The Pig Roast

My family has been gathering at our family’s farm for a Memorial day celebration (aka party) for the past 30+ years. It started when my parents generation would drive up from Chicago to camp, drink lots of beer and take part in activities that I hear were popular in the 60’s.

A few years ago one of us suggested roasting a pig. Uncle Chris and others thought it was a great idea, so we did it.

The very first year was 1999. I had a week off and no job so I spent the week at the farm digging the hole by hand. We made it over 6 feet deep, so it was a ton of work. I used a few buckets, some rope and a ladder. Needless to say, we’ve rented a back-hoe ever since.

Prepped pig hole

We make the hole about 4 feet by 8 feet and around 6 to 7 feet deep. On Friday night we put a layer of stones on the bottom of the hole and start a small fire. This small fire helps dry out the hole and builds a small base of coals for later. Around 5:00am on Saturday morning, we fill the hole with very large oak logs. These are monster logs and the enter hole gets filled. It takes around seven hours for the fire to burn down to a nice bed of coals.

Once the fire has burned down, we cover the coals with another layer of stones. This keeps the pig from being burned and provides more thermal mass to hold the heat over the next day.


Lifting the pig

We usually get a pretty big pig, in the ballpark of 150 to 200 pounds. My cousin claude has chosen the name of the pig for the past few years, the only rule is that it starts with an L. We’ve had Lucille, Larry, Literature, Liberty, Lincoln, Lilly, Lucifer and Lunatic. I’m only missing one,…not bad I guess.

Pig and Dressings

We have experimented with various dressings. For some reason we think it’s good to stuff the pig with whole chickens, apples and onions. This year we rubbed it down on the outside with a mixture of chili powder and various other spices. There is so much meat, that any attempt at seasoning it usually doesn’t change the flavor all that much.

Pig wrapped

Then we wrap the pig in midwestern style banana leaves (wet burlap). Once a few layers of burlap go on, then comes the chain-link fence and a metal pole to hold it all together.

Pig wrapped in chain link

Down in the hole it goes, covered by some sheet metal to hold in the heat. A few rocks to hold the sheet metal down while we bury it. Then about two feet of dirt to seal it all up.

In the hole


Filling the hole

The first year, we waited a full 24 hours and the pig came up almost burnt. Since then we usually wait around 18-20 hours and have never had a problem with it being done.

Digging out the pig

Once the pig has been exhumed, a few of us pick all the meat off the bones and it is served buffet style in the pig barn. I should also note that we bury the pig in what used to be the pig yard, back when the farm still had pigs (and cows and chickens).

Carrying the cooked pig

We are planning on retiring the party after 10 years. It is a ton of work to pull off. I think we’ll end up doing it every 3 to 5 years from here on out. Anyone know if there is an easier way to do it?

Picking the pig

The pig is usually delicious.  It all depends on what part of the meat you end up with, some of it is dry and no good, other parts are amazing.


  1. alan said,

    June 1, 2007 at 1:25 am

    I’m impressed.

  2. kylene said,

    June 1, 2007 at 9:28 am

    ditto. that is impressive. and it looks like a lot of work.

    you could always cater in a roasted pig. :) that’s an easier way to do it.

  3. nathan said,

    June 1, 2007 at 11:36 am

    We’ve talked about catering it. It costs at least $1200 and the pig is usually much, much smaller because the portable roasters are smaller.

  4. Jon Boyd said,

    June 1, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Well, I guess that gives me only two more years to crash the party then….

  5. young chang-miller said,

    June 1, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    what about doing several smaller pigs? It seems like it would be easier on everyone’s backs, no?

  6. Vickie, Nathan's mom said,

    June 1, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    Let me clarify the retirement comment. Nathan’s parents’ generation are retiring the pig, we are passing it down to Nathan and his cousins. I still see a large gathering of friends. Oh yes, there will still be a party, maybe with a pig roast every three to five years. Our goal is to have 200 people next year.

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