But our food reporter says forget the usual burgers and dogs.
Go "whole hog" this year.
It doesn't matter if you live in the city or suburbs.
Anyone can host their own pig roast this Memorial Day, thanks to an ingenious wooden box from Miami.
Assembled with no tools, the Hungry Hound managed to host his own "back alley" barbeque recently and accomplished everything in just 24 hours.
Step one to your Memorial Day roast: get a box. Miami-based La Caja China makes two models for pig roasting, Model #1 holds up to 70 pounds. Once you assemble it, go get a pig. Peoria Packing on Lake Street sells beef and pork, and they only need a day or two notice. Pop it in a cooler and head home to start the marination process.
There are no rules here. The Hound likes to inject it with garlic and olive oil using a Caja China syringe, but you could also make small slits and jam garlic cloves inside. It wouldn't hurt to squeeze some fresh citrus, like oranges and limes everywhere. Then grab some handfuls of dry spices, such as cumin, coriander, oregano and cinnamon, and rub into every possible crevice. The pig marinates overnight in the cooler with a few bags of ice on it.
Next day, grab a friend to help you. Pal Rick Cooper helped the Hound secure the pig between two racks with "S" hooks. Meanwhile, they started 14 pounds of charcoal on the lid of the box. Once the pig is secure, it goes into the box, over a drip tray. They put on their heat-resistant gloves, then placed the lid with the hot charcoals on top, sealing in the heat, and the clock started.
Chill out, and grab a drink. After an hour, throw on eight pounds of charcoal and spread it out with a shovel. Again, relax for a while. After another hour, another eight pounds of charcoal goes on. Spread them evenly.
After 30 more minutes, hit it with another eight pounds of charcoal. Then at the three-hour mark, remove the top and flip the pig over. Now, score it with a knife, making an "x" all over. This will help to crisp up the skin. Put the top back on, and after 30 more minutes, check the skin to see if it's crisp enough. You can keep checking in 10-minute intervals. Once it's done, just remove the pig to a table, get rid of the top rack and let it rest.
"The pig is pretty hot, so you gotta let it rest about 20 minutes; gloves are obviously important, but the great thing about doing it yourself is that you get something called the "Chef's Prerogative," which is the ultimate pulled pork, right, fresh from the animal," Dolinsky said.
Let your guests pull their own, or do it yourself. Either way, you'll have a serious platter of pulled pork in no time, and with an assortment of sides like mac 'n cheese, baked beans and fresh vegetables, your Memorial Day feast is sure to be a hit.
If you live south of the city, an easier option is to call the Birky family farm in Valparaiso, where they can also take orders for whole animals.
Steve Dolinsky Pig Roasting Class
Sunday, May 18, 12:00pm
820 W. Randolph
Steve will roast a whole pig in a Caja China box on the Randolph Street patio, while Red Light Executive Chef Jackie Shen demonstrates additional recipes (beans and rice, vegetables) from her upcoming cookbook. Guests will learn tips on preparing the pig and box, as well as pulling pork. The $55 per person fee includes the pig roast, side dishes and beverages by Goose Island Beer. Brewmaster Greg Hall will discuss Goose Island's beers.
Pig Roasting Recipe
1) Get a box: (www.lacajachina.com) 1-800-338-1323
2) Get a pig:
1300 W. Lake St.
506 S. State Rd. 49, Valparaiso, IN
3) Marinate the pig the night before. Either inject with garlic/olive oil/white wine/chicken stock or just make small slits and place garlic cloves everywhere. Rub lightly with olive oil, then generously add dry rub, which can include: cumin, coriander, brown sugar, pepper, oregano, chile flakes, star anise among other dry spices.
4) The day of, follow these instructions: www.lacajachina.com/Articles.asp?ID=156
Total Cost Breakdown to feed 50-60 people:
Caja China Box - $299
46 pound pig - $111
40 lbs. charcoal - $ 28
Ice - $ 10
Heavy Gloves - $ 10
Spice/marinade - $ 20