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The Aftermath

December 25th, 2011

Bits of Hog All Over the Place

Noche Buena is now a MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

What a week it’s been. It took forever to get the pig rotisserie built and operational, and then I had to cook yuca, black beans, brownies, rice, and coconut flan. I had to get beverages, charcoal, napkins…it was an ordeal. But it was worth it.

I thought Val Prieto couldn’t make it this year, but he and his wife Maggie showed up before the feast, and he helped me get the lechon mounted on the spit. Then after they made an appearance at his parents’ house, they came back and ate with us. Maggie reminded me that this was our “anniversary.” The first time we met, it was Noche Buena 2003. Val was cooking at his parents’ house. It’s too bad we couldn’t get them to come over here this year.

The pig cooker works great. I was so busy I didn’t bother taking photos, but Val took a quick phone video, which I will embed.

The charcoal pan is a piece of Home Depot galvanized metal with a few bends in it to give it strength and provide places for the charcoal to be piled. I didn’t put it on dedicated supports. There are two turkey fryers under it.

I had read that it was a bad idea to let fat fall on the coals, so I bent the pan to keep the charcoal slightly outside the central axis of the pig. I now think this was pointless, and it reduced the heat that got to the meat. I believe I’ll flip it and use the other side, and I also need to make sure the coals go past the ends of the pig. These parts are the biggest concentrations of meat, and they cook slowest. You need heat coming at them from the ends as well as the middle.

I believe a caja china with a smoke port would work really well. Maybe next time.

The motor worked great, although it sounded like it was coming apart. I guess that must be normal. It never got hot or paused, and I know it was working well below its rated torque.

I decided not to build a complex framework to hold the pig. That was a mistake. One of the Tapcons in the pig’s spine came loose, and the pig threatened to fall off the spit. We had to turn the motor off and run it intermittently, turning the pig 90 degrees at a time. This slowed things down a lot. Next time I’ll have the spit modified to prevent this.

I chose not to use the longer spits I had available. The heat of the coals got to the motor and bearings, but that was no problem, because it was a simple matter to bend a couple of pieces of foil around them to shield them. Much easier than modifying a new spit, and I got the benefits of the short spit’s rigidity and ease of handling.

The pig went eight hours, and some bits still were not fully done. Nonetheless, it was a phenomenal success. The smoky flavor of the hickory and charcoal made it much better than a caja china pig, and the skin was pretty crispy in spite of the rotisserie, which can make pig skin limp.

Here’s a horrible confession. I was too lazy to juice bitter oranges, and I don’t like the canned naranja angria in stores, so I marinated it in mojo made with Sunny Delight! Don’t laugh. It was amazing. Bitter orange is actually pretty useless. Mix orange juice with lime juice, and the results are just as good. Maybe better.

Yesterday was my dad’s 80th birthday. My friend Liz insisted on making him an Appalachian dried-apple stack cake, as well as cookies with Dilbert and my dad’s name silkscreened on them. My dad loves Dilbert. I think he enjoyed that.

The food exceeded my expectations. Everything was wonderful.

I had guest problems, though. The whole point of this meal was to help me and my church friends learn about love and unity, but five people bailed out on us. I ended up with nine church friends, Val and Maggie, and my dad. We had a wonderful time, but we were buried in food. I begged people to take it home. I made two gallons of black beans! Overshot just a little.

You can’t love passively. It’s not just a feeling. You have to act on it. That’s what we’re learning. So we’re trying to spend time together outside of church.

The patio is still a mess. I’ve conquered most of it, but there is still work to be done. I skipped church today, and I didn’t get up until eleven! I think I would have died if I had gone to church AND cleaned up.

I hope everyone who still reads this blog had a wonderful night, and I hope today is even better. God will be good to you and restore your life, if you give him a chance and agree to do it his way. It’s working for me, and it will work for you.

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4 Responses to “The Aftermath”

  1. Randy Rager Says:

    Was it really guest problems? You folks had a great time, with great food which you learned something new preparing and as a bonus, those who did show up will remember the experience with every bite they take of the food they took home.
    .
    There were 13 of you there (if I counted correctly), just as there were at the Last Supper.
    .
    Coincidence?
    .
    Also in the “I don’t think that was coincidence” category, I used what I’ve learned from your cookbook’s pizza chapter to make the second best calzones I’ve ever had. Since I don’t plan to keep sourdough, I am well satisfied.
    .
    May the Blessings of the Season lift you with Joy!

  2. Jake Says:

    Sorry you hand all that food on your hands. “You can’t love passively.” I could not agree more. Unless you act on those feelings they will remain just that. God bless.

  3. onmilo Says:

    Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  4. Bill Parks Says:

    Nice job on the pig turner! We had an event at my place of work and one of our customers cooked a pig for us. He had an interesting cooker. It was sort of an upside down Caja China. The fire was at the bottom of the box and the pig was split, flattened and clamped between two grates at the top. The pig was over the fire and you would flip it over every so often. He started the pig at home with the box in the back of his pick up. When it was time to start serving, he just drove the whole works to us. The pig had the wonderful flavor of being cooked over coals that I didn’t really taste in the meat I had from a Caja China.