Well at long last the day arrived; Tedstock was to actually take place! The events of the weekend had been preceded by a flurry of activity going back as far as March when designs for the spit began to near fruition. Timber and combustible material had been gathered for weeks and the spit and fire pit were now actually on site. Ted had cleared the garden area and the place was looking as pristine as it was possible to have it. The perishable shopping had been bought the day before and in the case of charcoal and beers, stocked up and added to several weeks prior. After a long day organising and cleaning cooking facilities and setting up tents, it was time to relax with a beer or two and a small campfire before the organised mayhem of the event itself. The relaxing became quite serious and it was only when I was rudely awoken by Ted in the morning that I realised just how seriously we had relaxed. Two bottles of bourbon had had been consumed between the pair of us but according to Ted it was mainly me who did the most damage to the offending bottles. I crawled out of my tent shook the sleep from my eyes, cleaned my teeth and headed off to our friendly butchers to pick up the side of pork. It had been decided some time ago that we were not going to attempt to roast a whole pig as we didn’t think we could get enough people there to eat it all.
When I arrived back at the “festival” site, the pig was prepared, given a Kansas City recipe dry rub and secured onto the spit and hoisted above the coals that Ted had prepared while I was away at the butchers. We were now in business. Months of planning was actually taking place. One of the things we had to do was modify the fire box and it was extended to over 5 foot long to accommodate the length of the carcass and extra holes were drilled into the base for more air flow. After around three hours we even decided to alter the height of the spit stands and we ground off at least 6 inches with an angle grinder to get the pig closer to the heat. Charcoal does not give out as much heat as dry timber and the smoke it produces does not taste as nice as good aged and dried wood, however my main concern was in making the fire too hot and the meat would be scorched on the outside and raw in the middle. The biggest lesson I have learned from this episode was air flow is crucial to obtaining the correct heat and you need a combination of charcoal and timber to cook properly. Too much timber produces too much smoke and really pisses of the neighbours and charcoal alone does not produce enough heat to cook thoroughly. It may be fine if you are going to bury your pig in a pit with hot coals below and above it as in Hawaiian style but we wanted to do a traditional English spit roast and that means over open flames. Six hours after cooking began I made a baste out of cider, Cajun seasoning and olive oil and coated the pig every 20 minutes for the next two hours when I reckoned the meat was cooked.
It came off the spit and was left to draw its own juices back into the meat for a further 30 minutes and then the crackling was taken off and the meat was sliced. 80 per cent of the meat was cooked and around 20 per cent was still pink so the pink bits were wrapped in silver foil and tossed back onto the hot coals. I do believe it was because of the choice to use charcoal instead of timber that caused the meat to be undercooked. The charcoal did not produce enough heat and had the pig of been any lower to the coals then the outside would have been scorched and the inside completely raw. Combined with the potato wedges I had cooked in baking trays resting on hot coals there was plenty of food for all that had turned up. At around 8pm we all adjourned to the bonfire that Ted had prepared in the morning and sat round, a what, was by Ted’s standards a massive fire and had a brew or two.
Was it a success? Well I have learned a lot from this season and no one has complained at any of the cooking, indeed most people have come back to at least one of the spit roasts and some people have attended all of them. I think this is the end of the season for 2007 and I don’t expect to be making any more entries into the BBQ blog until next year. It has been a steep learning curve with a lot of fun along the way. Due to the vagaries of the British weather, the spit roasts will never be a spur of the moment thing, they take a lot of planning and meat has to be ordered well in advance and once it’s bought it has to be used. It is not like throwing a burger onto a grill and ringing your friends up to come along. That said I do look forward to next year and whatever culinary challenges that may come accompany it.