I can still smell the burning Hickory and Peach wood perfuming around me and tickling my nose. It is a memory that will stick with me for a while. The smell of smoke and burning wood is soul satisfying to me on many levels. It takes me back to the days of my youth sitting around camp fire or ever further back to the time of our ancestors when the only thing that we had to cook with was fire and stone. Man would take a wild animal, honor its life, and provide the people around him with pleasure and the energy to live. It would become a celebration of life through the animal’s death. All too often people try to forget that eating is an act of consumption and that it takes away life to perpetuate it.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to celebrate life and the love of two people. I also had the opportunity to use fire and smoke to create something truly delicious. My good friend Bryce (who is a great chef) asked me to be one of his groomsmen while also catering his wedding. Bryce is originally from North Carolina were smoked pig reigns king. When he said that he wanted a whole pig I got really excited. Not owning a smoker large enough to hold a pig the size that I needed I asked some people who really know BBQ for some help. My friends at Bethany Blues were kind enough to let me barrow their smoker and Chef Kevin gave me some really good advice. With their blessing I backed the smoker in the back of Nage and I was in business. My good friend Dr. Steve is a smoking enthusiast and gave me the Hickory and Peach wood out of his private stash to cook this fine swine.
So having the smoker, wood, and beautiful 130# pound pig it was decision time. How much time? To rub or not to rub? Brine? Injection marinade? Different flavors? What Temp??? So many variables to effect the outcome of the final product. To me the rub seemed like a no brainer. I knew that the low temp and the amount of time needed to reach the correct internal temperature was going to leave the pigs skin leathery and practically inedible but the rub is still important in flavoring in layers inside of the pig. I thought it to be best to stick to what I know and simply modify my standard rub of Kosher salt, dark brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, dry mustard, ginger, cumin. Chef Kevin said that he liked to use a lot of herbs and earthy flavors when he cooks a whole pig. I ground and added fresh Sage, Thyme, and Bay leaves to my rub. I did not have a container big enough to hold the pig and the brine. I would have needed a plastic kiddie pool. It would have been hard to hold the pig, brine, and kiddie pool at the right temperature so I decided that a injectable marinade was the right way to go. In my marinade I used similar spices to my rub but I added apple juice, peach nectar, apricot nectar, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and soy to it. my dry rub wasn’t sticking to the pigs skin so I used a little of my marinade to help the rub stick.
So with the rub and marinade out-of-the-way it was time to think about the most important step time and temperature. Low and slow is always best when thinking about good Q. I knew that I wanted to be in a range of between 210*-250*F. So I chose 230* I started the pig with the hickory and alternated with the peach wood stoking the firebox every 3-4 hours. I smoked the pig for 15.5 hours until the internal temperature reached 160* in its hottest spots. I tented it and let rest for a few hours before we enjoyed this moist and juicy swine. Even hours later tented it was still warm.