More than a meal, it’s an event to roast a suckling pig. Oftentimes the pig is roasted in a wood-burning oven or outdoors, making it infeasible for most people. But this recipe from Chef Jose Garces of Amada restaurant in Philadelphia makes it doable in a home kitchen. By brining the young pig before roasting it, Garces has developed a nearly foolproof method for achieving tender, moist meat.
What to buy: Suckling pig should be ordered from a quality butcher. This recipe will accommodate a 12- to 20-pound pig, but most ovens won’t easily fit a pig that’s more than 18 pounds.
Game plan: Suckling pig has a more distinct pork flavor than most commercial pork cuts, and the taste can take some getting used to.
You’re dealing with a large amount of raw meat here, so be sure to clean up thoroughly afterward.
Take the internal temperature of the pig by inserting a thermometer into the thigh (be sure the thermometer doesn’t touch any bone).
You can use foil to hold the pig’s mouth in place during roasting or the more traditional apple.
1Rinse pig in cold water and set aside. Line a 32-gallon garbage bag with 2 more 32-gallon garbage bags. Place water, salt, and sugar in the tripled-up garbage bags and stir to dissolve, taking care not to puncture the bags. Place pig in the bags, remove excess air, and tie tightly. Place in a 15-quart container in the refrigerator and brine 12 to 24 hours, turning once.
2Heat the oven to 250°F and arrange a rack on the lowest level. Remove the pig from the brine and pat dry with paper towels; discard brine. Lay the pig on its side and stuff the interior with 15 to 20 large (20-inch-long) pieces of lightly crumpled aluminum foil until it’s filled out. (This will prevent caving during roasting.)
3Transfer the pig to a baking sheet fitted with a roasting rack. Arrange it stomach down with the back legs tucked underneath and pointing forward, and the front legs tucked underneath and toward its sides. (You may need to add more foil if it is not sitting properly.) Prop up the head with foil or a large ramekin to keep the back aligned. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in the oven.
4Roast the pig, rotating once, until it reaches 130°F, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove the foil, baste with oil, and increase the oven temp to 400°F.
5Roast, basting every 15 minutes with oil and rotating once more, until the internal temperature reaches 160°F, about 45 minutes to 1 hour more. (If the ears or snout become too brown, cover with foil.) Remove from the oven and let rest 20 minutes before carving.