Based on the traditional Hawaiian “Kalua Pig”, the Indiana method is similar in most respects except for the use of items more likely to be found in the midwest. Though pit roasting is generally not the best way to cook pork, as individual cuts have an optimum cooking method (i.e. loin, ribs, ham, bacon), it makes for an enjoyable and rewarding project that goes over extremely well for engaging large groups.
Roasted Pig in a Pit
- Round rocks (preferably about the size of your head), enough to line the pit, 2 smaller rocks (softball size) and 4 even smaller (golf-ball sized) stones. Bricks will also suffice in lieu of larger rocks.
- Corn husks (the greener the better), enough to abundantly cover the pit.
- Medium gauge wire, 3 to 4 feet in length
- Aluminum foil, enough to wrap around the pig.
- Chicken wire, more than enough to wrap the pig.
- A length of small or medium gauge chain, about 2 or 3 feet longer than the pig.
- Burlap bags, enough to completely cover the pig.
- Canvas, enough to cover the entire surface of the pit and then some.
- Firewood, enough to cover the bottom. Hickory is recommended, though any quality flavoring wood such as cherry or mesquite will work well.
- Meat thermometer with 2 wire sensors or probes
- Use a whole pig with head and hooves, gutted and cleaned, making sure the spine is fully intact so it will lay flat. A 35 pounder is a medium sized one and will provide roughly 35 servings (check with your local hog farmer). Keep refrigerated until ready to prep.
- Rock salt, 1 or 2 lbs
- Apples, preferably cored, enough to fill the cavity. Oranges, halved, may also be used in addition to or instead of apples.
Build the pit.
Dig your pit in an open area, away from buildings and trees. Dimensions should be roughly 3 feet deep with width and length one foot outside the size of the hog, for example; for a 3 foot long pig, dig the pit 5 feet long.
Build the fire.
Start by igniting a small pile of firewood in the center of the pit. Slowly add firewood, spreading the wood outward as the flame grows. Eventually, all of the firewood will be aflame and spread across the entire bottom of the pit.
When the fire has reduced to embers, add the rocks, spreading them evenly across the coals.
Prep the pig.
Soak burlap in water.
Make 4 to 6 inch long incisions along the spine and ribs a couple of inches apart, stuffing each one with rock salt.
Make incisions at the 4 joints of the legs to the torso, stuffing each with rock salt.
Rub salt evenly throughout the inside of the pig.
Retrieve the 2 smaller hot rocks from the pit with the shovel (fireplace tongs or a post hole digger also could be of use), wrap in foil (recommended), and insert into the upper and lower areas of the cavity (oven mitts are suggested).
Use the 4 small hot rocks, wrapped in foil, and insert into slits in each of the 4 joints (armpits).
Insert apples and/or oranges into the cavity.
Cut 2 sections of wire, a foot or two in length, and use to bind the front legs together and the hind legs together.
Use any remaining wire to loosely stitch the belly together (optional).
Spread out enough chicken wire so that it will completely wrap around the pig with an overlap of about a foot. Spread enough foil across the chicken wire to wrap around most but not all of the pig, leaving some open area at the top. Turn the pig over, belly down, into the center of the foil and wrap the chicken wire with foil around the hog so that the open area of the foil is over the spine. Chicken wire should be completely wrapped around and then some.
Thread the chain through the chicken wire to secure the wrapped pig, allowing a foot or so of chain to dangle from each end. Using a simple knot, tie each end of the chain around the bound front legs and hind legs to allow for lifting.
Cook the pig.
Spread corn husks evenly across the hot rocks in the pit.
Lower the wrapped pig with the open foil area facing up onto the corn husks.
Deeply insert thermometer sensors, one into the shoulder and one into the ham.
Cover the pig completely with wet burlap (beware of the steam), making sure that the two opposing chains are accessible and the thermometer wires are not covered up.
Cover entire pit with canvas.
Pour 2 to 3 gallons of water around the perimeter of the pit by lifting up the edges of the canvas, making sure the canvas covers the entire pit to keep the steam in.
Shovel on dirt to fill the pit, covering any areas of escaping steam. Be careful not to bury or jerk out a heat sensor wire. Opposing chains should also remain exposed.
Allow to fester for 6 to 8 hours, depending on the size of the pig and the heat produced by the pit. The meat thermometers should show at least 185 degrees at the shoulder and 195 degrees at the ham.
Serve the pig.
When the target temperatures have been reached after the appropriate amount of cooking time, begin to carefully remove the dirt from the canvas. Peal back the canvas and remove the burlap while being careful to avoid letting any dirt fall in.
Using oven mitts or heavy gloves, grab the chains on the ends and carefully lift the pig from the pit and onto a large surface. Remove the chain and thermometer sensors. Open the chicken wire and foil.
Be sure to remove any wire used to hold the belly of the pig together.
Cut the pork into the desired servings using caution since the meat should be extremely hot. Enhance using any flavoring you wish, such as sweet and sour sauce, vinegar hot sauce or barbecue sauce.