This little piggy will feed 150 people...

Crispy yet tender, hog roasts are the latest must-have addition to upmarket barbecues. Nina Lakhani and Gareth Francis report

Christmas dinner wouldn't be the same without bacon round the turkey; now it seems a summer party is no longer complete without a hog roast.

The resurgence of this medieval culinary delight may have started in country fairs and beer festivals a decade ago, but it has spread to weddings, christenings, birthday parties and even funerals.

The number of hog roast companies across the country has risen more than tenfold over the past decade, according to Independent on Sunday research. And business is booming. Companies across the UK report a 100 per cent increase in bookings in the past two to three years as Britain rediscovers the lure of roasted hog and apple sauce rolls, washed down, of course, with a glass of cider or Pimm's.

The "wow factor" has played a part. No one forgets the sight or smell of their first pig on a spit, especially if they later turn vegetarian. It has celebrity status: the radio presenter Zoe Ball and her husband Norman Cook (Fat Boy Slim) have hosted several hog roast parties at their Brighton home; Kate Moss's medieval-themed 35th birthday party in January upset her vegetarian friend Stella McCartney, who was greeted by the sight of a spit roast.

Ball said: "We had our first hog roast for Norman's birthday a few years ago; we all dressed up as cowboys and did a bit of line dancing before 70 of us demolished the pig. And my mum had a tiny little suckling pig for her 60th birthday party a couple of weeks ago. There is definitely a wow factor but it also tastes amazing, smells fantastic and the whole thing is eaten from head to toe. We've had a share in an organically fed pig for the last few years, so we know what we're eating and that the pig has been humanely killed. It also means we don't have to risk getting poisoned by Norman, who is colour blind – not ideal for a barbecue."

Hog roasts also have the royal seal of approval: Lord Frederick Windsor and his sister Lady Gabriella fed guests at a joint birthday party with slices of basted pork.

To roast large joints of meat or whole animals over a fire, the meat is first skewered on a spit, then slowly rotated for hours. This allows the animal to cook evenly in its own juices, which results in tender meat with chunky, crispy crackling.

In medieval times, a servant boy, known as the "spit boy" or "spit jack", sat near the spit turning the rod slowly. Modern spits are now electric and operate without the need for child labour.

The recession is also playing its part in the hog revival. Even at the top end of the market, it costs less than £600 for the meat and caterers, compared with thousands of pounds for a sit-down meal to feed the same number of people.

One company in the South-east, Dukes Roasters, has sold 12 machines in the past week alone, against 26 in the whole of last year. Those buying up the spits are mainly non-professional caters – moonlighters trying to make some extra cash at the weekend.

But hog roasts remain a niche market, says the British Pig Association, accounting for an estimated 1 per cent of sales for British pig farmers.

Chris Pike, from the Educated Pig, a catering firm in Devon, said: "When we set up [in 1999], there were just four companies nationally worth their salt. Since then the market has exploded.

"It's a metaphor for the new way of thinking about food. It's a whole pig, and people know that it's local and it's fresh. It's not been fiddled with and has no additives. I've even had vegetarians hire us. It's the Jamie Oliver effect. It's back to basics."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
    Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

    Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

    A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
    Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

    Election 2015

    Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
    Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

    Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

    The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
    The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

    The US is getting frayed at the edges

    Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
    Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

    New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

    A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
    Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

    British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

    Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
    Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

    Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

    Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
    Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

    Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

    He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
    How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

    Celebrating 100 years of Leica

    A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world