…. or “How to Give a Dead 51lb Pig a Bath”
As I have written about on numerous occasions, I am a HUGE believer in brining giving the meat a long salty / flavorful bath), especially when something is going to be cooked over high heat. I brine pork chops, chicken, pork tenderloin, turkey, and even beef brisket (to make corned beef). Last year we brined our smallish (35lb) pig before our roast, so I figured that we should do it again this year. Since the theme of this year was “bigger and better” than last year, our pig was about 15lbs heavier. This posed a few logistical issues.
- How long do I brine the beast?
- What do I use?
- How does one going about making enough brine for such a plump porcine pal?
Well, here is how it went.
First, I did a little research on the porkanet. For those of you unfamiliar with this, there is a secret internet used by only pig fanatics. I would tell you where to find it, but then I’d have to kill you (and stick an apple in your mouth). From my research, I determined that it would probably take a good 48 hours, fully submerged, for this little piggy to take to the brine.
All well and good, but where do I give the piggy this delicious bath? I was fairly certain that Mrs. Notafoodie would not take kind to coming home to a pig carcass in the family tub, not to mention what my 3 year old son would have said. Luckily @mikeypiro had a 100 gallon cooler that he could spare. The porker barely fit in to his new temporary home, but with a little force, I was able to get it in the cooler. Side note: If this pig roast gets any bigger, we’re going to need a bigger cooler!
So, I had time and place all set, but what luxurious concoction would piggy be submerged in for 2 days? Since this was a fall pig roast, I decided to make an apple cider brine. I also decided that sage would be a perfect compliment to the apple, and that there should be a ton of garlic as well (since everything is better with garlic).
I eyeballed the cooler to determine the volume and decided that I would buy 5 gallons of cider and start there. My methodology for making the brine made me appreciate the math classes that I was forced to take in high school, but the real heavy math work was done by the great Michael Ruhlman’s “Ratio” app. I use this app a few times a week, and I think it’s the greatest cooking tool I have. The app stated that a good brine should be 20 parts liquid to every one part salt. I dumped my 5 gallons of cider directly on to the pig, and eyeballed that probably need another 3 gallons of liquid to cover “The Notorious P.I.G” (one of the many nicknames we had for the beast). Using the ratio app, I figured out that for a total of 8 gallons, I needed 1.5 kilos of salt. Since 5 gallons of liquid were already in the cooler (assuming the pig wasn’t thirsty), I took my garlic, sage, some peppercorns, a few bay leaves, and my 1.5 kilos of salt, and made a nice little soup on the stove. I heated my concoction until the salt had mostly dissolved, let it cool, and then added it to the cooler. It is EXTREMELY important that the brine be cool before submerging any meat in to it. Warm water and meat are a breeding ground for all sorts of grossness. That’s why I’m not a big fan of the public jacuzzi. Ewww.
With the brine made and the pig submerged, all I needed to do was keep it cool. I had 5-6 bags of ice still sealed, floating around in the cooler. I made sure to check them every 12 or so hours to make sure there was no melting. Then I put the cooler in the yard, made sure there was always a bunch of weight on top of it, so nothing could get in (bears, squirrels, nosey neighbors, etc.). Forty-eight hours later, the pig was in the roaster ready to go.
My only note for next year is to wipe the brine off of the skin of the pig before roasting. It got a bit charred and I think it’s because of the sugar content on the brine. Next year, I’ll wash down the skin with water and make sure it’s completely dry before the pig takes the long trip to the roasting box.