Here is about as fine a way to barbecue a pig as has ever been invented. It's a fair amount of work, and requires some unusual cooking tools, but it is well worth it for an outdoor party that will become legend.
1 hog. A 95lb pig has been known to do nicely for approximately 120 people
4 to 5 bushels of grapefruit-sized river rock or granite.
40 to 50 pieces of dry, split firewood, plus kindling.
Sheet steel, one or several pieces to total approximately 4 square feet.
Chicken wire - one 4 foot section for each pig-quarter.
Carpet scrap, approximately 1 foot longer in length and width than the pit.
150 feet of wide, heavy-duty aluminium foil. Get the thickest you can find.
2 or 3 x 12 inch bundles of newspaper, plus a container in which to soak them. A clean garbage can or large wheelbarrow works well. The Wall Street Journal is perfect as it's not loaded with inserts and every page is exactly the same size.
75 - 100lbs of cast-off vegetables such as cabbage leaves, lettuce or corn shucks/stalks/leaves. Most grocery store produce departments will save this for you if you pick it up daily.
Lots of beer, and a cooler to put it in. While this may have little to do with the pig, you will really need it after standing over a roasting hog for a while.
Mix the following together in a large mixing bowl:
- 24oz Le Choy soy sauce
- 10 - 12 chopped scallions
- 3 - 4 chopped garlic cloves
- 4 - 5 chopped peppers
- 2 x 16oz cans crushed pineapple
Cooking the Pig
Dig the pit 6 - 8 inches deep according to the sheet of steel and the size of the pig. Then place the sheet steel in the pit.
Surround the perimeter-edge of the pit with some unsplit logs. This forms a barrier for all that follows.
Using small, dry kindling and small, split firewood arranged in a tee-pee, start a fire in the centre of the pit.
Moving from small, split firewood to the larger pieces, surround the starter fire with wood1. The wood should be placed in a tee-pee shape but with enough spaces between the logs to allow plenty of air circulation. Use 40 - 50 pieces of firewood. Don't be shy here. You want to ensure that all the wood will ignite, but you need to move on to the next step while it's still possible to be next to the fire. It's not time for beer just yet, but now might be the time to make damn sure that it's cold.
Quickly cover the mound of firewood with the 4 - 5 bushels of rocks. Grapefruit-sized river rock is good, although granite will tend to split less as it's heated. Take care though - as the rocks heat, moisture is forced from them causing some to explode.
Ok, you've turned the oven on and are waiting for it to come up to temperature. It's now time to deal with the pig. Unless you need the ambience of a whole pig, one that has been split into quarters is easier to deal with when it is time to stand in your oven and remove it. Split the pig into quarters, and cut off the head. Generously rub the pig down with marinade or your own favourite sauce. Wrap each section and the head well with wide, heavy-duty aluminium foil. The thicker the foil, the easier it is to unwrap later. After the foil, wrap each section with chicken wire to keep the foil intact and to aid in removing from the pit later. If the rock-covered fire is doing nicely, and the pig is ready to go in, you may pause at this point for a cold beer2.
After an hour or so most of the firewood should be consumed and the rocks will be falling into the centre of the pit. Using a pole, spread the rocks out around the pit. You want enough rocks left in the centre to form a bed for the pig to lay on, and enough rocks off to the side to build up around the pig and cover the top. Any unburned logs may be pulled out and hosed off.
Lay strips of wide, heavy-duty aluminium foil on the rocks in the centre where the pig-sections will be placed. Place the pig-sections on the foil and cover them likewise with strips of aluminium foil.
Using tongs or shovels, surround and cover the pig with the hot rocks. This is very hot work and another cold beer goes down very nicely at this point.
When the pig has been covered with hot rocks, completely cover the mound with long strips of the heavy-duty aluminium foil.
Cover the aluminium foil mound with vegetation. Cabbage leaves, lettuce, corn stalks and leaves work well. Pile it on, don't be shy.
Completely cover this mound of now-steaming vegetation with wet newspaper. This is your oven's insulation and you want all of the heat for the pig. Work around the bottom of the mound up to the top. There is no need to unfold the newspaper, so use entire sections. Pile it on. Stomp it down well around the sides. Anywhere steam is escaping, put another section of wet newspaper.
Cover the wet mound of newspaper with the wet piece of carpet.
You're done for a bit. Pull a chair up to the mound and have another beer. As you get up for yet another, wet the carpet down with the hose. For a 95lb pig cut into quarters, 4 - 5 hours works very well. A whole pig will take an hour longer (plus it'll also be far more difficult to wrap, to remove from the rocks, and to serve).
Removing the Pig
It's time to take the pig out. Your guests should be here at this point so you should no longer have to fetch your own beer. They will be surrounding the mound, and curiosity over what they are really having for dinner will produce more than enough volunteers for this step.
Pull off the carpet and carefully rake back the vegetation and foil cover. Remove one of the quarters or with a helper on each corner of the chicken wire lift the pig from the rocks. Remove the chicken wire, peel back the inner foil, and slice. As you begin, remove meat from the bone as those who were your helpers will feel bold enough to have earned a sample. Their expressions of bliss will embolden the onlookers.
You now have a bit of a feeding frenzy on your hands. Caution should be employed here if you are the one doing the cutting and chopping. There will be no lack of volunteers at this point, and you may prefer to stand back with yet another beer.