Whew! Where to start; where to start? We love the Holidays but they sure are a lot of work with all of the decorating, shopping, wrapping, cooking and cleaning, picking the kids up at the airport, traveling to see Dad, etc. No time for blogging, our feet hurt, and our backs and legs ache but, as always, our hearts are full of joy as another successful Christmas is now in the books. Lots of smiles and laughter with food, food, food and then more food. I’ve gained 8 lbs. It was well worth it, especially for the delectable suckling pig that formed the centerpiece of Christmas dinner. Now, let’s see…In addition to the pfferneusse and springerle cookies, we served Baby Lady’s green bean casserole (bottom of photo below pig – she liked it so much on Thanksgiving we had it again), apple-fennel dressing (top of the photo), Italian cream cake from Central Market (Knothead’s favorite dessert), Bourbon pecan pie from Two Fat Cats Bakery in Portland, Maine (courtesy of our youngest son, Knothead – I ate an entire pie when we were in Portland visiting),
spiced apples to serve with the smoked suckling pig
zucchini bread, deviled eggs, Central Market chile marinated olives, and tomato camembert tart. It was a remarkable meal and, while everything was really delicious, the real star of the show was the pig and the pig is what this post is really all about.
Have you ever fixed a suckling pig? I’ve been wanting to fix a suckling pig for Christmas for years. They look so elegant on a platter. Now, I’ve done cabrito, whole fowl and fish of countless varieties, large roasts, etc. but I have never done a suckling pig. Inasmuch as there was no excuse not to do a suckling pig I did one. The first thing, of course, was to find a suckling pig. There are several local farms in the area supplying fresh meats to the community so they were the first people I contacted looking for that perfectly fresh morsel of pork. Lo and behold, after several phone calls around the area I found no one in Texas sells processed, fresh suckling pigs. I could buy a fresh one and process him myself but that was a little too much to take on at Christmas. Apparently, suckling pigs require special, rather expensive equipment for removing the hair and the market in Texas for suckling pigs doesn’t justify buying the equipment. Hmmmm…that sucks. Not to be deterred, off to the internet I went.
After searching the net I finally settled on McReynolds Farms, a Phoenix, Arizona outfit known for supplying quality pigs around the US. After several unanswered e-mails, I called them and had a very nice conversation with them. They were very pleasant and helpful, so I thought. You see, one of my prize possessions is my AGA Legacy dual fuel range (gas stovetop and electric convection ovens).
It’s a beautiful, highly functional range that generates 80,000 BTU if all 6 burners are on full blast at the same time. I’ve yet to do that. It also matches our kitchen. We dearly love the AGA, however, it does have one major limitation. It’s made in England so it’s metric!! Can you imagine using a metric oven???? Of course, anywhere but the US and this would not be a problem but a US standard half sheet pan doesn’t fit in it. This poses problems when one is thinking about cooking a large piece of meat like a suckling pig. Hence, I had lots of questions in my conversation with McReynolds Farms, such as how long is the suckling pig; how wide is the suckling pig, how tall is the suckling pig, etc. After a lengthy conversation and exchanging oven dimensions I was assured the suckling pig would fit. They had a 14.7 lb suckling pig that they would place my name on and set aside. It would then ship via overnight delivery to my door on December 19, to be received December 20. Let the excitement begin!!!
Of course, immediately after I purchased the little suckling pig my friend, John, let me know he found them at the local Fiesta Mart for significantly less than what I paid and without shipping charges. Arrggghhh!!! Nonetheless, while sulking about paying too much, I anxiously awaited my suckling pig.
As promised, on December 20, the little suckling pig arrived. Aint it cute?
He was all wrapped up in sealed plastic wrap and frozen stiff. That’s OK because we had several days for him to sit in the refrigerator to thaw out but he did seem a little large. Attached to his cute little piggy body was a yellow tag bearing the mark 18.7. Hmmm…that was the first clue something might be amiss. The next clue was the little piggy measured 24 inches in length. This obviously would not fit in the 21 inch diagonal of the AGA! How could they possibly send me an 18.7 lb, 24 inch piggy when I told them I only had space for a 14.7 lb, 21 inch piggy, maximum??? I’m still trying to figure that one out. Oh well, after the initial Holy Moly, desperate anxiety, it was decided out with the initial plan of roasted suckling pig stuffed with dressing and now for something completely different, smoked suckling pig. Here is what we did.
For the piggy
- 1 suckling pig, 16 – 20 lbs.
- 2 onions, quartered
- 4 cloves garlic, mashed
- 4 apples, quartered
For the Brine
- 2-1/2 gal water
- 1 pt Maple syrup
- 1-3/4 cup salt (preferably sea salt)
- 6 cinnamon sticks, 2 inches each
- 6 star anise
- 4 apples quartered
- 5 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 3/4 tsp ground clove
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 Tbsp Coriander Seeds
- 2 Tbsp White Pepper Corns
For the Brine
Mix all brine ingredients into a large pot, bring to a boil and allow to cool. When cool, put the little piggy in a very large plastic bag and place into a cooler with a lot of ice. Pour brine over the piggy.
Let the little piggy brine for 12 hours. At the end of 12 hours, remove the piggy from the brine, rinse him completely and dry him off. Lay the little piggy on his back and stuff his innards with the onions, apples, and smashed garlic. Stuffing the piggy keeps his sides from caving in when you cook him so he looks like a fat little pig as opposed to an emaciated, starving piggy.
Now, many years ago when the Thanksgiving dinner torch was passed to me, my mom gave me her best Thanksgiving turkey tool, suture needles. My dad had given these to her to sew up and truss the turkey. They are 3 sided, unbelievably sharp (they’re surgical tools), hold an unbelievable edge and work like nothing I have ever used before or after.
Threading one of the needles with kitchen twine, I performed minor surgery on the little piggy and sewed him up.
Once you get him sewed up, pull his hind legs forward and tie them in place. Pull his fromt legs forward and place his head on his front legs. Stick a foil ball in his mouth so you can stick an apple in it when you are through. Place foil on his ears so they don’t burn and drape him with two layers of cheesecloth.
Drench the cheesecloth in 1 lb melted butter. The cheesecloth helps baste the piggy and keeps him from getting too dark from smoking. Now, take him out to your smoker that you already have at 275 F and place him in the smoker.
Smoke the little piggy at 275 F for 3-1/2 to 4 hours, turning him after the first 1-1/2 hour to keep his little face from burning. After 4 hours, remove the cheesecloth, increase the heat to 400 F and cook for 30 more minutes to crisp the skin. Remove from the smoker and place in a large enough vessel to hold him. Let him sit for 20 – 30 minutes after cooking. Carve and enjoy!