Roast Suckling Pig has its very own national holiday?
How freakin’ awesome is that?
Today, December 18th, we celebrate the swine! (Okay, we do that a lot around here, but today it’s official…)
The main ingredient involves a four to six week old piglet, ranging between nine to twenty pounds.. For those first few weeks, the pig is feeds solely on its mother’s milk, which produces an extremely tender, sweet pork.
People have been roasting pigs since time immemorial. They were enjoyed in in ancient Egypt, and in Roman times were served covered in pastry or even stuffed with live doves as a centerpiece.
Roast suckling pig is a famous item in Chinese culture, eaten primarily for the crisp texture of its skin, and as a symbol of virginity is often included in wedding banquets.
Roast suckling pig was immortalized in Spanish book Don Quixote (awesome!) and, known as cochinollo asado, remains a key dish in Castilian cuisine.
So, there are a lot of ways to roast a suckling pig (and they’re all good), including Mexican style (Mexican cinnamon, cumin, and guajillo chiles), Asian (rice vinegar, five-spice powder, miso, and a brushing of soy sauce) and, of course, the Castilian method, above (onion, bay, & white wine).
Several of these recipes are included in my La Caja China Cookbooks, but just in case you don’t own them (and I forgive you), here’s my favorite. A sucking is actually small enough to be roasted, with any of these styles, in the average oven, but, as I’m going to be giving you the directions for roasting your suckling in La Caja China, let’s borrow a page from my friend, Roberto Guerra, and go Cuban!
Cuban-style pig means “Mojo”, a sweet, savory, tangy broth of awesomness made up of oranges, limes, cumin, and other spices, and used to drench the piggie before, during, and after the roasting process.
As Roberto makes the best mojo I’ve ever tasted, we’ll use his recipe…
La Caja China Mojo Criollo
6 oz. orange juice
2 oz. lemon juice
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon bay leaves
1 garlic bulb
1 teaspoon cumin
3 teaspoon salt
4 oz. of water
Peel and mash the garlic cloves. Mix all the ingredients and let it sit for a minimum of one hour. Keep refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Caja China Brine
1 cup of the Mojo Criollo recipe
3 cups Water
1/2 cup Table Salt
Blend all ingredients and let it sit for a minimum of one hour, strain and inject. After injecting the pig with the Caja China Brine, apply a salt rub all over the pig, using Kosher Salt or Sea Salt. Marinating the pig overnight, and allow it to come to room temperature, before you begin roasting.
Lightly oil La Caja China rack place your piglet on it, belly up, with its legs close the side of the body. Tent loosely with foil (the skin of a suckiling is much thinner than that of a larger pig, and burns easier.)
Add 16 lbs. of charcoal for Model #1 Box or 18lbs. for Model #2, or Semi Pro Box, and light up. Once lit (20-25 minutes) spread the charcoal evenly over the charcoal grid. Cooking time starts right now.
After 1 hour (1st hour), scoop away excess ashes, add 9 lbs. of charcoal (note time).
Continue to scoop away excess ashes, and add 9 lbs. of charcoal every hour until you reach 195 F on the meat thermometer. (The pig is actually “done” when the temperature in the thickest part of the ham registers 160 degrees, but for a “pulled pork” consistency, which I prefer, shoot for 195F-200F.)
Once you reach 195 F, lift the charcoal grid shake it well to remove the ashes, now place it on top of the long handles. Do not place on the grass or floor it will damage them.
Remove the ash pan from the box and dispose of the ashes.
Flip the piglet over to crispy the skin. This is easily done using the patented rack System, just grab the end of the rack, lift, and slide as you pull upward, using the other hand grab the top end of the other rack and slide it down.
Score the skin using a knife, this helps to remove the fat and crisp the skin. Cover the box again with the ash pan and the charcoal grid; do not add more charcoal at this time.
After 10 minutes, take a peak by lifting the charcoal pan by one end only. You will continue doing this every 5 minutes until the skin is crispy to your liking.
Remove sucking from Caja and allow to rest 20 minutes.
Serve with white rice, and black beans, and maybe even some of my favorite side, tostones!
(…and Happy Roast Suckling Pig Day!)