[Music] Nothing like hot fresh barbecue coming off the pit after the 12-13 hours.
It's nothing like it.
I mean it's really hard to describe.
Only in New Orleans will you find South Carolina whole hog barbecue and a second-line on any given Sunday.
I'm Dr. Howard Conyers.
I'm a NASA engineer.
I'm also a South Carolina whole hog pit master now living in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Currently I work at Stennis Space Center, which is on the border of Louisiana and Mississippi, testing rocket engines.
Being a rocket scientist was great, but my passion is being a South Carolina whole hog barbecue pitmaster, because I get to carry on the tradition that was in my community for hundreds of years and it's my time to help share this rich history and culture before it's gone.
South Carolina whole hog barbecue is in my blood.
I learned it from my father and he learned it from generations of cooks before him in the community.
So, for this episode, I wanted to share with you the basics of South Carolina whole hog barbecue.
There are five main things to think about when it comes to barbecue: the coals, the pit, the pig, the wait, and,of course, the sauce.
Number one: the coals.
You can use lump charcoal or briquettes, but I really like hardwood coals -- mainly oak with a little hickory or pecan.
I make a fire in a burn barrel I made -- basically a 55-gallon drum with a hole cut in the bottom with metal rebar inside two separate fire from the embers.
As coals keep forming in the base of the burn barrel, I transfer them to the pit with a shovel.
So we got a burn barrel here going and one of the first things that I learned how to do in cooking whole hog barbecue is learn how to manage the fire.
That fire is what is giving you the embers the be able to cook your hog throughout the process.
Number two is the pit.
If you have a pit already, that's great.
My dad inspired me to design my own from how he learned to barbecue.
It was interesting, because my father said he learned how to cook pigs in the ground.
And with him cooking pigs in the ground, I never had a visual of how he cooked.
So, he drew the sketch of a pit in the ground.
And so, I took my father's sketch and recreated my own, being an engineer, on engineers paper.
I fabricated my own portable pit, but you can build one easily with cinder block, stacking them like Legos, leaving two doors to shove in coals.
You will need a metal rack big enough for your pig.
I suggest rebar overlaid with fence wire.
The rack should be no more than two feet above your heat source.
Then, a dense sheet metal roof cover is no more than a foot above the rack.
Number three is the pig.
When I was a kid we will slaughter our own hogs for family events, but you can get a fresh whole pig from a butcher, meat market, or farmer.
You want one about ninety to a hundred pounds dressed.
Dressed means just meat -- no hair, no organs.
That'll feed about 50 to 60 people.
Cut the backbone down the center with a hatchet and hammer, but don't pierce the skin.
You don't want dripping fat to start a fire and ruin the pig for your friends.
Split the pig, or butterfly as I like to say, so it will lay flat on the grate.
Salt it, but no rubs or sauce at the start, especially in the Carolinas.
First thing -- got to salt them up beforehand.
[Music] Flip them over.
Like to cook them skin side up -- the whole process.
Number three: the wait.
Low and slow heat is key.
Often times, we would get started like 12 o'clock at night and finish up at like twelve or one o'clock the next day.
We burn the wood down first of all.
And we got the pig is in here.
And we just slide the coals in here.
I kind of make adjustments, because I don't use any thermometers.
But every 30 or 40 minutes, I put coals in here because it gives more heat back to continue the cooking process.
The pit should be about 225 degrees.
I add coals on the ends nearsest the thickest part of the pig -- the shoulders and the hams.
And then we wait.
Adding coals all night long, but this is the best part when we sit around and share traditions of the past.
My main inspiration for researching the ties between barbecue and my own heritage were news stories about America's pitmasters.
I remember when this came out and I saw no African-americans listed in most.... Americans most influential barbecue.
It was kind of disheartening because I never knew what about a word pitmaster growing up.
A lot of guys who I learned how to cook whole hog barbecue were just known as cooks or barbecuers.
I started researching barbecue traditions, interviewing people, talking to the barbecue cooks I knew.
I looked at historic sketches and photographs.
Now I'm sharing what I've learned -- that most barbecue practices spread across early America along with slavery.
For generations, African-Americans were the masters of the pit on southern plantationsj.
Oral histories document the practice.
One generation taught another how to do it.
It doesn't take rocket science to execute barbecue, but what it takes is a lot of hard work, a lot of learning to get it right.
You just can't pick this up overnight.
When I was like three or four years old, I father used to let me throw a piece of wood in the fire.
And then and I got a little older and I was strong enough to be able to actually lift the shovel full of coals and do it safely without burning myself so my mom wouldn't get mad.
He allowed me to actually take the shovel and put underneath the pig.
I'm starting to smell the pig -- that's one of those things.
I'm starting to get a whiff of it.
The smell of the cooked pig is hard to describe, but I would say it is close to smoky bacon.
The finished pig turns a light reddish brown and the skin separates from the meat, forming a bubble that almost looks translucent.
After 11 to 12 hours, or when the pig gets to 195 degrees, you really have to pay attention.
You can end up with a perfect pig, a dry pig, or a pig on fire if you're not careful.
Flip it over, skin side down, for about 30 more minutes, but don't take your eyes off it, because this is the most critical part of the cooking process.
Now for my favorite part, number 5 -- the sauce.
You can use any recipe you like, but mine!
I apply the sauce to the meat at the end of the cooking process.
A lot of people would like to know what's in my family barbecue sauce.
I can't really tell you what's in it.
But what I can't tell you, it's true the South Carolina.
It has vinegar in it.
It has a little bit of mustard.
It has sugar, black pepper, red pepper, cayenne pepper, and a whole lot of love.
So what are your favorite traditions and memories for cooking barbecue?
And what do your traditions say about you your history and where you're from?
Share things from your barbecue culture below.
In future episodes of Nourish, we explore more culture traditions and science of foods of the American South.
Think of our show as food for your mind, body, and soul.
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