In essence, a Suckling Pig, also known as Sucking Pig, is a piglet still feeding on its mother's milk, or a piglet that is still sucking. When used for cooking, sucking pigs between the ages of 2 ad 6 weeks are slaughtered. Young pigs are very valued, especially due to the tenderness of the meat and also the size which makes for a very dramatic presentation of the meal. Traditionally, suckling pigs are cooked whole, most often roasted. Sucking Pig is an important preparation on special occasions, celebrations and social gatherings.
Sucking pig's meat is very soft and pale in color. The skin, once cooked, gets very crisp and this can further be used in the preparation of Pork Rind. Young pigs have a lot of collagen in them and therefore, the texture of the meat is gelatinous.
History of Sucking Pig
Suckling Pig has been an important culinary preparation since the ancient times, especially in the Roman and Chinese cuisines. Pig is one of the first animals domesticated by humans for slaughter. References to sucking pigs have been found in texts dating back to the 6th century. Sucking pigs have always been a gourmet ingredient and in the ancient times, these were one of the most expensive meats. Over the years, the use of the meat has spread to almost all cuisines of the world. Despite the fact that the meat is more commonly available in today's times, its value has not decreased in any way. It is still a gourmet ingredient and an expensive buy.
Culinary Uses of Suckling Pig
Suckling pigs are traditionally prepared and served whole, to be sliced at the table. The entrails are, however, cleaned out prior to sale. Usually, these pigs are not more than 20 pounds in weight and easily fit inside a large oven. These are also roasted over spit-fires and are a popular option for open barbecues. The meat is prepared in almost all cuisines of the world. In addition to being served as an entire meal, Sucking Pig is sometimes an ingredient in stews, soup and casseroles. When used as an ingredient in more elaborate preparations, the pig is first cooked separately, sliced or chopped as required and then added to the dish.
Popular Regional Suckling Pig Recipes
Lechón - Lechón is a popular pork meat dish prepared in various regions of the world. In particular, it is an important preparation in Spanish cuisine. A whole Sucking Pig is roasted over charcoal till it has reached the desired level of doneness. The dish, in most cuisines, is prepared throughout the year and is a must-have on all special occasions. The entrails of the young pig are removed, the meat is seasoned and the entire animal is skewered and cocked in a pit filled with charcoal.
Guling Celeng - This Sucking Pig preparation is an important part of Balinese cooking.
Suckling Pig dishes in Europe - In European or Continental cuisine, apart from Spain, the suckling pig is used in Germany, Georgia, Romania, Portugal and Croatia, to name a few. In German cuisine, the pig meat dish is called Spanferkel and can be grilled or roasted. It is an important feature of the Oktoberfest. In Continental cooking and tradition, Sucking Pig is an essential traditional Christmas feast of families, mostly in Serbia and Russia, and accompanies goose meat.
Sucking Pig in American Cuisine - The pig is used in Cajun cooking in the southern US. The Cochon de Lait festival is held every year in Louisiana's Mansura town. Sucking pigs are roasted on a very large scale during this festival. In American cooking, suckling pigs are often slow roasted in an oven or in a pit, the latter is mostly used in the preparation of a Hawaiian-style pig roast.
Sucking Pig Trivia
When served in the traditional and classic way, a cooked Suckling Pig is placed on a silver platter, surrounded with an array of fruits and cut-up vegetables and the young piglet has a small apple in its mouth.