Hammis Family Blog


Roasting a Pig with La Caja China

by on Jul.17, 2016, under General

A few years ago I attended my first pig roast done with a La Caja China roaster.  I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time, but I found out later.  They just said it was street tacos for a Super Bowl party.

That summer I decided I wanted to have a party at my house.  I was figuring about 30-40 people.  If I had a party though, how would I feed everyone?  I had a grill, but burgers and hot dogs and chicken are kind of staples of the summer party and kind of boring.  I could cater, but that gets expensive quick and a lot of those mass produced foods were staples at office gatherings and such.  Pizza, like burgers and dogs, was also out.  I hate asking people to bring a dish to pass as well.  It just seemed rude.  I thought back to the pig roast at the Super Bowl party and thought, I could probably do that.

So I called my friend who worked at the place where the party was and asked him about it.  He got me in touch with his chef, who told me about the process, offered to loan me his box, order a pig and prep it for me.  All I’d need to do is put the charcoal on.

Originally we were going to celebrate my brother in law’s birthday since it was near the time of our first party.  Then we had people that we invited say “hey, my birthday is just before the party!” or “my birthday is right after the party!”  I realized that since we don’t always have the time to get together for everyone’s birthday party, we could celebrate everyone’s birthday at the party.  Thus, the Birthday Party Pig Roast was born.

The first year the pig was prepped in a brine in a cooler with broth and vegetables and kept there until I started cooking.  I learned that year about letting the pig come up to temp.  I also misread the directions about the initial amount of charcoal to put on.  I put on 8 pounds when it should’ve been 18.  Trying to keep the temps moderate while also cooking and to an extent, thawing the pig at the same time met with unexpected results.  It took much longer than expected and I wound up scorching the skin after I flipped the pig.  Lesson learned there was to let the pig finish cooking and get to the 185 temp before flipping and only flip to finish off the skin and fat on that side.  It was still tasty though and everyone enjoyed it.

The second year I did things on my own.  I lost touch with the chef who had lent me his La Caja China the year before, so I bought my own.  I ordered it from Home Depot and it came with free shipping, but it was still on the expensive side.  I found a butcher who could order the pig for me locally and placed my order with them.  I told them how I was cooking it and how I would like it prepped and they had no problems with it.  The night before the roast I made the mojo marinade that is on the La Caja China website.  http://www.lacajachina.com/Mojo-Criollo_a/168.htm  I used the injector that I used on turkeys to inject the hams with some of the marinade.  Since I couldn’t find sour orange juice I was able to get a blended mix of orange and pineapple juice that worked well.  I’m not sure if it’s in the same ratio as in the recipe, but it worked.  This was the juice I got.  http://www.simplyorangejuice.com/product/orange-pineapple-juice  I just used 12 ounces of juice for each version of the recipe and then multiplied it by 3 instead of 4.  I also mixed some with the pig juices for a dipping sauce, but that wasn’t very popular with the guests.  The day of cooking I butterflied the pig, which takes a bit of effort.  You need to finish cutting the pig from neck to tail to open the cavity more, then cut down along each side of the spine to loosen the ribs.  Then you have to really lean into it and crack the ribs open so the pig will lay flat.  After I did that I used McCormick’s Grill Mates Pork Rub and rubbed the entire pig with it.  http://www.mccormick.com/grill-mates/flavors/dry-rubs/grill-mates-pork-rub  All of the prep work outside in 100 degree Texas heat helped to defrost the pig before I cooked it.  It came out really well that year, but I felt I could improve on it.  It wasn’t burnt, which was great, but still could use something.

This year was the best year ever for taste, and I attribute it to the prep and cooking style I did this year.  I went with the same butcher as the previous year and that worked out well.  56.3 pounds of pig was ready to go the day before the party.  The night before the party I made the mojo marinade and injected it into the hams and shoulders like the year before, but this time I chopped up the garlic instead of just smashing it.  I also substituted basil for the bay leaves.  I did the butterflying the night before and started with the rub.  I generously applied it all over, inside and out.  I wound up using about half the jar.  She went from pink to reddish brown when it was done.  Then, I took the solids that were strained out of the marinade and rubbed them all inside the rib cavity.  I took two large white onions and cut them in half and put them inside the ribs.  I didn’t peel them or anything.  I broke up a couple of bulbs of garlic and again, didn’t peel the skins or papers off of them.  Just tossed them inside.  I took two jalapeno peppers and sliced them in half lengthwise, kept the seeds in and placed them cut side down into the cavity.  Then I wrapped the pig up in plastic and put it back in the cooler with ice bags on top.  The next day I came over to where we were hosting the party and took the ice out of the cooler.  I left the cooler open inside the house for about a half hour before moving it outside to do the final prep and put it in the rack.  You could smell the prep work had made its way into the meat already.  I started the charcoal and in about 10 minutes (Texas sun helps the charcoal get hot quick) the coals were ready and I put the pig inside the La Caja China roaster, cavity up, with the vegetables still inside.  My hope was that the vegetables would smoke and add flavor to the meat.  They weren’t intended to be eaten.  Sure enough, the plan worked and the tops of the vegetables turned black and smoked inside the box and the juices from them seeped into the meat.  We had a bit of a delay in cooking due to rain, but we kept the fire going despite the two hour wind and rain downpour and slowly roasted the pig to perfection.  The pig came out deliciously juicy and full of flavor.  Those that had attended all three years of the pig roast party said it was the best one so far.

Feel free to ask any questions or offer any tips for my next roast.  It’s a lot of fun and I’m trying to figure out more opportunities to do it.

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by on Apr.21, 2010, under General

My friend Ren called me on Friday night because he had gotten free tickets to the NASCAR race on Saturday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway.  We went out to the race but it got rained out and delayed until Sunday night.  The rain continued on Sunday and the race got delayed again until Monday.  I took the day off of work and Ren and I went out to the race on Monday.  The rain stopped but it was a bit cool.  This was our first race and it was amazingly loud.  Even with earplugs it was loud and you couldn’t really talk to the people you were sitting with.  It was pretty cool to see the cars up close and going so fast.  The restarts were definitely the most exciting part of the race, as that lead to some good passing and close racing.  We were right on the front stretch by the start/finish line and got to see a couple of wrecks, including the big wreck.  I took a ton of pictures and posted the best ones up at facebook.


It was a lot of fun and I look forward to the next race.

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Buon Compleanno Papa!

by on Apr.21, 2010, under General

April 16th was my dad’s 61’st birthday.  It reminds me that it’s been almost a year since I saw him last, as we saw him just after his birthday last year.  I wish I could spend every birthday with him, but at least since I’ve found him we can do little things from afar.  This year I sent him an e-card and I’m wanting to make a pen for him as soon as I can get caught up with the requests for pens that I already have.

Happy birthday Dad.  We love you lots.

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RIP Angelo Scura

by on Mar.04, 2010, under General

Angelo Scura was a close friend of mine who passed away this past Monday, March 1st, after a yearlong battle with brain cancer.  I first met Angelo when I was working for Siemens as a contractor assigned to the Washington Mutual account.  He lived in California and soon made the migration from California to Texas similar to myself.  While he was making that transition I gave him advice about the move, having just made that move a few months earlier myself, which he was greatly appreciative for.  After a time he had gotten laid off from WAMU and we hired him at Siemens.  He also started going to church at the same church that Evie and I went to and soon became a very active member there, getting involved in the Men’s ministry.  His wife Kim also started to work at the same place that Evie worked at and they also bought a house on the same street as my mom, so our lives were quite intertwined both in and out of work.

The character that Angelo possessed can only be described as selfless.  He put God, family and friends before himself in everything that he did.  He was one of the first people to show up for work and the last one to leave at the end of the day.  After the leader of the Men’s ministry lost his own battle to cancer, Angelo stepped up and took over to keep it going.  He organized the Saturday breakfast meetings and the Tuesday Men’s Night Out gatherings.  When scheduling got complicated at work and adjustments to schedules had to be made he took them on.  He worked third shift, second shift, whatever shift we needed him to fill.

Last spring when he was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer and was given little time left he still kept his faith in God and God’s will.  He would’ve loved to have stayed another 20 years but he knew that if it was God’s will for him to come to heaven sooner then he would.  And he would tell you this with a smile on his face.  He knew where he was going, no doubt about that.

Nobody’s perfect and Angelo did have his faults.  He would talk your ear off some days and it could drive you batty.  But he always meant well.

His funeral is Saturday and he will definitely be missed by many.  I’ve been honored to be asked by his family to be a pallbearer.

Angelo, if you’re reading this from heaven, just know that all of us in the Hammis family love you and miss you.  We will see you in heaven when we get there.

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Twitter test

by on Feb.18, 2010, under General

I’ve linked my twitter account to this blog.  If it works right then the blog should notify twitter when I post a blog.

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Snow! (Neve!)

by on Feb.18, 2010, under General

I’m a little late with this but it’s blog-worthy for sure.  Dallas, TX rarely gets snow and when we do it’s hardly ever much accumulation.  Most of the time they predict an inch, maybe two and it turns into half that and will dust the ground and is gone either that day or the next.  This year has been a bit different.

Back in November we got about 3 inches of the white stuff that fell early on a Wednesday morning.  Oddly enough we got snow before Canada did!  True to Dallas form however, it was gone by lunchtime as the temperatures rose into the 40’s.  We got a couple more dustings until Christmas Eve when we got another 3 or 4 inches of snow, covering the roads, yards, etc.  Most of that melted in a couple of days, but it was still lingering some by New Years Day.

Last week was the big one though.  The East Coast was getting hammered with snow and forecasters predicted that we might catch the tail end of that storm and get 1-2 inches on Thursday.  On Wednesday they upgraded that to 3-4 inches.  We woke up on Thursday morning and the snow was falling quite heavily.  By noon we had their 1-2 inches and their 3-4 inches and it was still coming, hard and heavy.  The snow continued on until late Friday morning, dumping a record 12.5 inches of snow on the Metroplex!  The previous record for single day snowfall was 12 inches.  This was more snow than Dallas had received in one day, during the month of February and the total snowfall for this winter is more than has ever fallen in Dallas.

Check out pictures of Evie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Layla (our dog) playing in the snow!


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Long update

by on Jan.25, 2010, under General

Life has been very hectic over the past few months and I’ve completely neglected my blog.  I’m going to try to go over all that has happened since October that I didn’t blog about.

October 31st was Halloween and my birthday.  I had told Evie that I didn’t want her to spend any money on my gift but that it should be something very special to me.  She somewhat circumvented that by buying me a couple of gifts from the kids but she had made me a very special gift.  She made a keepsake box that was decorated with pictures from our trip to Italy and the gifts that we had gotten from my brother and sister’s christenings.  It was very sweet.  The girls went trick or treating dressed up as a lady bug (Elizabeth) and a bumblebee (Catherine.)

November 11th was Catherine’s first birthday.  We had a party for her at the house with some friends and family and also took the time to celebrate my Mom’s 60th birthday which was on November 15th.  We got Catherine a small cake that she could smash and get into and she did just that, making quite a mess and having a lot of fun.  We took both of them plus Evie’s mom and stepdad out to dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe in Dallas to celebrate.  Pictures of it all are up in the gallery.  Also while Evie’s family was in town to visit we had an early Thanksgiving dinner.  I fried half of a turkey breast in the deep fryer and then we roasted the other half in the oven.  We also had the rest of the trimmings, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberries, green bean casserole, etc.  It was pretty nice to spend that time with them since we don’t normally get to spend Thanksgiving with them.

On Thanksgiving we had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner over at my Mom’s house.  It was another good and filling meal and enjoyable time spent with family.

December came and we did lots of preparations for the Christmas holiday.  We decorated the house and put up the tree and made a trip to Michigan to spend with Evie’s family.  This was the first time we had been in 4 years and the first time Catherine had gotten to celebrate Christmas in Michigan.  We drove up on the 19th with the whole family and Layla, our Golden Retriever.  It was a 22 hour drive but we made it without any problems.  We avoided most of the weather on the trip there and back but did see a bit of snow while we were visiting.  Elizabeth loved playing in the snow and got lots of time with all of her grandparents that were up there, as well as her cousins, aunts and uncles.  We had a very busy week while we were there.  We did Christmas with Evie’s sister Ronni on Tuesday.  On Wednesday I got my Christmas present from Evie, a tattoo of Catherine.  We had Christmas church service on Wednesday night.  Thursday was Christmas Eve and we spent that with Evie’s dad and stepmom.  That evening we visited with family friends Mike and Sandy and I got my first experience working on a lathe with Mike.  I decided when we got back that I was going to get one.  Friday was Christmas Day and we spent that with Evie’s mom and stepdad.  The girls both made out with a lot of presents from Santa.  Saturday we headed home with Evie’s brother Treg and left the girls behind for another week.

When we got back I was able to go get my new car, a 2010 Transformers Edition Chevy Camaro.  It was the first time I’ve had a sports car and it’s a very nice car.  I had to sell my Harley to get it but it is nice because I can take the girls in it if I need to.  For New Year’s we visited with our friends Gary and Rebecca and also celebrated our friend Frenchie’s 50th birthday.  The following weekend we drove back up north to Tennessee to drop off Treg and pick up the girls to come back home.  While we were there we visited with Evie’s former stepmom and step-sister and their families.  It was really cold while we were there though and we were anxious to get back home.

After we got back home we got Elizabeth back into her hockey practice.  She had a break for the holidays and is doing very well with it.  She’s not quite at the level that her coach wants her at, but she’s getting better each week.

On January 17th Catherine started to walk without any prompting from anyone or grabbing onto people or objects.  Since then she has been walking all over the place and does it more than crawling now.  A video of her from that day is here:

January 23rd was Evie’s birthday.  She turned 28.  We had a bit of a birthday weekend celebration for her.  Saturday morning I brought her breakfast, donuts, as she requested.  I also brought her flowers, cards from the kids and I and her present, a new Nikon D3000 camera.  She also got taken out shopping, to get her nails done, to a comedy club and then out dancing with her friends.  Sunday we slept in (the girls were at the baby sitter’s) and then later that evening we went to dinner with our friends Jenn and Rex.  I also got her a trip to Las Vegas.  We’ll be taking that trip at the end of March.

That pretty much sums it up for the last couple of months.  I’ll try to update more often and I’m going to try to get Evie to update some as well.  I’ve also posted new pictures in the gallery today from the same time period.

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New pictures

by on Nov.26, 2009, under General

After a long delay I’ve updated pictures in the gallery.  Pictures from August, September, October and part of November are up.  http://www.hammis.com/gallery is where they can be found.  You’ll see pictures of Elizabeth’s, Catherine’s, my mom’s and my birthdays in there as well as Halloween, a wedding that we all were in and an impromptu trip to Michigan.

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Emergency trip to Michigan

by on Sep.04, 2009, under General

Monday night we got a call that Evie’s Uncle Pat passed away.  He is Evie’s Dad’s younger brother and was only 48 when he died.  The official cause of death is cardiovascular disease, which caused his heart to stop.  Wednesday night we started to drive up to Michigan and got here Thursday night.  There was a viewing today and tomorrow there will be a funeral.  Please pray for Evie and her family while they mourn the loss of their family member.

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Welcome to YouTube

by on Aug.13, 2009, under General

I have a YouTube channel now.  I’ve posted videos from our trip to Italy on it so far.  I’ll post more stuff as I can get it uploaded.  The video files are rather large so I can only do a couple at a time.  Most of the Italy videos won’t mean much to anyone that wasn’t there, but they are pretty important to us.  I’ll also be posting some various cuteness from the girls from time to time.

http://www.youtube.com/dhammis is the channel.  Enjoy!

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