Farm Update: the Third Annual Jack Hitt Annual Last Day of Classes Pig Roast
It was just two weeks ago that we finally celebrated the Third Annual Jack Hitt Annual Last Day of Classes Pig Roast at the Yale Farm — it feels like much longer! In celebration of a year of learning about food as a community, over 500 visitors came to the farm to help shape plant beds for the summer season, to hear some great music, and not least, to eat delicious sustainable treats! We served cornbread, collard greens, coleslaw, black-eyed peas, and pecan pie in addition to pulled pork, all cooked by YSFP student interns and their friends.
In case you missed out, please click below to view a slideshow of the day’s events!
And if you ever wanted to know what it’s like to cook 60 pounds of beans and 180 pounds of pork, here’s a breakdown of the preparations for the Pig Roast from Margaret and I — it was quite an undertaking!
The Pig-Roaster’s View – Nozlee Samadzadeh:
Though the sustainable food movement often encourages folks to eat less meat, when we do indulge, we make sure to purchase from a local farmer we believe in and eat the whole animal. In that light, our annual Pig Roast is as much about coming together to celebrate the end of classes as it is to remind us of the benefits of snout-to-tail eating.
For the first time, this year we roasted two pigs! Both pigs, one 60 lb and one 120 lb, came from Four Mile River Farm in nearby Old Lyme, CT where they were fed on grain and raised organically. Have you ever seen a whole pig, split from neck to tail? It’s impressive. With everything set up under our Pavilion, I started a fire in the pizza oven to get a few logs ready and the pigs were in the smoker and ready to go at about 8:00 pm. We added charcoal and logs to the pigs, lying on their backs side by side, and waited for the temperature in the smoker to reach about 220°F. The pigs were regularly marinated with a “mop” (a marinade) of apple cider vinegar, sugar, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice at the recommendation of Jack Hitt. (It’s called a mop that because of the tool traditionally used to apply it, but we just used a rag!)
We maintained that 220°F temperature all night, adding logs to the pizza oven to incinerate into wood coals before dropping them into the smoker. Steamy aluminum pans of water in the bottom of the smoker kept the meat from drying out. It was a long and cold night – adding wood to the smoker would drop its temperature, but we had to open it to add in the wood that would maintain its temperature! Taking turns, we napped while the other watched the pigs. Two friends visited in the wee hours of the night.
Eventually the sun rose, and ever so kindly, Jack Hitt brought us much-needed coffee at 6:00 am. The pigs had been smoking for 10 hours at this point! Around 10:00 am or so the meat reached the desired “done” temperature of about 165°F, and all we had to do was keep it warm and smoky until we pulled the pork. Other food preparations kept us busy, but finally at about 2:30 pm – over 16 hours after it was started – three of us hauled the heavier pig from the smoker to a table, where we preceded to pull every last bit of meat from every bone.
I couldn’t help but nibble as I pulled the pork. It was incredible. Aside from knowing that the meat was responsibly and ethically raised, and aside from all those hours of hard work, it was still the best meat I’d ever tasted. Real tears came to my eyes when I got a big bite of the amazing fatty meat from the cheek of the animal – it was that tender and flavorful.
It took three of us almost two hours to transform two pigs into a pile of bones and a crowd of happy eaters. The savory, crispy skin was an unexpected favorite with our guests, and every last bite of our delicious pulled pork was eaten. In the days after the Pig Roast, the bones were used to make delicious stocks and stews, proving that you can (and should!) use the resources of whole animal. The night I stayed up with the pigs will always be special to me – but next year, can we fit three pigs into a smoker?
The Bean-Counter’s View – Margaret Tung:
It’s 6:00 pm, I have 21 hours until the official start of the Pig Roast, and I am the black-eyed pea queen. Here’s my to-do list: pick up extra pasta-pots, maple syrup, and mustard for the black-eyed pea recipe on my way to my off-campus kitchen station, finish up any prep work, and start cooking! I’ve been stressed out for the last four hours because a helper has had to pull out, but at the last minute I recruit two of my do-or-die best friends to accompany me for my first hour in the kitchen. Luckily, one of them is both very kitchen-savvy and has arms that are ten times stronger than mine. I say luckily because when I get on site, I am immediately confronted by a huge plastic storage vat of soaking black-eyed peas, plus a silver catering tray full of them. Those 20 pounds of dried beans have fattened to a hefty 60 pounds, and I have no idea what to do with them. I’ve only eaten black-eyed peas twice in my life!
In the kitchen I also find a neatly packed kit of aluminum pans for the cooked beans, canned organic tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, and 10 pounds of carrots each the size of a sweet potato. Fortunately, in the fridge are 10 pounds of onions that have already been diced thanks to the work of other interns. I devise a game plan: one of my friends helps me peel the carrots while the other chops them into a medium dice. I mince the garlic. Then I arrange four pasta pots on the stove, drizzle olive oil into each, and start caramelizing the onions and carrots. The tub of soaking beans is too heavy to lift, so we make do with a tricky combination of straining the beans with a colander while using cups to empty out the liquid from the tub. Into each pot goes half a can of organic tomatoes, a teaspoon of salt, around two tablespoons of mustard, two tablespoons of maple syrup, some cayenne pepper for kick, as many beans as will fit, and water to cover.
Sadly, my friends had to leave, but a couple more came along just as the first batch of beans were finishing up. I wanted to save the extra liquid from each pot in order to serve as a stock for the next batch of beans, so together we strained each pot of beans into a colander sitting in an aluminum pan, put the beans in one of the final serving pans, and dumped the liquid back into the pot along with all the ingredients for a new batch. We repeated this ten times – all in all it only took about five hours to cook it all! And I have to say, the black-eyed peas were amazing.