Yesterday I got a phone call from my son. “Mom,I shot a pig, can you help?” said he. You see, he works at a place with a 2000 acre property of hardwoods and a river. There are Pig Issues- feral pigs that are threatening certain parts of the property, and permission has been granted to hunt said pigs. I offered to help him if he shot some, in exchange for half the meat. These pigs, on this property, are fortunate pigs, because it is hardwood forest of oaks and hickories. That means nuts and mushrooms. The pigs have a steady diet of acorns, hickory nuts, sweetgum balls, mushrooms, berries….delicious things that result in delicious, sweet, lean pigs.
You see,however, Thursday is My Day Off. It is the day I do only exactly what I want to do, and never has it included dressing and processing a pig. It never even entered my thinking that this is something I would do on a Thursday. However, I told him I would and so I did.
It was a lovely little sow, about 75 pounds. Perfect! I told him not only would I not process a boar, I would not let him use any of my equipment to do it himself. But this nice little pig, it was covered with thick, curly black hair and was exactly the right size. Not too small (thus causing the desire to roast the whole thing) and not too big (to fit in the smoker).
You see, we all have the philosophy that if you’re going to shoot a wild animal, you must eat it. None of this trophy hunting nonsense. No bucks, no boars.
So, processed it was. 2 lovely small hams (maybe 5 pounds each), 2 lovely shoulder roasts (maybe 2-3 pounds each) 2 slabs of lean ribs, 2 delightful backstraps (those are SO going to be grilled, or maybe I can talk him into grilling one and turning the other one into Canadian bacon), and 2 slabs of what, if this were a fat farm raised pig, would be bacon, but reality is that they are far too lean for bacon, and will be made into jerky instead.
Now, I am going out of town for a week. Otherwise I’d try my charcuterie (non)skills out, however,I am going out of town so the ribs, backstraps and non-bacon are in the freezer until I get back.
The hams and shoulders went into the smoker. That’s right. Within 3 hours of this pig staring down my son and meeting it’s demise, that pigs meatiest parts were merrily smoking with cherry wood and an herb rub. Pictures? Of course not. I was too busy trying to get the other parts packaged up so the dogs would quit looking at it like it was Christmas.
By 5pm, because they were small meaty parts, the meat was done, a vinegary sauce was made, and it was all chopped and tossed and made into amazing pork barbeque, Southern Style.
There was,of course, a bucket of guts,skin, and a head in the bed of my son’s truck. I let him deal with that. His girlfriend, (and this event raised her esteem in my eyes by about 6 notches) never once said “OH GROSS” but instead opined that she’d like to go hunting too, and learn how to dress a pig, and maybe I could teach her how to cook it.
And this is how you deal with a pig. You treat it with respect, and make it as tasty as you possibly can.
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This is how I know what I have- I can see it! If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist, and I buy another one, then I end up with 10 pounds of quinoa and no pinto beans.
The thing about this particular butt recipe is that it comes out looking black and…ominous. It however, is anything but that. It is delicious and sweet and smoky and wonderful. It took 9 hours to cook, instead of the expected 12 or so. That was nice because I wasn’t really looking forward to having to stay up past my bedtime dealing with the cooked meat.
I made a simple sauce to go with it- basically just ketchup, mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, black pepper, and a touch of molasses. I do not care for most commercial sauces, as they taste…well…commercial. This sauce is very simple with no esoteric ingredients, just stuff most people already have.
The heathens dispatched of what meat I left out for them (most of it was packaged away for a celebration later in the week) in short order, with arguments over which was best, the inside meat or the outside meat. I prefer the outside, with the smoke ring and sweet crusty stuff…and the bit of fat. Oh yes the fat is spicy and silky and…not at all gross. It is, I am sure, fattening. But that is why one does not eat barbeque like this every day, but reserves it for celebrations such as the one upcoming later in the week. Others prefer the inside meat, with it’s gentle flavor and juiciness. It’s fortunate that we don’t all love the same thing because then there wouldn’t be enough for everyone.
Simple and easy Barbeque sauce for pork
1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons yellow prepared mustard
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
a drizzle of molasses (I’d guess about 2 tablespoons. I eyeballed it)
Stir together in a pot on the stove and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Cool and serve with the pulled pork.
I have this son. He’s a good son. He’s 20 years old and working full time as a mechanic at a local textile company. He works very hard, 12 hour shifts 5 days a week and makes excellent money that he enjoys spending on the people he loves. Like me. He inherited this very fine quality from his father, who also likes to spend money on me. Hard life, I know, but someone has to do it.
Anyway, recently he and I drove the 45 minutes to Savannah and found ourselves at the
Sportsman’s Paradise Bass Pro Shop. Where we looked at all sorts of things, like guns and flannel shirts and party barges. Eventually I wandered over to the grills and smokers section, all full of meat grinders and outdoor cooking stuff and things that make men who want to cook (the animals they just killed) very happy. I looked at smokers. I don’t know why, because I already have a nice little charcoal smoker, but just like a charcoal grill versus a gas grill, a gas smoker seems somehow…more convenient. Light it an go. No babying along of a fire and hoping you have the temperature right.
CJ must have noticed the look on my face because he said “I’ll buy you that if you’ll make me some smoked pork chops.” And because I am a good Presbyterian Mom, I replied “oh that’s very sweet of you to offer but you don’t have to do that, I have a charcoal smoker.” and he said “I’m a grown man now Mom, you can’t tell me what to spend money on anymore. I’m buying you that.”
Well ok then, far be it for me to deprive you the pleasure of spending your own money. Or having smoked pork chops.
Then we both forgot about it, in all the excitement of flannel shirts and revolvers.
4 days later he went hunting after work and killed a young wild hog. He extracted a promise from me to smoke the loin if he got that smoker for me.
The next week, he and Terry went back to Savannah for some lumber. He remembered the smoker concept and had it when they came back.
I don’t have the loin yet, but Harvey’s had a sale going on Boston Butts, so I bought a nice big one and gave it a spicy rub.
This morning before going to work, Terry assembled the smoker.
Now it’s happily smoking away on the patio, delightfully fragrant with the promise of huge amounts of delicious pulled pork. Fresh buns will be made (I have been on a bread kick lately, making it all from scratch), vinegary cole-slaw, and Ms Helen’s excellent home-canned bread-and-butter pickles. A feast is in the works, folks.
Dry rub for a Boston Butt (8-10 pounds)
1/3 cup ground paprika
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons whole black pepper
2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
2 teaspoons whole dry mustard
1 teaspoon whole white pepper
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
grind the whole peppers and mustard in a coffee grinder (or mortar and pestle) until not-too-fine. I know that’s vague, you don’t want it as fine as the preground spices you can buy, and you don’t want it as coarse as cracked…use your judgement. Then mix everything in a bowl. Rub half of it on the boston butt, then cover it with plastic and put it in the fridge for 12-24 hours.
To smoke it- set your smoker up according to manufacturer’s directions. I like to use hickory or fruitwood chips with pork. Soak the chips in water for at least an hour. take the meat out of the fridge and let sit on the counter for at least an hour. Rub the remainder of the dry rub into the meat. Smoke at a low temperature (230-250F) for 10-12 hours. Be sure and keep and eye on the water bowl and keep it full- this keeps the meat from drying out, and also keep plenty of wood chips (soaked!) in the chip pan.
When you put the meat into the smoker, make sure the side with the layer of fat on it is UP. As the fat cooks, it will self baste the meat and help keep it juicy.
editorial comments about smoking meat.
What kind of wood you use is up to personal preference, but here’s my wisdom from 25 years of doing it.
Mesquite is excellent for beef. It’s kind of strongish flavored, so I don’t like to use it for poultry or pork.
Fruit and nut woods (peach, pear, cherry, plum, apple, hickory, pecan, oak) work great with any meat, but fruitwoods are especially nice with pork because they are a little bit sweet. If there is a fruit orchard anywhere near you, and they prune their trees, see if you can get some wood from them.
Chunk versus chips is a matter of opinion. Chunks last longer so you don’t have to check it as often, but you get more smoke from chips.
When you’re checking the meat, look for a “smoke ring”. Slice into it to check for doneness and that lovely, lovely smoke ring. In the case of this Boston Butt, give it at least 8 hours of smoking before checking it.
You can smoke several things at one time. I am going to smoke some lovely boneless chops as well as the butt, but they won’t take nearly as long, so they’ll go into the smoker later on today. I haven’t decided yet how to season them.