Suckling Pig Porchetta
Updated: Aug 11, 2022
I saw this technique a while ago where you make a Porchetta from a whole pig and it's been on the list to try for quite a while, Artust's neighbour popped this suckling pig over the fence so when live gives you pigs.....make porchetta!
There are two schools of thought on this technique, one where you keep the shins on and one where you take off the legs and trotters. We decided to keep the shins and trotters on this time & will try the other technique another time.
I thought this would take me a couple of hours to debone but it 'only' took about 45 minutes, you have to try and remember to keep the knife on bone all times to ensure clean cuts and to keep as much meat on the pig as possible. You need to be very careful not to puncture the skin whilst butchering it which I managed to do. The most delicate parts are along the spine as removing this is closest to the skin and the thinnest part of the pig so take your time.
One you've removed the ribcage, you can start to move towards the hams, you want to remove the main bone down to the knee by tunnel boning it, this can be a bit tricky and you have to be conscious of where the knife tip is.
Next you move onto the shoulders and remove the shoulder blade and socket, this was a bit easier than the hams as they are a wide piece of bone thats easy to find and move the knife around.
Once the bones are removed, you want to feel the carcass for any bone or cartridge fragments to see if there was anything you missed, you dont want to eat this or serve to your guests so take the time to really feel everything. I found 3 small pieces by doing this that I took out.
Next you want to redistribute some of the meat from the thicker parts of the animal. Remove some of the meat from the hams and shoulders and add this to the 'void' thats been left from the ribcage and along the spine, this will help the pig to cook more evenly and fills in some of the gaps when you roll it up.
On larger pigs, there should be enough meat from the hams and shoulders to even out the carcass, however this small piglet needed some extra stuffing as it was quite small.
After the butchery, I put the pig into the fridge to cool down and let me clear up before I did the stuffing element.
This took about another 30 - 40 minutes to complete after chilling down, I kept things simple & classic, seasoning the pig with a generous scattering of salt, pepper, fresh garlic, sage, thyme, rosemary, lemon zest and fennel. I also added in a load of roasted onion puree that I precooked at 180c for 2 hours then blended. This added moisture and sweetness to the pig, I then added about 2.5kg of a simple pork stuffing. As I mentioned previously, if the pig was a lot larger or we removed the legs, you would need less or no stuffing as you redistribute the meat from the hams and shoulders, this little guy needed some more stuffing.
Next comes stitching, you want to stitch up the belly and make this quite tight, do long stitches so its easier to see and remove after cooking. You want to go all the way from the neck to the bottom sealing the filling in and having a nice seal. This being a young pig had quite thin skin and it was easy to sew it up and get the needle through with some kitchen paper for grip. Another technique that works well is using a cork to push the butchers needle through or if the skin is really tough, just use the tip of the knife to break through the skin use that.
You now need to tie the pig, you want to have a nice round classic porchetta shape so start in-front of the shoulders, behind the shoulders then continue to tie in sections of that size to keep it even. You might need to repeat some areas as the shape will change slightly as you form the shape. Dont go too tight at this stage as you'll risk breaking the string when moving the pig about or when you start to get crackling and the pig swells up, it could also break the string.
If you can, allow the pig to sit for a couple of days to dry out the skin and the flavours to develop. We cooked this after butchering so we weren't able to on this occasion.
Every 20 minutes we sprayed the skin with oil to help crisp the skin up and kept an eye on the pig and the pit to make sure the temperatures were holding where we needed. In total, the cook took about 5.5 hours to complete. When we rested the pig, we made a simple white wine, garlic and onion risotto and a parsley oil for a bit of colour (blanche the parsley in hot water for 1 minute then drain, dry & blend with oil).
Then just plated up risotto, pork, parsley oil & enjoyed with a salad, absolutely cracking dish.
This little video shows the whole cook from beginning to end, I hope you enjoy.
I used this video as a guide for the butchery and the stuffing