How to cook a suckling pig

Baby pigs roasting on an open fire. Photo by David Lansing.

At the Santa Greca Festival, I hung out with Nicola and Sabrina Manconi at one of the outdoor barbecue booths, Gastromomia da Tonino, picking up some pointers on how to properly roast the suckling pig that they call porceddu. First of all, says Nicola, you only want pigs that weigh between 5 and 6 kilos. At that point they’re still nursing. Anything bigger than that and they’re on the pig feed and it changes the whole taste of the pork.

Then you should cook them very slowly over a wood fire, carmelizing the skin (which, frankly, is the best part of the little porker as far as I’m concerned). But the most important part comes after the pig has been roasted. That’s when you take the pork and wrap it in aluminum foil with branches of myrtle on top. The hot pork sort of steams the myrtle leaves, releasing their oil and fragrance, and the flavor is picked up in the pig.

So I bought a quarter of a pig plus some grilled intestines (just to snack on) and Nicola threw in some red wine, which he poured from a barrel into a recycled plastic Pepsi bottle, for free, and hunkered down on one of the long wooden picnic tables, eating the porceddu with my fingers and washing it all down with a long swig of rustic wine from my Pepsi bottle and I’ll tell you what—I was in pig heaven.

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