Cochon de lait

I traveled to Brattleboro, Vermont last weekend in celebration of the birthdays of my friends, Marco and Shawn. I went up there with 2 major things in mind – to celebrate birthdays and to roast, in the ground, a pig (and eat it). There were many things to be done prior to the party and pig roast, such as shopping, cleaning, decorating, and painting signs. We all knew that there was some work ahead of us, just not how much.

First we swam in the nearby lake, drank a few beers, bar-b-qued, and made fennel and arugula salad. We played lawn games, giggled with babies, watched dogs play, and talked among one other. It was after all of this that Marco, our host, and Nick, the farmer from TBA Farms who raised the pig (a 59 lb. Tamworth cross, a heritage breed) ventured out to find a spot for roasting. With rain in the forecast they chose a spot under some trees that seemingly had enough of a canopy. Then one by one those of us from the party ventured into the wooded spot and started to join in on the big dig.

Once the digging started it was promptly realized that there was an intricate system of roots not far beneath the surface, making our dig a bit more work than expected. Where there weren’t roots there were rocks. We dug and dug until dark, when we finally reached our goal – one foot (slightly over). Next step in the process was squaring out the corners but, as it started to get darker, we decided to stop working and light a fire in the pit to clear our excess root debris and to dry out the hole. We lit the fire, sat back, and enjoyed our workmanship along with some whiskey.

A 50% chance of showers turned into an all night long pounding rain storm. Upon waking, a few of us from the digging party found our newly dug hole to be a large muddy puddle. As a result, the first task of the day (which was supposed to be prepping the pig for the pit) turned into hanging tarps, scooping water, and trench digging.

Eventually, we did get to the prep, which to some may have seemed utterly grotesque, but for those who were involved it was like we were paying homage to the pig we would later eat that day. First, the dry rub was applied to the hog that had already been marinated with brown sugar, vinegar, and paprika. The pig was then sandwiched between two metal grates that were wired together from all sides. Marco, Shawn, Joe, and Nick then picked up the mass of pig and steel and gave it a flip before placing it on the charcoal pit. The temperature was expected to rest around 275 degrees for the duration of the roasting (around 8 hours).

Despite the rain, the roasting station quickly became the central location of the party during the rest of the extremely wet afternoon. As our Tamworth cross roasted, there were collard greens cooking, coleslaw and salads being assembled and cakes being baked. After the pig was taken off the pit, it rested for about a half an hour in the shed outside of the kitchen in which we were all cooking, drinking, and socializing. This was the only time during the entire process where I felt a tinge of sadness for the creature we were about to feast upon. However, when I went inside the warmth of the cabin with all of the guests who were cooking, plating food and drinking, the sadness dissipated. Perhaps it was just exhaustion.

Our final meal of roasted pork, pesto with pasta, tomato and mozzarella salad, coleslaw made with yogurt, collard greens made with the cured ham from the pig, pickled onions, and a baguette was exceptional. It may have been one of the best meals of my life, so far.

Must not forget our dessert: strawberry rhubarb pies and orange cake with lemon butter cream icing.

I loved Vermont.



Filed under Food

2 responses to “Cochon de lait

  1. I look like an israeli party boy in some of those pics.

  2. Anna

    You’re not an Israeli party boy? Update on the fire pit: it is still there. And I am really moving those big stumps over for perpetuity.

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