I was at The Pig on Weaver Dairy in Chapel Hill talking with the owner, Sam Suchoff, when we got on a tangent about the best way to bread fried chicken. I started with how my mother had schooled me with a classic dry-wet-dry technique, with a few well-timed moves regarding the oil temperature. He eventually described how his was a hybrid that involved using half of one common variation with the reverse of another. Honestly, it didn’t sound possible (and probably isn’t) but that wasn’t really the point. I was just looking for an interesting story and fantastic-tasting unique food is always interesting. That’s what brought me to The Pig in the first place.
But then Sam paused and said, “For the record, you can’t print that fry-batter recipe. It’s special.”
Now that’s interesting.
There are some things you brag about in business and some things you don’t. Companies like to make it known when they give to charities or donate to their communities. And likewise, Sam isn’t afraid to talk about how he gets his pigs from North Carolina farmers, buys his veggies local from Stanley Hughes, oversees every inch of the meat they prepare homemade, and how he even goes and meets (or meats) with his swine farmer at least once a year.
But a perfected fry technique? That’s another story. Those have to stay in-house. And you can’t blame him because it’s their recipes and preparations at The Pig that set them apart.
I can’t print all of those techniques but it would be way too long anyway — just a list of everything they make homemade could fill up an article. Sam usually does about five pigs a week, all from Acres Station Meat Farm in Pinetown, NC. They make their own barbecue, pimento cheese, bacon jam, smoke their own cheddar, make their own bologna (not a typo) and slow cook some of the best brisket around.
The brisket comes from Cliffs Meat Market in Carrboro and is dry-rubbed then slow cooked for over twelve hours. So moist is the result that they make sure to put the sauce (tomato-based) on the side.
Speaking of sauce, Sam tries to stay clear of the Eastern vs. Western debate. As a non-NC native he never had a dog in the fight, but does confess that The Pig stays fairly Eastern and therefore vinegar-based. Though to Sam, the important thing isn’t the sauce or cut of the meat but how it’s cut, which is something they take pretty seriously.
They slice nearly every ounce of meat in-house, and the coolest thing about The Pig might be that they’ll cut most of their raw or cured meats to go like any meat market. I bought a half pound of country ham for the Holidays and watched Sam personally slice and package the Eastern North Carolina-bred pig like Italian Prosciutto. (There are plenty of different varieties to choose from but the Country Ham is fantastic.)
Considering what else is on the menu, you’re likely to make the same mistake I did by asking what type of meat stock is in the homemade macaroni and cheese. Amazingly, there is none. You have to try it to understand, but it’s so perfectly savory you’d bet your life it was loaded with pork or beef drippings (it also has the perfect amount of fresh ground black pepper, as any real connoisseur knows is the key to good mac & cheese ).
As the macaroni may have suggested, Sam used to be a vegetarian. “Instead of just throwing something random on the menu, we really try to get creative and make our vegetarian options tasty,” he said. The mac and cheese gets it’s savory flavor from the smoked cheddar that they cold-smoke themselves in the restaurant. They also have a veggie-gravy that uses brewer’s yeast to give it a meaty taste.
Obviously the vegetarian dishes aren’t a huge part of any BBQ joint, but it shows how seriously they take their food at The Pig. And when the owner supervises nearly every step from the production to when it ends up on your plate, I guess you really can say it’s their food.
Next time you want some North Carolina hog that’s had as much thought put into it as you do when you’re looking for great food, try The Pig. It’s can’t-miss. Just make sure you save some money for after the meal — the homemade to-go cuts are hard to pass up. Trust me.