If you have the patience, a pig that has been slowly roasted over a low bed of smokey coals is the best way to create an unforgettable event! It requires a rotation of “pig sitters” because this pig will be slowly cooked for about 24 hours. Here’s how we did our slow-roasted pigs.
We dug a pig pit in the back yard that was not much bigger in width and 3 foot bigger in length of a good-sized pig (between 150-200 lbs or more live weight will feed lots of folks). Our pig pit was around a foot deep.We lined it with big stones but a row of concrete blocks, while not as natural looking, works just fine (see photo). A grating was needed the size of the pig with a couple of angle iron posts under the grating width-wise and long enough to be able to rest it on the stones and, when done, to pick the pig up and carry it to its carving table.
I used to do the pig roasts in Florida and had unlimited palm fronds that we would use to cover the pig and keep the smoke in. Now I don’t have those so I cover it with aluminum foil over a wire mesh frame. That isn’t as natural and rustic looking as palm fronds but tastes just as wonderful. Fresh Maple leaves work well if you have an abundance of them but, like with palm fronds, get them fresh and keep hosing them down periodically to keep them from drying out and igniting. You may need to rotate in fresh ones from time to time if the ones you use are too dry.
We butterflied the pig which means cleaning it and breaking the backbones so it will lie flat. The pig is splayed out with the skin down toward the fire on the grating. I get a spool of stainless steel wire to tie the pigs hoofs to the grating otherwise it has a tendency to curl up a bit. I always mop some marinade on the roasting pig every hour or two to give it more flavor and keep it moist.
The reason the pig pit is 3 ft longer than the pig is because that is where the fire is. You will toss logs (my favorites are hickory or green oak) into this open area and when they are burned down to hot coals, take a shovel and toss them under the pig’s for hams (legs). No need to put coal in the middle since that will stay hot anyway and will burn easily. Just keep a hose handy in case the pig fat flares up under the pig. Douse that flame quickly or your pig will be dry and burned rather than juicy.
After slowly roasting the whole pig over low coals for 24 hours, double-check it with a meat thermometer to make sure no parts are below 150 degrees. And then get ready to dazzle your guests. A pig that has been slowly roasted over oak or hickory logs may come out looking very blackened and what I like to call “nasty looking”. But wait until the first person gets to taste that flavorful juicy smoked pork. Word will go through the line of hungry guests that it is a heavenly treat they will never forget!