In November, Kyle was fortunate enough to be invited to a weekend campout at the Knob Creek Distillery in Clermont, KY. There were many highlights: an expertly curated and guided ham and bourbon pairing, a tour through every step of the bourbon-making process and a bourbon-soaked bluegrass hoedown around a campfire (with bourbon marshmallow s’mores, of course!). But the highlight of highlights was definitely the whole pig cooked by Iron Chef, meat connoisseur, and all-around great guy Michael Symon. For this recipe, Symon took his inspiration from the classic old-fashioned cocktail. Perched atop the family tree of virtually everything we consider a cocktail, the old-fashioned is a simple-yet-perfect mix of bitters and sugar with a healthy shot of bourbon and a twist of citrus. It turns out these old-fashioned flavors are also perfect for pork.
We’ve cooked our fair share of whole hogs, and this recipe yielded the most tender, succulent, juicy pork we’ve ever tasted. The whiskey works to tenderize the meat overnight, and the mixture of garlic, citrus and thyme that sits in the cavity during smoking infuses the meat with a melange of pork-friendly flavors that will explode in your mouth.
Old-Fashioned Whole Hog
1 90-to-100-pound butchered whole hog
1 750ml bottle Knob Creek bourbon
2 tablespoons Angostura bitters
½ cup sugar
4 Meyer lemons, halved
5 oranges, halved
6 heads garlic, halved
1 bunch fresh thyme sprigs
Loaded pepper grinder
1 box kosher salt
You’ll also need:
A meat injector
A smoker large enough to hold a whole hog (you can easily build your own)
80 pounds charcoal
Apple and hickory wood blocks
A meat thermometer
Combine the bourbon, bitters and sugar in a large sauce pan. CAREFULLY ignite to burn off the alcohol, then simmer and reduce for about 10 minutes. Allow the mixture to chill. Inject the pig with the bourbon mixture. Focus the majority of your efforts on the shoulders and the hams but don’t neglect the ribs and the loins. Allow to marinate in a cold space like the garage (unless of course you happen to have a walk-in refrigerator) for 12 to 24 hours.
Set your smoker to a temperature of 225ºF to 275ºF.
Cook the pig for the first two hours splayed out with the cavity side facing down (like a sexy bear-skin rug). After two hours, flip the pig over and fill the cavity with the lemons, oranges, garlic, thyme and a heavy dose of both black pepper and salt. Allow the pig to cook for 6 more hours or until the temperature in the hams is approximately 200ºF.
Remove the pig from the smoker and allow it to sit for at least an hour and then pull the pork. Serve with bread for sandwiches or in tortillas for tacos.