Roast Sucking Pig

Method

A sucking pig can generally be ordered from your butcher in the spring and early summer. It should be between 3 and 6 weeks old and as freshly killed as possible. Sucking pigs were much esteemed in England until our own century but now they are rarely served. Dr Kitchiner in his The Cook’s Oracle, written in 1817, says that the pig ‘requires very careful roasting. A sucking pig, like a young child, must not be left for an instant’. The little pigs, rather horribly reminiscent of spitted babies, were stuffed with a simple sage and onion stuffing, sewn up, and roasted briskly. As the middle always tended to be cooked before the head and tail, a special iron, called a pig-iron, was hung in front of the middle of the pig to keep the heat from it. The crackling was dredged with flour and salt, basted with olive oil and sometimes frothed with flour and the juice of an orange when it was almost crisp. An hour and a half was considered the right length of time for a three weeks’ pig.

If you cook a sucking pig on a spit/grill, Dr Kitchiner’s instructions apply just as they did to the spit before the open fire. The heat should be reduced after half an hour and a piece of foil wrapped round the middle of the pig and removed twenty minutes before it should be cooked, when the heat can be raised again if you think the crackling is not crisp enough. At this point, also, froth the whole outside by dredging with a little seasoned flour and spooning over it the juices from the drip tray.

If you cook it in the oven, preheat the oven to 400° F., gas mark 6–7. Reduce after 20 minutes to 350° F., gas mark 4, and turn up again for last 20 minutes if you think it necessary. Turn the whole pig over once on to its back after 30 minutes and then back again after an hour..

Traditionally, the little pig was accompanied by any of the following: good gravy to which madeira or sherry is added; red-currant jelly; plain boiled rice; apple sauce; green peas. Creamed potatoes were always served.

If the pig was not stuffed, a savoury pudding or pease pudding was often served.

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