I am keen on the idea of cooking a suckling pig in my wood oven, for a family celebration. I'm struggling to source one. A good local butcher tells me he would get me one for £200 which is a silly price when you can get a whole full-grown pig carcass for less.
I've seen a couple of places on the web talking about prices <£100, still expensive given that it would only feed up to 10 people. I'm not too keen on mail order for meats, I'd rather deal in person with the butcher or farmer.
Has anyone in SE UK done suckling pig and if so where did you get it and how was it?
I've done 2 so far in the UK; both in my conventional electric oven though.
The first I bought from my local butcher, paid £190 for a 12kg piglet (still remember as it was so expensive!). The second I was going to buy from a local farm (near Langley if memory serves) and they wanted £90 for it. That said, they also wanted me to wait a few weeks while the pig was "created"... which was too long, so I ended up finding one at Wing Yip (oriental superstore in north london). Can't remember what I paid as it was part of a large shopping basket.
Both came out amazing... What I did was mark the skin with a sharp knife, then pop it into a (big) bucket (from wickes - the soft sided ones). I then covered the piglet with cider, laurel and allspice. The bucket then went into the otherwise empty fridge in the garage. I turned the piglet over every 6-hours or so for a 2 nights and a day before roasting it for 12 hours at very low heat covered by foil. Finally, a quick burst at 250C (hottest my oven does) without foil to crispify the skin.
Advice is to cover the tail and ears with foil, or they will burn and wont be edible!
Thanks Spinal - it does seem that one has to be prepared to expend a lot of cash, time and energy on doing a suckling pig. But having seen and heard of your results I am still keen. I will check out our local Chinese wholesaler in Reading to see if they can source one.
A family farm shop and butchers, all the beef is produced on a farm in Hurst. All the lamb is produced on Lockey Farm or the owner's uncle's farm across the road in Arborfield. Their pork is produced in Windsor and is all outdoor reared. Eggs come from their own free range birds. They also sell local cheeses, cakes, ice cream, bread and lots more. Selling: Bread / Bakery, Cheese / Dairy, Meats Address Sindlesham Rd Arborfield Reading Berkshire RG2 9JH Tel: 0118 976 2218
I've done 2 so far in my wfo and they cost round about the £100 mark,very expensive but great for a special occasion.
One thing to bear in mind is that although it can be quite a weight in meat, anything from 6-12kgs, the meat is not that thick, particularly if you can get it splayed out, but you need a large cooking tray! For some reason I was expecting cooking times of 3-4 hours when it was actually nearer 2.
I'd originally planned to cook the first one strictly retained heat but became nervous about maintaining the temp so finished up keeping a small fire going, though this means you have to keep turning the pig regularly to avoid burning the skin. Turning a 10kg pick on a large tray at finger tip length with a wall sticking in your ribs is a challenge, which is why I recommend bringing the wfo as far forward on the base as possible.
Having said all that, for a special occasion a suckling pig takes some beating.
Before things get confusing, lets go back to basics.
1 Suckling pig is very young meat and has not done a lot of exercise to produce the tougher meat fibres of older animals.
2 The thickest flesh is in the thigh/buttock but not much more than 50mm thick. The majority of the meat ie loin/belly/shank is only about 25mm thick at most.
3 The skin (crackling) on a suckling pig is much thinner and fragile.
Given that we are not trying to break down tough meat fibres essentially all we are doing when cooking a suckling pig is raising the temperature of the meat to serving temperature, which is anything from low 50sC to high 70sC depending on cut and individual preference.
If you cook in a high thermal mass wfo (ie minimal cooling down when you add the meat) at a starting temp of say 180C a couple of hours should do it. Alternatively leaving it overnight in a cooler say 100C wfo should also be good. The timings are for an unstuffed pig and would require substantial increases in timings if you stuff the main body cavity as you increase the thickness of joint to 150-200mm.
I always cook joints of meat to temperature using a temp probe.
Here's a recipe from the site of the company where I bought my last suckling pig, Taste Traditions, you'll see they recommend about 2 1/2 hrs at 180C in a conventional oven.
Mine was a 10ish kg piglet, stuffed with herbs and green stuff at very low temperature (100ish iirc). Timings were based on what we do back home, whereby we dig a hole in the sand, layer it with myrth leaves, put the piglet in, more leaves, then close the hole with sand and light a bonfire on top... let it run all day and unbury/eat in the evening
Disappointed by the suppliers I've tried so far - not one of them managed to actually answer the phone, and none have returned my call within two/three days of me leaving a message. Maybe it's the wrong time of year?