Category Archives: Recipes and Sides

Pig Roast Side Dishes – Baked Beans

Pig Roast side dish - baked beansSkip down to Bean Pot equipment
Skip down to Baked Beans recipe

One of my favorite side dishes to serve at a whole pig roast is baked beans. They just seem to go together perfectly! And with an authentic bean pot (more on a bean pot later) and a great recipe (I’ll share my baked bean recipe below), the beans will be a big hit. As you can almost taste in the photo to the left, baked beans just seem to be better if they are cooked over a fire in an old-timer’s dutch oven (also known as a bean pot).

And the great thing about baked beans is that you can cook them slowly without worrying or fussing over them. If you are in charge of the pig roast, you might want to pick up a bean pot and you can either put the bean pot right in the fire that the pig is cooking over or, build or buy a tripod like the one shown. Either way, the beans will be a big hit when you pull them out of the coals or off the fire!

Equipment (Mostly optional)

Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Now if you have a cast iron dutch oven already, you are ahead of the game. Otherwise you can shop for one. Try to get at least an 8 quart size for 50 to 100 guests. If you have a lot of big eaters or if you are just worried about running out, cook up a back-up batch on your stove and, if you see it is running out, dump the “domesticated beans” in the bean pot and keep on serving (I won’t tell).

If you are just getting a bean pot, here’s a couple of tips. Make sure you get a seasoned pot or be prepared to season it. Otherwise as the bean juice condenses on the sides, some rust might appear. Not a big problem but best to have your bean pot seasoned.

If you need to season any cast iron ware, just scrub it out with soap and water (only use soap if you need to season it!), then once it is nice and clean both inside and out, coat the entire pot with corn oil. Pop it in your oven at 400 F. degrees and leave it in there for an hour. Turn off the oven and let the pot slowly cool off inside the oven. There… a beautifully seasoned pot ready to go!

If you plan to put your bean pot directly on the coals of your pig roast, be sure the pot has legs to lift it a bit off the coals, otherwise it will smother the bed of coals. If you are hanging the pot from a tripod, the legs on the dutch oven are not of concern.

Try to have a pair of fireplace gloves or other well insulated gloves or thick towels on hand to move the pot as needed and to pull off the lid to tantalize the crowds with the aroma (don’t let too much of that aroma escape tho!).


As you can tell by the photo at the top, I like using a tripod for the dutch oven. It can give your party an extra appeal as you can have the beans cooking over an open fire next to the pig fire or next to the serving station. And when it is time to serve, you can simply pull the cover off the beans and put a serving spoon in them for an easy and exciting side dish. If you do use a tripod like the one pictured, be sure to plan ahead and put 3 flat stones where the tripod legs are. Otherwise if you have soft ground, it is possible that one or more of the legs will start sinking into the dirt. Once the tripod is off-balance, it will continue to sink into the ground and possibly tip over (and beans will be everywhere!). Where I am now in CT, the ground is hard enough not to be a problem but when I lived in sandy Florida, 3 concrete blocks solved the problem.

Baked Beans Recipe – A Great Pig Roast Side Dish

We are probably all familiar with cans of pork and beans. You can open a bunch of cans and dump them in the cooker. That can be a great addition to a pig roast but to me, that is kinda cheating :-) . If you are cooking a pig all day long, why not give everyone a treat and make those baked beans from scratch and allow them to simmer for a long time as well?

Here’s my recipe that you can change to suit your own taste buds. I figure this will be enough for 30-50 people so adjust it accordingly based upon your crowd and their appetites. The beans will need to soak overnight, then cooked for an hour or so. Then you’ll need a few minutes to add the ingredients together before putting them on the campfire for 4-6 hours. Seems like a lot of time but it really is easy since most of the time it is simmering.

  • 3 1 lb bags of dry Navy Beans, cleaned and soaked overnight
  • 1/2 lb of Sausage, cooked and drained
  • 1/2 lb of Bacon, diced, lightly cooked and drained
  • 1 cup Onion, coarsely minced
  • 1 cup Bell Peppers, chopped
  • 4 Beef Bullion cubes (or for a real treat, use 4 Tbsp of Minor’s Beef Base!)
  • 1/2 cup Blackstrap Molasses
  • 2 15oz can Tomato Sauce
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
  • 6 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed
  • 1 Tablespoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 teaspoon Black Pepper

Dump the dry beans on a sheet pan and scan them carefully for little stones, discolored beans, sticks, and other debris. There shouldn’t be much of anything in there but one little stone can ruin someone’s tooth! Rinse the beans well and put them in a pot and let them soak in cool water overnight (use lots of water as they will increase in bulk). Don’t use the cast iron dutch oven for soaking and boiling the beans in water — otherwise you might get some rusting on the cast iron pot. Just use a big kitchen pot (or a few of them) for the initial bean soaking and boiling.

In the morning, dump the water out, put fresh water in the pot and put them on the stove for an hour or so to cook (and soften up). After they’ve cooked for an hour, check to see if the beans are tender and when they are, dump the water out and start putting the ingredients together.

Cook the bacon and sausage and put them in the dutch oven. Add the onion, bell pepper, chili peppers, and garlic and cook them together until the onion is translucent. Put the remaining ingredients in and stir together. Put the pot on the campfire on low coals and you are almost done!

Stir every 1/2 hour to 1 hour and if it looks like the beans are getting dry, add 1/2 cup of hot water to them to keep them from drying out.

Now here is the crowning touch… since this is a pig roast, when the pig is almost done and the baked beans are almost done, take a little strip of the smoky belly, dice it up, and toss it into the bean pot and stir it in. If you are cooking the pig in the ground or otherwise don’t have access to it, you can do that when the pig comes out or skip it all together. But if you are slowly smoking the pig, that will be the Pièce de résistance that turns your baked beans into a masterpiece!

Give it a try or try something different and let us know how it works out.

Fresh Horseradish Recipes and Sides

fresh horseradish recipesIn a previous article, I told how to make your own fresh horseradish sauce and promised some horseradish recipes to come. If you like horseradish sauce and have not had the fresh stuff, try it! You will be astounded with the difference between store-bought jars of sauce and the flavor treat of homemade! Here are some horseradish recipes and ideas on how to use some of that special flavor explosion.

Offer a little bowl of fresh horseradish sauce beside a whole roasted pig or even just with a salty smoked ham. Of course you can use it as a great condiment for the traditional slab of beef.

For a fresh side dish, stir a bit into some cottage cheese with a bit of salt in it. Add some minced fresh parsley to give it some nice color as well.

And if you make your own cocktail sauce for shrimp, use some of your fresh horseradish recipe instead of the store-bought stuff for a real treat! Simple can be delicious.

If you haven’t tried making shrimp cocktail sauce, just mix a half cup or so of ketchup (depending on how much cocktail sauce you want) with a dash of Worcestershire sauce, salt & pepper, and a spoonful of your fresh horseradish sauce and squeeze a quarter of a lemon in it. Stir and taste. Adjust as needed. Shrimp have never tasted so gooood!

For a special occasion (you know… like any day that the sun is shining or that the clouds are clouding), put some of your horseradish sauce in the food processor and blend it to a puree and add some mayo to make a nice creamy horseradish sauce. Cook a nice pork tenderloin, coated with salt and pepper, slice it into medallions, and spoon a bit of the creamy horseradish recipe over top of it with some fresh green chives as garnish. Your guest will love you for it!

I hope that gives you some ideas for creating your own horseradish recipe. Let me know if you have any questions. And of course, feel free to share your own recipes or suggestions.


Fresh Horseradish Sauce (So Hot… So Good!)

fresh horseradishA pig roast can be even better when you offer a bowl of homemade fresh horseradish sauce. But just because I don’t have a whole pig around the house today doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make some fresh horseradish (

First, if you enjoy those little bottles of horseradish from the refrigerated section of your grocery store but have never tried it fresh, you are in for a real treat! And it is easy to make if you have a food processor or blender. The hardest thing is peeling the horseradish root.

The recipe is simple:

1 fresh horseradish root, washed if needed.
3/4 cup of white vinegar
1 tsp salt (optional)
2 tsp sugar (optional but will ease the hotness)

Use a sharp kitchen knife to peel the outside skin off of the root. Don’t worry about losing some of the good stuff… it is cheap and a little bit goes a looong ways! Once you’ve trimmed off all the brown skin, you should be left with a nice, white (or really cream colored) horseradish root.

Chop the root into manageable chunks that will fit in your food processor and chop the root into tiny minced pieces to your liking. Let me take a second to mention that just because your granny used to send grandpa out back to grate fresh horseradish by hand with a hand grater, does not mean that you should! When you start chopping it in your food processor, you will learn why hand grating is such a bad idea. If onions make you cry, grated horseradish will make you bawl like a baby! Keep your face away from the fumes! It is a short termed blast but it is guaranteed to clear out your sinuses and the fumes will cure whatever ails you!

Get a mason jar or other suitable storage jar and put the vinegar, salt and sugar in and mix them together. I don’t use salt nor sugar in mine as they tend to make it a bit milder and I like it when the top of my head feels like it is ready for lift-off. Then put the finely chopped horseradish in and put the lid on tight.

Shake the concoction up to mix it all together. Keep it in the refrigerator. It will last for a month or two easily although I can’t imagine much harmful stuff growing in it even after that. Turn the jar upside down every week or two just to mix the vinegar sauce back in to keep it from drying out and turning gray.

And if you want some recipes for your fresh horseradish and ideas of what to do with it, I’ve got an article on fresh horseradish sauce recipes too!

I hope that inspires you to make your own fresh horseradish sauce. Let me know if you have any questions. And of course, feel free to share your own ideas.


What To Bring To a Pig Roast

Knowing what you should bring to a pig roast can be a challenge. Of course you can ask your host and hostess what they would like. But if they respond like I do (“We’re all set… just show up!”), you won’t get anywhere with that. And of course, any self-respecting host of a pig roast is likely going to have more food than any small army can possibly devour in an afternoon. But I know there are some folks who just can’t show up empty handed. And there are some events in which the guests are requested to bring something along. So here are some suggestions.

If the pig roast is on a hot summer day, ask if you can bring a couple of bags of ice. At some of our pig roasts we have more ice than we will ever use. Other times, for whatever reason, the ice just doesn’t seem to be holding up and we are contemplating making another quick ice run.

Do you have an amazing dish that gets a lot of rave reviews? Either ask the host if it is ok to bring it or, just show up with it. If you just show up with it, make sure you have plenty and bring a serving utensil. Don’t be offended if it gets shuttled to the far corner of the salads. After all, there are only so many pineapple cole slaw’s that one pig roast can handle!

Don’t bring anything that creates extra work for the host without prior arrangement. One year, as we were getting everything ready to serve, a guest showed up with farm-fresh potatoes wrapped in foil, packed with fresh herbs and butter, ready for us to toss them in the fire. Because I didn’t have time to figure out where, among the coals, the potatoes could go without slowing down the pig from cooking, I put the potatoes aside and tended to the myriad of other stuff that a pig roast involves. The next time I had a chance to think of those potatoes was after the pig was done and being carved. Of course I felt badly that we missed that treat. If you feel compelled to do something like that, be sure to ask permission in advance of the day of the pig roast and try to take care of any tasks that are involved in tending your special treat.

You can bring a nice bottle of wine or fine cordial if you wish. A word of warning here tho. Make sure you know that the host imbibes. My parents were strongly against any alcohol (that didn’t rub off on their kids tho!). When someone would grandly present them with a bottle of fine wine, everyone around them who knew of their preferences stopped to watch their reaction as they politely but uncomfortably put the “evil” bottle aside. Additionally, if you hand a bottle of delicious alcohol to someone who has been working hard to fight against an alcohol addiction, you have just caused an uncomfortable situation for them. Having given all of those warnings, we get a few bottles of wine from folks who feel compelled to bring something and we love the thought. If the wine is not consumed at the pig roast, we put it in our wine rack and have future toasts to a memorable pig roast.

If you are invited to a pig roast (lucky you!!) and the invitation requests everyone bring a side dish. Here is an article on dealing with side dishes at a pig roast. But mainly, come ready for a fun time. And if desired, come with something that someone else will enjoy. Bring utensils and potholders if needed. Give a hand in setting things up and then step back and let the festivities begin… and enjoy yourself!

Pig Roast Chili for Superbowl

whole pigroast chili

A pot of chili with smoked pig!

I am writing this on Superbowl 47 (Feb 3, 2013). On Superbowl Sunday’s, we typically make up a big pot of chili and this year is no exception. It is extra hearty this Superbowl because I found a large ziplock bag of leftover smoked pig in the freezer from our summer pig roast to add to it! Yum… Pig Roast Chili for Superbowl!

For the chili base, I used a couple of cans of good whole tomatoes chopped, two small cans of tomato paste, a green bell pepper and a red bell pepper, a big yellow onion, a pound of hamburger, some of my favorite Minor’s beef base, and lots of chili powder and cumin.

I sauteed the onion and peppers, added the hamburger and sauteed that some more, then tossed in everything else. It has been simmering on the stove top all afternoon. The house smells like a cross between chili and the aroma of a whole pig roast from the summertime.

What a great way to resurrect the memories of a pig roast in the middle of the winter duldrums! Superbowl kick-off is coming up soon so I’ll get a giant bowl of the chili, sprinkle some shredded sharp cheddar cheese over the top of it, and settle in for a fun game, some entertaining commercials, and lots of chili to top it off!

Boneless Pork Roast

If a whole pig roast is too much for you to undertake, how about a boneless pork roast? You can slowly cook it on a spit (rotisserie), in your Brinkman smoker, or even in your oven. Slowly smoking a boneless pork roast is likely the best flavored way to prepare it (of course that is my bias showing!), but there are other delicious ways to prepare it as well.

If you are smoking it, try to keep the temperature of the smoker at around 250 degrees (F) and plan on using a thermometer to make sure it has an internal temperature of around 160 degrees. Just keep in mind that you will need around 2-3 hours or so for slow smoking it.

As far as a recipe for your boneless pork roast, I love making a stuffed pork roast — especially a boneless pork loin. My favorite is to take a sharp knife and cut along the entire length of it to create a flap. Then continue cutting that so you are creating a spiral effect of unrolling the pork roast. By doing so, you have a large flat slab of pork. I put on it a layer of spinach, fresh basil, prosciutto, grated Romano cheese, thyme, and some fennel seed, and salt and pepper. Then I roll the entire boneless pork loin up very tightly and tie it with cotton butcher’s string (don’t use nylon string!!).

If oven roasting, I cook my boneless pork roast at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 250 for an hour or more until the internal temperature reaches at least 145-150 degrees. Then pull it out of the oven and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.

If you are serving it sliced on a platter, the stuffed spiraled effect will look very nice. Serve it with a few sprigs of fresh thyme around it and enjoy!!

Side Dishes: Pasta Salad at a Pig Roast

One of our more popular side dishes we offer at our annual pig roast is a large bowl of pasta salad. We make it with lots of veggies so even the closet vegetarians have something delicious that they can enjoy.
We use the multi-colored fusilli pasta (known in our family as curly-cue pasta). I use a huge pot to cook 4-5 bags of pasta. Plan on it taking a looong time to get that large of a pot to boil!

When the pasta is still chewy, go ahead and pull it off the heat and start draining it. While I drain mine, I add ice cubes to it so it stops cooking and starts cooling down quickly.

Once you’ve got it drained and cooled enough to handle it, go ahead and dump all kinds of veggies in it and gently stir it all together.
For my veggies, I pre-chop a wide assortment of colorful veggies. Some that I use are julienned (thin sticks of) carrots, red onion, scallions (the green tops and the white bulbs), multi-colored bell peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, cauliflower, and whatever else catches my eye in the produce stand.
I used to add tomatoes but they seem to get too soft and discolored other veggies. I also used to add parmesan cheese but to use enough to taste, it gave a dull color to the dish. Those are my thoughts but try different things and get creative. You might find something more exciting that way!

For a dressing you can make a yummy vinaigrette with lots of herbs in it or for those less adventuresome just get a good dressing from the grocery. Avoid red wine vinegar or other colorful dressings as they will lessen the colorful appearance of your masterpiece.
Because I have so much pasta salad, I store it in the large zipper plastic bags so it can spread out. That way it won’t be so heavy and won’t stick together.

Earlier I mentioned that the pasta should be slightly undercooked. After storing it for a couple of days, it will soften up and if it isn’t a bit chewy to start with, it will be mushy and start breaking apart.

Pasta salad is a nice hearty addition to a pig roast. Slightly undercooked the pasta and add a colorful assortment of fresh veggies and it will be a hit at your backyard barbecue.

Pig Marinade — A Mop Recipe

A roast pig can be enhanced by wiping a concoction of goodies over it every hour or two. You will need a lot of it and the nastier it looks, the better it will likely taste. It is called a “mop” because that is literally what you do — you mop it on the pig. I use a small cotton mop and make the mop mix in a large pot from the kitchen. I chop the handle down but you may want to use it with the long handle to reach over the coals with it.

Whole Pig Roast Mop

Mop The Pig Hourly

Ingredients vary depending on what I have at hand and what can be found in the store. I usually use around a gallon of white wine or white wine vinegar, 3-4 lemons cut in half and squeezed in and then the rinds thrown in the mop mix as well (take those pesky stickers off the lemon rind and wash the rinds before using them). I add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, some fresh thyme, and lots of pepper. Toss in a cup of oil to keep it all loose. I break apart 6-12 heads of garlic and smash the cloves and toss those in as well. No need to get all the skin off the garlic — throw some of that in the pot too!

I don’t use any sugar or molasses in it because that tends to burn on the pig but if you have a sweet tooth, toss it in there too!

Sometimes I add some chicken stock to the mix but if you do that, you need to keep the mop mixture chilled so the stock doesn’t spoil. With all the vinegar, I’m not sure it would anyway but when I have 100 people coming, I don’t take any chances!

Stir it all together and throw in a few of your own “secret ingredients” as well. Our pig roasts are lake-side so when guests ask me what is in the mop mix, I just tell them it is just dirty polluted lake water with stuff floating in it. They tend to stop asking after that! Have fun with the pig mop. Make the mop mixture your own and create some tall tales about it to make the event even more of a blast for everyone!

How We Serve Pig Roast Side Dishes

At our annual pig roast, we welcome everyone to come over without bringing any side dishes and such. I make it clear that we have plenty of food for everyone and don’t need more. Even with that, we still have lots of people who feel uncomfortable showing up empty-handed. At first, we fretted over unplanned side dishes. Now, we just graciously accept that some just have to bring something, so we plan in advance what to do with the assortment of food that arrives unexpected. And that way, everyone is happy! (view an article with tips for pig roast side dishes).

That plan includes making sure that any desserts that arrive are directed inside where someone is informally in charge of putting them in the kitchen to be opened and served at the appropriate time. Salads are on a table with some ice trays to keep them chilled.

Pig Roast Side Salads

Making Side Salads at a Pig Roast

Hot items are placed on a wooden table that won’t get destroyed by the heat. Wines are kept inside near the corkscrew. With just a bit of forethought in place, guests can be welcomed and any accompanying sides can be easily handled.

Although we invite guests without asking them to bring anything along, there are certain exceptions. I have one friend who makes an amazing fresh garlicky Caesar salad. The first year, he brought enough for a half dozen people. Now I always encourage him to bring enough of his specialty for 50 people. And I make sure I get my share of it before it is all gone! Someone else is known for her yummy chocolate-chip cookies. She gets as much pleasure out of bringing them as my guests have eating them. Someone else brings a great Spanish beans and rice dish that guests look forward to seeing. How can you say no to such talented friends??

Pig Roast Side Dishes

When you roast a whole pig, side dishes may seem to get lost by the main attraction. But don’t ignore the side dishes even thought they may seem to get overwhelmed by the spectacle of the roasted pig. If you can’t — or don’t want to — deal with the extra dishes that are expected, get some of your guests to bring their favorite side dish.

If you do that, I recommend coordinating it in advance by asking certain people to bring specific dishes and tell them how many servings. I was at a wonderful whole pig roast recently in which everyone was encouraged to bring a side dish. I counted 15 dishes of baked beans, at least seven coleslaw, and over 25 store-bought cakes/pies. Much of that food was not eaten while other special dishes were wiped out by the first few people in line.

If you are going to have people bring sides, here are some tips:

  • If you know someone with a specialty, ask them if they would like to bring enough for 24 servings (more or less depending on your expected crowd).
  • This can evolve into a wonderful thing because someone bringing their star salad will likely know someone else coming who has another delicious dish they’ve seen at an event.  
  • It is better not to ask in general for folks to bring something or you will end up with lots of baked beans or Jell-O molds or such.
  • If you do not know who might have specialties to bring, ask guests to let you know in advance what they are bringing. As the event gets closer, you will likely notice a pattern. If everyone is bringing desserts, for example, when the next person asks what they can bring (and some will ask), let them know that you could use a big green salad or watermelon or whatever you would like more of.
  • Don’t get too stressed over who is bringing what side dish. I grew up in the Southern US where it was called “Pot Luck”, and for a good reason. It is a haphazard bit of luck to see what shows up. A tiny bit of planning combined by accepting the random pots of goodies that appear can make a fun feast.
  • Try to have lots of extra serving utensils and places to put the dishes that are brought in.
  • Plan in advance what dishes will go on which table.
  • Get more ideas from my article on how I handle side dishes at my pig roasts.