If there is anything South Carolinian’s are passionate about it is a pig. A pig pickin’ – our very own version of roasting a whole hog involves long and slow attention to our food, and often requires we get together, and cook together over a hot open fire. It’s like pickin’ crab, another Lowcountry ritual, which I just did all weekend, a labor of love if there ever was one. Eating pork is a special ritual in the South, with our particular mustard based sauce, and cooking the pig whole is part of it.
On Edisto Island where I live, a short drive south from Charleston, our very own BoBo Lee’s place on SC Hwy 174 is called Po’ Pig, and it is one of the best, according to food writers Jane & Michael Stern, of http://www.concierge.com. They rated the tiny spot on our fair island No. 1 in the country last year. Incidentally, the cooks who worked in the kitchen when Bobo decided to start the barbeque place decried the fate of the pigs and said “Oh! those po’, po’ pigs!” when they heard of the enterprise.
Today, pigs are not only great old traditional barbeque out here in the ‘country’ – Edisto is the last undeveloped barrier island in South Carolina, with enough beauty and wildlife to make it an artist’s dream. But the pig is now also “Fine Swine” in Charleston at the finest restaurants in town. Rock star butchers is how writer Peg Moore refers to several fine chefs who are relearning the ancient art of charcuterie making, from home grown, pasture raised heirloom pigs: the Duroc, Tamworth, Ossabaw Island, and Red Wattle. Sean Brock of McCrady’s Restaurant raises his own pigs at his home on nearby Wadmalaw Island, and Emile De Felice of Caw Caw Creek near St. Matthews, South Carolina supplies high end restaurants in New York and Charleston.
These young chefs are continuing Charleston tradition by preserving the culinary excellence that began with the many French Huguenot early settlers who carved and cured their own livestock. Preserving and reviving the lost art of making the most of a pig is welcome news. And as Meg writes in her terrific piece in The Charleston Mercury, ” Chef Gray of High Cotton Restaurant, says, ” It’s a proud feeling to walk in the cooler and see this art work.”
And Julia Child would have loved it. Lard is back.