As a fourth year, only something extra decadent would do for my family's Raisin Sunday feast. So, I decided to roast a suckling pig. Because suckling pigs are raised exclusively on their mothers’ milk, their meat is incredibly tender and juicy, and easily absorbs flavours from added herbs and vegetables.
Cooking a whole pig may seem like a daunting task, but it is really quite simple. It does however, require a bit of patience and skill. The biggest challenge proved to be in the procurement. After calling around St. Andrews with no luck, I found an online source. They delivered me a 10 kilo suckling pig which took 2 days to defrost.
One very important step to a properly cooked pig is scoring the fat. It is essential to creating the ultimate crispy crackling. The goal is to cut into the layer of fat without penetrating the meat. This allows the fat to seep out when heated and crisp up the skin. I struggled to do this correctly, as my knife was too dull and the skin was rather tough.
What came out of the oven was divine. Everyone, except a few squeamish friends, dove straight into the succulent animal with their hands. Each part was slightly different from the others. The ears and tail had the dry crunch of Kettle chips with the smoky, salty taste of bacon; the crackling was so crisp, yet oozed sticky deliciousness; and the belly meat tasted of the apples and herbs stuffed inside it. Our pig was still equipped with its 'mountain oysters', which are a delicacy in some circles! Me? I prefered the cheek. This mouthwatering piece of meat was by far the most tender of all.
For adventuresome cooks, roasting a suckling pig is a must. A little intimidating, but well worth the effort, it gives a feeling of culinary accomplishment.
1 whole suckling pig (8-10kg)
3 bay leaves
5 sprigs of thyme
4 garlic cloves
For the gravy:
Salt and pepper
For the veg:
Fat from pig
5 large potatoes chopped
3 large carrots chopped
2 large onions chopped
The day before cooking:
Score the fat on the pig with a short, sharp blade. Rub the pig with a generous amount of salt on the inside and out. Let rest in fridge.
The day of:
Take the pig out of the fridge at least four hours in advance to bring to room temperature. This will ensure an even cooking.
Preheat the oven to its highest setting.
Place the pig in a deep roasting tin. Cut two of the lemons in half, quarter the apples, and smash the garlic cloves. Stuff in the pig's belly along with the herbs and peppercorns. Squeeze the remaining lemon on the outside of the pig. Arrange to expose as much of the skin as possible.
Place in oven, and reduce heat to 200°C. Cook until a meat thermometer inserted in the deepest joint reads 72°C, around 3-4 hours.
If the skin is not blistered, turn the temperature back up to the highest setting until it is (max 30 mins). Remove from the oven and let rest for 30 minutes. Reserve the pan drippings.
Place the vegetables on a tray. Collect the fat from the drippings and pour over. Add salt and pepper to taste, and cook at 200°C until caramelized, about 45 minutes.
For the gravy, place the pan drippings over medium heat and gradually sift in flour, stirring constantly until desired thickness is achieved. Add salt and pepper to taste and reserve.
Images courtesy of Kathleen Fraese