COOKING & PULLING
A PIG IS A QUINTESSENTIAL
summertime tradition • B Y K A T E L Y N N W A T K I N S •
P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y A L L I S O N P O T T E R
t’s a sultry summer day, with blistering heat rolling
along the lazy breezes and mixing with the scents of
freshly mown grass and salt from the ocean air.
But the increase in temperature is not necessarily
from the season’s typical weather. In eastern North
Carolina, the additional warmth could be attributed to
a nearby grill or smoker, ripe with the fruits of a back-yard
or professional barbecue.
“We’re the ‘cradle of ’cue,’” says Jim Early, president and CEO of
the North Carolina Barbecue Society, quoting the trademark phi-losophy
of the group. “It’s just who we are.”
The society, headquartered in Winston-Salem, was founded in
2006 to promote the values and history of the cooking style, as well
as the social aspects. Early says the rich backstory of barbecue is
quintessential to the reputation of the state.
Anything can be grilled or smoked. But a true son or daughter of
the Old North State knows, that for it to be considered true North
Carolina, only one meat will do.
“Being a country boy, I’ve been cooking pigs all of my life,” says
Charles Chestnut. “I was doing it with my uncles probably as far
back as 50 years when I was 10 years old. It used to be if you lived
on the farm you were cooking pigs once or twice a year for family
gatherings. That’s how it started. Farmers would do a pig-pickin’
for the workers and the family.”
Chestnut, a Sunset Beach resident, is talking about a whole hog.
Tradition calls for it to be served at a pig picking, with the meat
being pulled off the bone and served with coleslaw and baked beans.
“That’s something that North Carolina has been doing for the
last 150 years,” Chestnut says. “You cook a pig and you pull the
meat. It’s so tender, it just falls off the bone. It’s a tricky thing to
get it to where it falls off the bone and yet it’s still moist, and the
skin is crisp.”
In eastern North Carolina, a time-honored way to barbecue
the pig is to use a smoker — typically a 5-foot by 3-foot system
of metal racks designed to mimic an old-fashioned coal pit — to
slowly cook the entire hog for a pig-picking.
Judges pull a pig during the North Carolina Blueberry Festival’s annual barbecue cook-off in Burgaw, N.C., in June.
WBM august 2017