughout the day and keep the hunger at bay until the pig was done.

Cooking 12.5kg of pig was never going to be easy, and since professional cooking equipment would have been more expensive than the pig itself, it was a DIY roasting affair. A new, extra-large BBQ was purchased, a spit and rotating device procured, bricks were located to prop up the spit (and the arms of the spit drilled on to the bricks), and a second BBQ wheeled out to heat and ready extra charcoal to be placed in the main BBQ.
The prepping of the pig wasn't entirely easy, with the spit not going in perfectly (the spit, sadly, would let us down later). The pig was rubbed inside with sweet paprika and salt, and filled with leeks and carrots before it was sewn up. A large batch of basting liquid was prepared, with goose fat, lard, calvados and bay leaves. With all fingers tightly crossed for the contraption to hold together, the pig went onto the BBQ an hour behind schedule. The roast had officially begun.The spit and turning device were only intended for a few kilos of chicken to be placed on it, so the 7 hours of waiting for the pig to cook were slightly nervous ones. Highly smoky ones as well, since we were doused by the two BBQs puffing out their contents the whole time. The basting and the rotating went well despite the groaning turning device that made us all take bets on when it would give out, with the pig starting to look tantalizing only a couple of hours into the cooking.The tapas that Rob prepared were excellent, most featuring calvados or sherry or sherry vinegar, and sometimes of the three. The salad was my favorite: with serano ham, grilled scallops, chorizo chicory, grated beetroot and rocket, with a sherry-based dressing, it was certainly a special occasion salad and one I'll try out on guest in the future.All was going beautifully and the wine and beer were flowing (and being drunk) when pig-based disaster struck. Around 5 hours in, the weight of the pig became too much for the spit, and it collapsed inside the pig. There was no putting it back together, and the pig stilled needed a couple of hours of cooking. The whole affair became much more primitive at this point, with a large shovel coming out to lift and move the pig, and acres of tin foil getting wrapped around it to prevent burning. There was nothing we could do but place it right onto the BBQ sat atop a couple of bricks. Quickly, the skin went from looking golden and succulent to charred, black, and like a burns victim. I felt sorry for the pig that it had sacrificed it's life to end up a piece of coal, and just hoped the meat inside would be good.Finally, 7 1/2 hours into the cooking, the pig was done. The skin was an entire write off, but the meat inside was, luckily, beautiful. I'm terrible at waiting for a fresh roast to come to the table, and I used the excuse of taking pictures to also take snatches of fresh hot meat. The flavor of the basting juices and paprika were just noticeable, and it was wonderful tasting it just off the bone. Some parts did come out slightly dry, but we all acknowledged that a many-hour long roast is a very difficult things to pull off well. Kudos go to every involved, and though at times I felt sad to be cooking a baby pig, I think that we did manage to put it's sacrifice to very good, and tasty, use.


Su-Lin said...

Dang! Looks good - always wanted to do a pig roast!

Mae said...

Why wasn't i invited? :)

It looks so so good! Spit roasted suckling pig is something i wanted to try in our garden. My bro had one ordered already cooked by the restaurant for my niece's christening. He originally wanted to make it himself but the work involved in doing it is so much on a very busy and special day.

Annemarie said...

Hi Su-Lin - I was inspired to set up a pig roast after reading the book Gastronaut, which is all about (slightly odd) culinary adventures. I found it strangely inspiring!

Hi Mae - You'll be invited to the next one if I can get an invite to one of your foodie do's. :)
I'd definitely recommend doing it yourself some day, though I think your brother was right that a christening might not be the time to man a BBQ for 7 hours. It makes a great social event, though, so perfect for gathering friends and family around for no reason other than eating.