How to Roast a Pig - Aporkalypse 2007

July 6th, 2007

DSC_6634So, Steve and Amy are getting married this summer and they asked me to roast a pig for their rehearsal dinner. Well, I've got some skillz in the kitchen, but I've never done a pig before so we decided to to a "Practice Pig". The result: Aporkalypse.

This is how we did it…

  • Getting a pig
  • Clean and prep
  • Spitting and Stuffing
  • Roasting
  • Eating

Getting a Pig

DSC_6528Steve called up the local pig farm and hooked it all up. They even had an electric spit which we rented for a small fee. Before we knew about the spit we investigated a few other ways to do it. These two sites have tons of helpful information:

The pig we got was about 60lbs, which *should* feed 60-70 people. Now, we weren't expecting that many, but it was the smallest he could do. The pig man was friendly and helpful. I didn't ask him if he also did body disposal.

Clean and Prep

DSC_6829The pig was a bit stiff, as she was hanging in the cooler for a few days. So, while she softened up we went to work on the marinade and the stuffing.

For the marinade, I did a derivation of what the Miami guys do. In a blender, we added…

  • about 5 heads of garlic
  • a few tablespoons of fresh ground pepper
  • a handful dried oregano
  • a tablespoon or so of salt
  • 2 cups of oranage juice
  • 1 cup of lemon juice

I don't think the proportions are that important.

DSC_6726Before we slathered on the marinade, we had to give piggy a good bath. Doesn’t Steve look like a serial killer? Then we slathered on the marinade. Just rub it all over the insides, getting into the little nooks and crannies.

Once the marinade was applied, we covered piggy loosely and left her in a cool place for the night. Or pig was still slightly frozen in some areas, so, we didn't pack her with ice, but we found a nice, cool, pest-safe area for her to lie and meditate on the busy day she would have tomorrow.

Spitting and Stuffing

DSC_6875The next morning, we uncovered piggy and drained some of the excess marinade that had pooled in the cavity. Before stuffing, we had to put her on the spit. The spit we rented had a variety of dogbones and supports, but we found that just two spikes did the job. The spit went in through the mouth and out the…well you know where. Now, some people wire the backbone to the spit, but since we had a pretty small pig and we would be tying it elsewhere, we didn't.

Stuffing

The stuffing does a few things, it keeps the abdomen of the pig from collapsing and it flavours the pig from the inside while it cooks. Oh, and it tastes FANTASTIC! I actually made the stuffing the night before, here is the recipe I came up with…

  • 3-4 tbsp oil
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs smoked sausage, chopped into small pieces
  • 3 loaves of bread, ripped into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 lbs dried cranberries
  • 1/2 lb chopped almonds
  • salt, pepper and oregano (don't be afraid)
  • a little orange juice to moisten the mixture

DSC_6895Basically, you saute the onions, then the garlic. Throw in everything else and give it a good stir. Moisten with a little OJ, but not too much–there'll be lots of juice from the pig.

After the pig is on the spit, you simply jam the stuffing up into the rib cage around the spit. Using some steel tie wire (not galvanized), we stiched up the neck and abdomen, tied the front trotters around the spit over the chinny-chin-chin and pulled the back trotters up by the belly. We weren't sure how much the flesh might fall apart near the end of the cooking, so we did a few loops around the neck, abdomen and butt. We wrapped the ears and tail in aluminum foil to prevent burning.

Roasting

DSC_6971As I mentioned, we were lucky enough to have a pig supplier that rented an electric spit. The spit included panels to reflect the heat and hold the coals. We got the charcoal going with makeshift chimney lighter (tall narrow box with newpaper stuffed in the bottom and coals piled in the top. Once things heated up, we put the pig on and assembled the top. After adjusting the motor hieght, we plugged it in and spread out the coals. The farmer warned us about getting things too hot at the beginning, so we went easy at first with the coals.

Then it was time to drink a little beer and play guitar.

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Some key things about the roasting process…

  • Start slow. There's a lot of pig to cook, so don't burn him right off the bat.
  • Pile the coals a little higher under the sholders and hams. These are the thickest parts and will be toughest to cook.
  • Mop that bad boy!

Mopping

DSC_7092To enhance the flavour and break down the fat, we mopped the pig periodically. Here's the recipe we used…

  • 1/2 C cheap BBQ sauce
  • 2 C canola oil
  • 1 C lemon juice
  • handful of dried oregano
  • a few tbsp pepper

Just slather that stuff on from time to time. The lemon juice sweetens the crackling and the oil keeps it from burning too much. We stopped mopping about 45 minutes before the end of cooking in order to make the crackling crisp. I cannot describe in words how good the crackling is. It's friggin' good.

When It's Done

Cooking time depends on a lot of things - weight of the pig, how hot your fire is, stuffing, if you're reflecting heat from the back and top, etc. 3 Men with Nothing Better to Do have this handy chart…

Weight (lbs) Charcoal (lbs) Cooking Time (hrs)
65 120 6-7
75 140 7-8
100 160 8-9
125 180 9-10

Our pig was about 60 pounds and it took about 6 hours to cook using approximately 80lbs of charcoal. I think our low amount of charcoal was because of the heat reflectors around our spit.

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As the pig is cooking, you'll notice the skin crack and the joints in the legs start to give as things get closer to done. The only way to really know that the pig is done is to use a meat thermometer. I have a handy dandy Polder digital thermometer that we would stick it various places in the beast as we got closer to the end. Make sure you check the temperature thick places like the shoulder and ham and check the temperature of the stuffing. The recommended temperature for pork is 170 degrees. Food poisoning is no fun and you don't want your pig roast to be remembered for the number of guests you sent to the hospital.

Serving and Eating

So, piggie is done. Time to eat. To cut the beast up we slid it on to a table covered with a brand new plastic tarp. First, we took some pics.

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Then, we removed all the tie wire, scooped out the stuffing, cracked off a bunch of the crackling, cut off the hams and the sholders and sliced the meat into managable pieces. We bought a few disposable foil roasting pans to put everything in. People brought cold salads and dessert and most importantly, more beer. Time to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labour!

For more photos of Aporkalypse, check out my Aporkalypse Flickr set and if you have any questions or comments, email me at thejimp@gmail.com. Happy Roasting!

Warning! Scenic bus ride may kill you

October 15th, 2006

DSC_2367

September 29, 2006 We were making our way to Sicily; however, we wanted to make one more stop on the mainland of Italy to try and split up the length of time required on train. We had heard how beautiful the drive along the Amalfi Coast was, so we decided to take the bus along the coast and make our way to Paestum, which is famous for Greek ruins dating back to 550 BC, and is also a UNESCO Wolrd Heritage Site. We caught the 8:25AM bus from Sorrento to the Amalfi Coast, the bus ticket was ridiculously cheap. This bus ride is not for people who are prone to heart touble and motion sickness. Never in your life will you have a bus trip like this. The ride to Mount Vesuvius was just a warm up. People barmp their horns when going around the blind turns. Often two cars going in the opposite direction cannot get around at the same time. Driving a distance of 22 km takes 1 hour. We then got a bus to Salerno and then a train to Paestum…we actually got off in Capaccio, which is a neighboring town to Paestum and that was where our hotel was. The night before we arrived in Paestum we booked a hotel onine through venere.com. When we got off the train in Capaccio, we looked at the large city map posted outside the station and luckily it showed our hotel. Capaccio felt like a ghost town, you could almost see the tumbleweeds blowing in the wind. We talked to some people in Italian/English and it seemed they were telling us that we could not walk to our hotel. we weren’t sure if they were saying we coudn’t get across a four lane highway or because it was too far. The only thing we knew was they were saying you needed a car to get there - it was impossible to get there on foot. The train station was deserted and it was not the kind of town where you could just hail a taxi. One person suggested getting the train to the Paestum stop where it may be easier to get information, but when we looked at the train schedule, we’d have to wait almost 2 hours for the next train. We took our chances and started walking. There was no four lane highway to cross or any real obstacles for that matter. After about a 4 km walk, we made a slight wrong turn. Our hotel was on via Laura Mare, but we turned onto via Laura. Via Laura was lined with large resorty style hotels, but we could not find ours. We finally stopped at a restaurant and asked a man standing in the parking lot. He was not familiar with the hotel, so he called out had asked a waiter. The waiter said "I’ll get the proprietor for you." The owner of Hotel Paistos, who happened to be eating at the restaurant appears and says "I’ll drive you to the hotel." We felt badly to be interupting his meal, but when we arrived at the hotel we realized we were the only ones staying there. If we had not gotten lost we would not have been able to get in the hotel without calling a number - it was so bizarre that we randomly found him. It was definitely the off-season in Paestum.

Our room at Hotel Paistos was awesome in European hotel standards and we were paying 70 euro a night, which still wasn’t dirt cheap, but it was definitely better than Rome and Sorrento. Our room had a huge balcony and a lovely beach was 150 metres away. After washing clothes and hanging them out on our drying rack on our balcony, we decided to walk the "2.8 km" walk to the Greek ruins. It ended up being a 4 km walk  (we got a taxi back and I watched the odometer). The ruins were cool, but again, it really felt like a ghost town compared to Rome and Sorrento. The quietness was a welcome change.

We ate supper at the restuarant where we had found Corrado (the owner) that afternoon. It was a lovely restaurant, but I did not enjoy everything - we had this salted fish thing that tasted like smoked salmon - I’m not a fan of smoked salmon. Paestum is a farming area and they are known for their buffalo mozzaralla, so we gave this a try in a salad at the restaurant. They carve the cheese in front of you just like it’s a piece of meet. I’ll leave the detailed food descriptions to Jim.

We had the hotel totally to ourselves and they even told us we could use the internet at the front desk at night when they were gone home. I found it amazing in Europe how much things are based on trust. Everything from the public transit system to this hotel experience.

Please don’t erupt

October 15th, 2006

September 28, 2006 If you are ever in Italy, I highly recommend that you visit Pompeii. Again, I am not really into history and museums, but I was totally into Pompeii, although I did get warn out after a few hours and things didn’t have as much meaning anymore. According to Wikipedia, Pompeii is a ruined Roman city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania. It was destroyed during a catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The volcano buried the city under many feet of ash and it was lost for 1,600 years before its accidental rediscovery. Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire. Today, it is one of Italy’s leading tourist attractions and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This discovery was made in the 1700s and I am glad that people then had the foresight to preserve and later restore this area. Several buildings, houses, churches, artwork and even bodies were found. This is a massive sight and you need a full day to see everything. We spent a half day walking around before making our way to Herculaneum, which is close to Pompeii and was also covered in ash by the volcano Mount Versuvisus.

A common tourist activity in Herculaneum is to actually hike Mount Versuvius. I find it amazing that hoards of people feel obligated and are interested in hiking to the top of an active volcano that has erupted several times since 79 AD and is considered to be one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world and it is predicted that it will erupt again by the year 2100…go figure. The actual hike is a relatively steep incline; however, it is not long. You can get a bus or taxi most of the way up and then it takes approximately 30 minutes to get to the very top and peer into the steaming volcano. It was cool to see, but I did feel a little weird about it all and I almost had a heart attack during the taxi ride. Actually, the taxi ride will put more strain on your heart than the hike. They speed around a windy road, passing numerous tour buses on blind turns.

We returned to our hotel in Sorrento and ate in an outdoor cafe for supper. Apparently this restaurant was in a licensing dispute with the city council and to get around it, you actually had to pick up your own food. You order from the waiter and he brings you your drinks, but when your food is ready, the waiter comes to your table and tells you that your food is ready to be picked up and then you walk across the road, pick up the dishes and bring them back to your table. It was very bizarre, it did create a nice setting in the restaurant in that customers were confused, so everyone starting chatting with eachother to try and figure out what was going on. There was an older English couple to my left and a young Irish couple on my right. While we were eating, a busker, who wasn’t that great, started playing guitar. I was sure he was English speaking and not a local. One of the first songs he sang was Dirty old Town, the older English couple was sure he must be from England because of this song; however, I told them that everyone knew that song. Dirty Old Town was written in 1949 by Ewan MacColl who was from Salford, Lancashire, England and the song itself is actually about this town; however, several main-stream musicians have made this song popular over the years. They were not aware of this song’s current popularity.

To end his set, he sang the Log Driver’s Song (you should remember it from the animated film by the National Film Board), I leaned over to the English couple and said "He’s Canadian…do you know that song?" They had never heard the song and I assured them that Canadians are probobly the only people in the world who would know that song. They were very happy that he was not from England and said, "you can have him." After he finished singing, Jim called him over and sure enough he was Canadian, but luckily he was not a Newfoundlander, he’s from Vancouver.

Good-bye Rome, hello Sorrento

October 14th, 2006

September 27, 2006 We left Rome bright and early, but luckily we timed it so we could still take advantage of our "free" breakfast at the hotel. We gobbled down our breakfast as soon as they opened at 7AM and then made our way to the metro, got off at the Termini stop and caught the 8:25 train to Naples. In Naples we caught the Circumsuviana train to Sorrento. The only thing we saw in Naples was the train station and I was more than happy with this. From the travel guides I had read, Naples did not really appeal to me, every book seemd to refer to it as an "urban jungle" or say things like "if you survive your day in Naples, reward yourself with a great piece of pizza." I am sure I could have survived the pizza, but I don’t know about the crazy city aspect.

Upon arrival in Sorrento (around noon), we made our way to the information centre and got a map and list of hotels. When we traveled in France in 2004, the hotel lists and maps were very organized and it was easy to tell where each hotel was located. In Italy, they give you a list of hotels with their addresses and a map (without a street guide), so it takes a bit of time figuring out where the hotels actually are on the map. We reviewed the hotel listing over lunch and quickly started our search. We first made our way to a hotel or b&b type place which had rooms for 45 euro a night. We had a look at the room and I wimped out. It was on the first floor, which I don’t particularly like, it was dirty, the woman who owned it sort of scared me, etc. As cheap or as "frugel" as I am at times, I decided that it was better to stay in a slightly more expensive place and feel good about it. I don’t know what was wrong with me on this day, I really struggled with that decision and had a minor breakdown - I think it was my only breakdown of our 3 week vacation. Poor old Jim was trying to figure out what was best as well - live with me stressing about money or live with me not being happy with a particular hotel room. We looked at another hotel that I deemed too expensive and then we finally settled on Hotel Nice, which again was slightly more than what we wanted to spend (90 euro including breakfast), but it was pretty cheap in Sorrento standards. We had a room on the top floor and it actually had 3 beds in the room, there was a double bed and two twin beds - in hindsight we should have rented out the twin beds to some fellow backpackers.

Sorrento is a small city, but it is full of tourists, it was actually much more touristy than we anticipated, although it was an enjoyble spot and it was a nice place to stroll around. There were lots of narrow, cobblestone streets filled with little shops.

For supper, we walked a fair distance to eat at a restaurant called Delphine (I think). It means dolphin. We had read a recommendation for this restaurant. Again, the restaurant definitely catered to tourists, but we sat outside overlooking the ocean and ate pasta and fish.

Rome - general thoughts

October 13th, 2006

I enjoyed our visit to Rome more than I anticipated. I enjoyed the historical aspect of the sites more than I anticipated. You could spend a lot of time in Rome, but if you are looking for a chill vacation, I don’t know if this is somewhere where you would want to spend too much time and in addition, it all just gets so overwhelming that it is hard to take it all in and really absorb it.

Last year, Jim and I started watching the HBO series, Rome. I was not originally interested in watching this series, it looked too historically based for me, but I quickly got sucked in. After visiting Rome, I want to watch the first season of the series all over again and I can’t wait for the second season to begin. If you have not watched this series, I highly recommend it whether you are planning a trip to Rome or not.

Rome - Day 3

October 13th, 2006

September 26, 2006 We made our way back to the colosseum bright and early (9:00). We decided to pay the entrance fee to go inside the colosseum and luckily we arrived before the masses of people started lining up. It was cool to see the inside of the colosseum, although the impressivenss of the structure strikes you more from the outside. Our ticket also allowed us entrance to the Palatino (Palatine Hill). Most of the Roman Emperors lived and ruled from on top of this hill and Romans considered it holy as it was the original site where Romulus and Remus settled. There are massive ruins located here.

We made our way back to Campo de’ Fiori and checked out the market again and ate lunch and people-watched for a while. Then we visited the trevi fountain, the largest of the Baroque fountains in Rome. People from all around the world visit this fountain and toss coins into it. This fountain has a legend associated with it, one current legend is that it is lucky to throw coins with one’s right hand over one’s left shoulder into the Trevi Fountain. According to wikipedia, the legend of the coin throwing is actually that if you throw one coin, you are ensured a return to Rome; two coins to get married; and three to get divorced! People were video taping their loved ones as they threw a coin in the fountain. They must make a fortune from the coin tossing.

We visited the spanish steps, which are considered one of the special sites to see in Rome. To be brutally honest, when I visited the stairs, I didn’t really know their significance - I have since read a bit about them. They were nice and architecturally pleasing and so on,  but by the time I saw them I sort of said "why are all of these thousands of people here visiting a set of stairs?" You just get so overwhelmed with all of the sites, it’s almost like they get sort of silly after a while and there are just soooo many people everywhere.

We chilled at Piazza Navona for a while and actually had a picnic supper in our hotel room!

Rome - Day 2

October 13th, 2006

September 25, 2006 After our lovely sit down breakfast at our hotel, we headed for the metro, which was incredibly crowded, you just have to sandwich yourself in the best you can. Our day began with visiting Piazza Navona, which is a famous square in Rome and for you Dan Brown fans, it was talked about in Angels and Demons. One of the fountains in the square, Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, is listed as one of the Altars of Science.

Campo de’ Fiori is another famous piazza, which is close to Piazza Navona. Our main attraction here was the market. Jim bought a Roma football team jackety thing - he didn’t have another jacket with him and Jim and I did a tag team bargaining match to get me a deal on a purse. Unfortunately at this point in the day it started to rain, so we obtained shelter at a covered outdoor cafe and people-watched for a while, which is actually one of our favourite activities on vacation. We then made our way to the Pantheon…wow. Again, I am not doing Rome justice. The Pantheon seemed larger than life and made me feel like I was on the set of the series, Rome. It’s in a square with cafes, shops, restaurants, etc, but then you have this massive ancient building standing there perfectly in tact, it was very overwhelming.

It continued to rain throughout the day and got progressively worst, we even invested in a second umbrella. In the afternoon we decided to take advantage of Roman Odyssey’s guided tour of the Vatican Museum. We had to stand in line in the pouring rain for almost 1 hour, my umbrella even started to leak. Apparently Rome only gets rain like that 4 or 5 days a year. There was so much rain, that it even made the evening news. The Vatican Museum was impressive, but it was also incredibly crowded. The museum was not originally built as a museum and cannot adequately handle the crowds. We did get to see the spectactular sistine chapel. The Vatican museum was definitely worth seeing and I think it’s one of those things that you have to do. It was definitely not the highlight of my trip to Rome. In addition to not really liking museums,  I had not eaten lunch or had much to drink and I was getting to the point where I really thought I was going to pass out amongst the crazed museum goers.

After our museum tour we made our way back to our hotel, with a cafe stop and thunder and lightning show along the way. For supper we ate at Speck, see post entitled Smoked ham for more details.

Rome - Day 1

October 13th, 2006

September 24 We arrived in Rome at around 2:30 in the afternoon. We took a cheap flight from Bratislava, Slovakia on SkyEurope. Bratislava is only 1.5hours from Vienna, where we were visiting our friends Craig and Sabine. The cheap flights in Europe are awesome!!

We easily found our way to our hotel. We did not book most of our hotels in advance; however, we thought it would be wise to book ahead in Rome. We booked at City Guest House, an inexpensive hotel in a residential area of Rome. It was about a five minute walk to the metro and within 15 minutes we could be in the centre of the city. Normally my least favourite part of Italy is finding a place to sit down and eat a sensible breakfast. The Italians believe in standing up and downing an espresso in the morning and maybe devouring a pastry. Luckily the hotel where we stayed included a sit down breakfast, it included a coffee (cappucino for me), pastry and yogurt and granola (or your choice of cereal).

Just after we arrived, we took the metro to the "colosseum" stop and boy did they mean the colosseum stop. As soon as you walk outside of the metro, the colosseum is right in front of you, it was very overwhelming, you felt like you were in a different world. I don’t know how to describe Rome, I guess you will have to visit it for yourself. I knew there was a lot of historical stuff to see in Rome, but I did not realize how condensed everything was, it was totally amazing. I am not really into museums, but I definitely enjoy the real life historical remains…does that make sense? Along side the colosseum is the Roman Forum, which again,  was much more than I ever imagined. As we wandered around the forum, we fortunately hooked into a free tour given by an American who kept announcing "free tour if anyone wants to join." We followed him around the forum as he gave a detailed explanation. Of course, at the end, he put a plug in for his tour company, Roman Odyssey and told of other tours that would be happening throughout the week for a fee. It was a brilliant way to advertise and several people, including us, signed up for tours.

We made our way back to the hotel and had a nice supper…not at the under cover chinese restaurant (see earlier post, Listen to your gut).

Smoked ham?

October 12th, 2006

September 25, 2006 The second night in Rome we ate at another restaurant that was close to our hotel. We walked to one restaurant and it was closed, so we quickly found another one because it was pouring! The restaurant we found was called "Speck," it felt sort of like an Italian equivalent of a Jungle Jim’s. It was packed with locals, so that was a good sign. My true confusion comes from the name. According to our Italian dictionary, Speck is "a type of smoked ham;" however, the restaurant was decorated heavily with a cow motif. I do not understand.

Listen to your gut

October 12th, 2006

September 24, 2006 In Rome, we stayed in a nice/affordable hotel in a residential area. There was an Italian restaurant across the road that had a menu with lots of selection - we decided to give it a try. As we were walking into the restaurant, I noticed that the restaurant had a somewhat of an asian decor, the plates had an asian motif, and all of the waiters were asian. We did have a seat and had a look at the menu. The waiter brought us some olives that looked like they had been left out a little too long and a bowl of hot sauce? We noticed that the menu not only contained a wide selection of Italian dishes, but also included some asian dishes as well. It just didn’t feel right. We debated whether or not to get up and leave, and as guilty as we felt, we finally left. If, like us, the food in Italy is normally one of the highlights, do not try to get gourmet Itallian food at a chinese restaurant - follow your gut and leave!

We ended up eating at a nice family restaurant that was recommended by the hotel. We were a little unsure of it at first, but we were pleased with the food and it seemed to be frequented by locals. One of the waiters had Downs Syndrome and he brought a plate of fries to a 30ish aged woman sitting at the next table. After he delivered the food and made his way back to the kitchen, you would think he just scored a touch down or maybe a date, he was silently cheering and giving a thumbs up.