Cochon de Lait (Barbecued Whole Suckling Pig)
Makes up to 70 pulled pork sandwiches. Recipe is by Trey Nobles and Ben Sarrat, members of the New Orleans-based “Hog Dat Nation” barbecue team. The word “pig” usually refers to a young domestic swine weighing under 120 pounds, while a “hog” is anything heavier. The original way of cooking a whole pig involved digging a pit in the ground, filling it with burning logs and dangling the pig from a brace over the fire or laying it on a large metal rack. Many folks still cook pigs the old way, or they build “pig roasting pits” on top of the ground with cinder blocks, or construct smoke sheds with hanging rotisseries. The job gets done nicely, too, on a real smoker/barbecue pit, one that’s at least 6 feet long.
2 cups chicken broth
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsps. onion powder
1 tbl. garlic powder
2 tsps. finely ground black pepper
1 tsp. Tabasco hot sauce
1 tbl. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. salt
Cuban Mojo Sauce (for serving)
2 (12-oz.) cans orange juice concentrate
33/4 cups water
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 tbl. finely minced garlic
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tbls. honey
6 tbls. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tbls. freshly squeezed lemon juice
To Cook Pig
40 lbs. charcoal
10 to 15 (5-foot-long) pecan or hickory logs
1 (75- to 100-lb.) dressed hog, cleaned, gutted and hair removed from the skin
1. Combine marinade ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer until everything is dissolved. Allow to come to room temperature.
2. Make Cuban Mojo Sauce by combining all sauce ingredients and letting sit at room temperature until serving time.
3. On one side of barbecue pit, start a fire with charcoal and burn until white. Should take 30 minutes to an hour.
4. While charcoal is burning, make the pig lie flat by using a hatchet to hack along both sides of the inside of the spine and through the center of the head and snout, being careful not to cut so deep that the skin breaks or the pig breaks in half.
5. Using a marinade injector, pierce flesh at intervals with injector needle and squeeze marinade into flesh.
6. After charcoal turns white, add 5 logs. After logs have caught fire and start to smoke, lay hog, rib cage side down, on the opposite end of pit from the fire. Close cover, open baffles to let air flow through, and maintain pit temperature at 250 F. To keep logs burning, add wood as necessary. Pig is done when meat reaches 185-200 F, about 12 hours. (A 50- to 75-pound pig will take about 8-9 hours. Also, a higher cooked temperature makes pulling the meat easier.)
7. To remove pig from the pit, solicit some help and, using pizza boards or any other large, flat spatula-type device, slide pig onto a flat table. (Be careful moving cooked pig; dripping fat is extremely hot.)
8. Use a cleaver to chop into serving pieces and serve with Cuban Mojo Sauce.