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Feb 26, 2012 10:18 AM

matanza (pig roast in backyard pit)

Anyone ever done one? I see some pig roast threads but they seem to involve grills.

My SO wants to attempt it and is looking for advice.

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  1. Buy or rent a La Caja China. You won't regret it. Simple, easy and fast (4hours) for a 75lbs pig. I like to inject mine with pineapple juice, jalapeno, salt and cider vinegar. Do a search for it on google and you tube. I have been cooking pigs for many years for parties and I like this most as it is a great presentation and quality of the product.

    2 Replies
      1. re: JB BANNISTER

        That's one healthy serving you got there ;-)

        Gotta see if I can find one to rent one day. I've done a spit one but want to try LCC.

      2. I've done several, and providing you have about 12 - 14 hours (for a 90 lb hog) and plenty of firewood to burn into coals, there's not much to it. If you're looking to make roast pork, go ahead and use a Caja China -- its just a sealed oven on wheels with the heat source (charcoal) on top. It makes a nice product, but barbecue it definitely is not

        1. Are you starting with the 'matar' part?

          5 Replies
          1. re: paulj

            hello there, I'm the one looking to do this. Thanks for the replies so far. What is the "matar part?"

            1. re: fourteen

              'matanza' means slaughter, 'matar' means to kill. It also refers to the whole day (or multiple day) event surrounding the slaughter and butchery of a pig (most likely) in traditional settings without refrigeration. It would be a community affair, preparing the various parts as time demands. Presumably the OP has in mind a portion of such an affair, focusing roasting a large part of the pig for immediate consumption, with the messy part being done off site by a professional. :)

              1. re: fourteen

                The matanza is a very specific type of pig roast. The pig is slaughtered on site and everything is used, not just for the meat, but also offal and blood for grilling, sausage-making and smoking. The name matanza implies that this is more of a butchering even than a roast, with maybe some select parts making it onto the grill rather than being preserved. If I were in attendance, I'd be much remissed if I didn't get a chance for some morcilla before the day was done.

                1. re: JungMann

                  The Portuguese version is called matança do porco. The local Azorean ex-pat community in Sonoma County's wine country had one last Saturday and as you'd imagine, I was more than bummed that I had a schedule conflict and could not attend. I did ask about the "mata" part, and was informed that the pig had already been dispatched a few days beforehand. The community had been busy making head cheese, chouriço, linguiça and morcela blood sausage, as well as smoked meats. These would be served as well as the grilled liver and torresmos (marinated roast pork). Plus many side dishes and desserts. All for the princely sum of $25 per adult. . . making me sad again just writing about it.

                  Here's a recipe for torresmos:

                  In case someone reads the title and is indeed hoping to find info on how to conduct a matanza or matança, there are many youtube videos and photos that can be found by searching with google. Hope someone does try this before the weather warms up and reports back!

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Melanie and JungMann I'll lend a third voice that a matança (or matanza) involves preparing meats, making embutidos/enchidos, and salting for preserving. One thing unusual (these days) is the preserving of some items in fat, for instance torresmos (which are fried not roast) are often stored in fat and then removed when needed. Sausages are slowly dried in a smoker or often hung over a wood stove to dry. Depending on where you are in Portugual some of the smoked meats make their way into a feijoada later. The liver is cooked at the time because its tender and often the "tripas" (intestines everywhere in portugal except Porto) if not used for sausage are sometimes served as a quick snack (and used in recipes) as "tripas enfarinhadas" -- basically dusted with corn flour and fried. A recipe which can use pork chunks like your link, as well as tripas, liver, and more (blood sometimes) is rojoes but its made more like carnitas than done in the oven.

                    Regarding the torresmos, I wouldn't use that link as a good reference. It definitely has a Portuguese influence and you make a massa de pimentao which is used all over Portugal including the Açores... but torresmos are fried and pork belly is principally used, along with back ribs (particularly in the acores I think) and some other fatty parts. Said another way, torresmos are the Portuguese and Brazilian version of chicharron. In Portugal they do use more marinades for torresmos than other places, but what is used is more along the lines of a "vinha d'alhos" than massa de pimentao. So it looks like a decent recipe, but I wouldn't use it as a guide for torresmos. Also the liver is sometimes made into a sauce and can be served with torresmos.

                    I have never roasted a whole hog, but have done a lot of suckling and roasting pigs which are a lot easier. I do hope to do a whole hog Eastern NC Style sometime. So that is my personal preference, but make sure you pick something you can do well (whole hog queue, caja china, roasting pig) because its an investment. I don't know how well it works with a whole hog, but I have become attached to a simple portuguese way of marinating a suckling with garlic, bay leaves, acid, and salt (with decent amount of water so it was between a brine and marinade -- more of a paste, but injectible which I did some). I have done a lot of marinates, love using "mojo" on pork and so on, but this impressed me by not overpowering the pork.

                    If you do get a pork dispatched for the occasion, ask for the visera and if possible the fresh pork blood. You can make morcelas or something like sarapatel from Brazil (in Portugal this dish isn't usually made with pork).

            2. My family used to roast a pig in a pit in the backyard every Christmas. The pig always ended up having sand on it.

              Then a member of the family with came up with the idea of making the pit out of concrete blocks and a grill, much better.

              1. Do not attempt a spit roast. The amount of fire at what point of the pig and type of wood used versus charcoal is more art and experience. Who turns the spit, for how long, and can you get a pig prepared for a spit, rather than general butchering. What type of spit and how will you attach it to the pig so it doesn't rotate? Are you going to do low and slow for 8 to 10 hours in smoke, or a quick roast for 5 to 6 hours?

                La Caja Chine does a great job and does not require the expertise of a spit. I've been doing the spit thing for over 35 years, and it can still jump up and bite me in the tookus, like last year.

                8 Replies
                1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                  I definitely was NOT going to kill the pig myself but get one already slaughtered. The plan (more or less) was to dig a pit, line it with brick / stone, build a fire until there was a good foot or so of charcoal, wrap the pig in burlap and chicken wire, lay it in there and cover the whole thing up for 10 hours or this plausible or do I end up with a burnt pig, or nothing?

                  1. re: fourteen

                    Unless that pig is coming with entrails and blood, that's not really a matanza so much as just a regular ol' pig roast. You can use the pit method, but you need more than just wet burlap and chicken wire to protect the pig from the heat. Usually banana leaves would be placed atop the smouldering ash at the bottom of the pit. As they char they smoke the pork and add additional flavor. You'll also need to insulate the top of the pit so that you create an oven. The final product is not the crispy-skinned pork that many people aim for, but rather a very richly smoked and tender pig.

                    1. re: JungMann

                      Be sure you use the right type of rocks to pre heat and the right soil to hold the heat in. I know a place on a former US Kaserne in Germany with 440 lbs of rotting pig. One of my troops from Samoa had to do a pig roast for his extended family due to cultural requirements. This meant my company of over 300 soldiers. Since he was the expert, he dug the pit, heated the rocks, stuffed and wrapped the pigs, and covered everything over. Luckily, my mess sergeant prepared a regular meal.

                      Since the ground was very wet clay, it put out the fire rather than retaining the heat. The local sandstone rocks were not dense enough to retain heat. The wood used for the fire was soft pine from packing crates and pallets as the cost of hardwood from the local forests would have been way out of budget. And it rained that night.

                      He opens up the pit to the smell of well rotted pork, with now 400 soldiers and family members to share in his bounty and glory. Turned out he hadn't even paid for the pigs. The slaughter house came a few days later and I, the mess officer, and my boss split it between us.

                      I am not a big fan of pit roasting.

                      1. re: fourteen

                        Sounds rather like the pork portion of a luau
                        Almost every travel food host has stepped us through the process, and there are probably videos out there showing it all.

                        1. re: fourteen

                          If you do this, you will end up with pig ashes -- a foot of charcoal will generate enough heat to weld mild steel with.

                          If you're looking for barbecued whole hog as done in the South, do this:

                          Dig your pit about 2 feet deep. Don bother lining it with anything. Build a wood frame (from 4x4's) big enough to hold your hog, which will be split down the backbone and flayed open. Sort of looks like a flying squirrel, only pink and not furry.

                          Get some heavy-duty hog wire mesh (chicken wire is too weak) that is NOT galvanized or plated and staple it to your frame so it;'s taut -- think of it as making a bedspring. Wire the hog meat side down (you already seasoned it with copious quantities of coarse salt and black pepper, right?) on to the frame using stainless steel or copper wire -- make sure you run the wire thru the animal in several places alone the backbone, not just the legs, and get it tight.

                          Get two large clean sheets of heavy cotton canvas big enough to cover the pit.

                          Lighta large wood fire in your pit and let it burn down to coal Oak is best and don't even think about using mesquite. Light a small fire one nearby -- this will be used to burn wood down to coals to replenish the pit. Rake the coals evenly in your pit -- should be a couple of inches deep. Hold you hand palm side down even with the top of the pit -- if you can count to 10 without it being too hot, your temp is right.

                          Place the framed hog meat side down over the pit and spread one sheet of canvas next to the pit. After 2 hours, flip the hog skin side down onto the canvas and mop the meat side with a brine of salt water. You can add some red pepper flakes if you want, but don't be tempted to embellish it with apple juice or other sugary crap -- just burns.

                          Add enough coals to the pit to bring the temp back up and put the hog back on, meat side down. Cover with the second sheet of canvas, leaving enough room around the edges for air to circulate. You may want to dampen the canvas with a hose if the fire is too hot initially. Repeat the above for about 10 hours.

                          After about 10 hours, your hog should be basically done. Lift off the fire and place meat side down on the canvas. Unwire the hog , separate the shoulders, hams and loin, put the pieces skin side down back on the frame (don't need to wire down) and return to the pit, which should now be a little hotter than before. When the skin is browned sufficiently, you're done -- about 2 hours. You can also omit the last step and remove the skin when you carve the animal and crisp that up separately over the fire.

                          That's it. Sure you're up to babysitting a hog all night?

                          1. re: rjbh20

                            hmm...okay then. Trying to decide my plans and will report back. Thanks much for all of the help, seriously.

                            1. re: fourteen

                              Have you done your pig roast yet? I'm curious how you did. My father started roasting whole hogs over 30 years ago but now has not cooked a whole hog in about ten years. We had a concrete block 'oven' in our backyard when I was a kid. My parents moved three times since then and we now have some blocks but have not put them together at our farm/cabin in northern Minnesota. At some point we'll decide to roast another hog and put the thing together again. Although I think the smallest pig we ever roasted was about 200 pounds, I'd like to get one 1/2 that size if we do it again.