The Good Ole Boys Pig Pickin’ began nearly three decades ago in Lee County, Virginia. Two families, the Ingles and the Elys, opened the rolling Ingle pasturelands to friends and family of Jonesville, in celebration of friendship and fun. What once began as an annual boys’ campout is now a small community custom savored by young and old alike. Each year, as autumn subtly creeps into the countryside, 200 Virginians remember their ties with each other and their land.
Jerry Ingle is the founding father of Good Ole Boys Pig Pickin’. Thirty years ago, he decided to combine two of his favorite pastimes, camping out with friends and roasting meat. Ingle attended Virginia Tech, where he studied meat inspection. The Hokie learned the art of roasting meat underground, and now the practice is more than a form of cooking. It’s a grassroots ritual and rite of passage.
The Friday of Labor Day weekend marks the kickoff for the Pig Pickin’. Jerry Ingle, his brother Jack, and various other family members prepare the roasting pit, located in the middle of the Ingle farm. The brothers use a backhoe to dig a deep hole where a wood fire is built. After the embers burn down, sand is added to the coals. Large cuts of meat are rubbed with spices and wrapped in foil before they are placed on the coals. A sheet of metal functions as a lid and covers the meat. Additional family members arrive to bury the meat, and a “stomping party” flattens out the dirt. After the pit is secured, the family consumes a traditional meal of Brunswick stew, cooked in a kettle over an open fire by the matriarchs of the family.
At 5:00 on Saturday evening, the official Pig Pickin’ commences. Families are instructed to contribute a covered dish and a 12-pack of non-alcoholic beverages. Strong, conservative Baptist values permeate the celebration. Before the prayer is given, participants watch as the Ingle and Ely patriarchs ceremoniously shovel the meat out of the pit. Goat, pork, turkey, country ham, beef, and venison comprise the contents of the underground oven. Covered dishes overwhelm the long rows of picnic tables.
One thing is for certain, the dishes are not randomly chosen. Most of the covered dishes are associated with a particular person and story: Coy’s Sweet Potato Casserole, Gladys’ Cowboy Beans, Daisy’s Cornbread, Nell’s Fudge, Jean’s Chili, Molly Huff’s Caramel Pie. A family favorite always makes an appearance, Mamaw Dorcas’ Slaw. Before she passed away, Mamaw Dorcas owned and operated the Boone’s Trail Drive-In, located on the lower end of Lee County. The locals praised her slaw, homemade pies, and fried chicken. The slaw recipe does not contain a secret ingredient, but it does call specifically for JFG mayonnaise, the brand Mamaw Dorcas believed was best.
The Pickin’ is more than a family reunion. It is a gathering of the larger church family and local community. The Pickin’ preserves an identity and sense of pride for its participants, connecting their future to their past.
1 head cabbage
½ cup milk
5 small carrots
1 cup JFG mayonnaise
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar
Pepper to taste
Shred cabbage in food processor; then shred carrots. Mix remaining ingredients with the cabbage and carrots. Refrigerate a few hours before serving. Add extra mayonnaise if slaw is not moist enough.