A Pitmaster embraces the art of Carolina barbecue.
By Phil Wilson | March 9, 2021
The spectacle of an 80-lb. whole hog smoking in a pit over charcoal may be an uncommon sight in Western Canada, but if Pitt County BBQ owner Peter Zukiwski has his way, you’ll be seeing it a lot more often around Central Alberta this year.
Pitt County BBQ specializes in Eastern North Carolina style whole-hog barbecue. When Zukiwski sets up his custom pit for an event, people congregate, asking questions. “Everyone is drawn to the smell and always asks to see the pig,” says Zukiwski. “People are curious and impressed by the cooking unit — especially when they find out I designed it.”
What began six years ago as a fun challenge — roasting a whole lamb on his backyard fire pit for his birthday — evolved into a passion for whole-hog cookery. It eventually became a full-fledged business catering to corporate events, family reunions and anyone looking for a truly different and unique barbecue experience.
Zukiwski works with his clients to determine the size of hog required based on the number of expected guests, and brings his custom-designed portable pit to a home or event space. There, the coals are lit, and the simple salt, pepper and garlic powder-rubbed pork begins to slowly cook, basting in its own juices for hours. After a flip over to finish the cooking and crisp the skin, the succulent pork gets chopped and the true Eastern North Carolina treatment of apple cider vinegar, salt, sugar, peppers and chili flakes is mixed right in. No sweet, sticky sauce required. This is North Carolina barbecue, not Kansas City. “A continual point of feedback, which I love, is that people look for the sauce and then taste it and realize, ‘Oh, it’s so good, it doesn’t need sauce,’” says Zukiwski.
Unlike other styles with heavy sauces that overwhelm the flavour of the meat, the vinegar seasoning and simple rub accentuates the top-quality Alberta pork from Bear and Flower Farm. The pork flavour factor is intensified, with a much lighter kiss of smoke than you might expect.
Typically, Zukiwski finds an 85-lb. hog to be the ideal size, as it’s still manageable to manoeuvre single handedly. But hogs from a minimum of 50-55 lbs. to a maximum of 150 lbs. are available, depending on the size of the party. An 85-lb. hog will comfortably yield approximately 30 pounds of meat, so budgeting for a half-pound of meat per person would be good to feed 60 people, with leftovers.
Add-ons include coleslaw, an essential part of an Eastern North Carolina pork sandwich, plus cornbread and beans. All can be added on to any catering order.
Given that a 60-person gathering is un-likely to fall within the pandemic guidelines in the near term, Pitt County BBQ also offers far more reasonable cohort-sized portions of its delicious whole-hog chopped pork, seasoned chickens, bacon and sides available to order and enjoy at home.
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This article appears in the March 2021 issue of Edify