No one knows when the first proto-human dropped a hunk of meat onto a fire and ate it, but that prehistoric barbecue was essential in transforming Homo erectus into Homo sapiens. Some anthropologists believe cooking with fire helped us eat more efficiently, promoted brain growth, and fostered cultures of sharing and togetherness. And without all of that, there would be no pig roasts.
In case you haven’t been invited to one, pig roasts are hot these days. There are dozens of purveyors in the Hudson Valley who will secure and roast an entire porker for events as diverse as weddings, community fundraisers, anniversaries, birthdays, family reunions, and graduation parties. You can get your pig spit-roasted over a fire or oven-roasted in specially built cookers, with a sampler of side dishes. The carnivores gather around the picturesque porcine for photo ops and choose which cut they want, while their vegan and animal-rights friends, if they have shown up, make tut-tut faces and head to the salad bar.
There has been “an explosion” in pig roasts in the past three years, says John Rywalt, who operates Barbecue Specialists of the Hudson Valley with his wife, Joan.
“Back in the day, we didn’t do five a year, but now I can do five in a week,” he says. “I’ve done more redneck weddings than ever. The women are in camo, the guys are in tuxedo tops and Duck Dynasty boots.” But he also gets called by high-end caterers to provide the pork at fancier events. “Why? Just to do something different?” he asks himself, somewhat mystified. “I just know it’s happening. They say, ‘We gotta have a pig. My husband wants a pig.’”
The pig isn’t cheap, though, and, for that reason, Steve Slutzky, owner and executive chef of Hickory BBQ Smokehouse in Kingston, says to choose your pork purveyor carefully. “Know that you are getting locally sourced pigs, which are a much better, tastier product,” he says. “Make sure you are getting the whole pig, not one that has been broken down already. And don’t do a pig roast unless you are 100-percent behind it. This is nose-to-tail eating. Otherwise this is wasteful.”
He also demands his patrons respect what the pig has given. “Food is not a joke for me. You can have fun, but… I did a wedding on Halloween once and they asked us to put a Dracula costume on the pig. I said no. That would be humiliating for the poor guy.”
Hickory BBQ Smokehouse Kingston
Will cater a pig roast at any event for $22/person and $20/hour. 845-338-2424; www.hickoryrestaurant.com
Barbecue Specialists of the Hudson Valley Montgomery
Call for prices and menus. 845-778-7259; www.hvbbq.com
Upcoming Pig Roasts
Beer, Bourbon & Bacon Festival Dutchess County Fairgrounds, Rhinebeck
June 20. www.beerbourbonbacon.com
Brotherhood Winery Pig Roast Washingtonville
Check Web site for dates. 845-496-3661; www.brotherhood-winery.com
Robibero Family Vineyards Pig Roast & Luau New Paltz
August 1-2. 845-255-9463; www.robiberofamilyvineyards.com