WARNING, WARNING, WARNING: members of PETA and those who do not eat meat, you should prolly keep right on scrolling past this post. I’m from Texas, and we love meat up in here.
Fresh on the heels of my post about big (pork) butts, I thought now would be a good time to share with you what it means in my house to go Whole Hog.
First of all, pigs are really cute, right?
You know what these are?
That’s right…Bacon seeds!!
And bacon is yummy. In fact, the whole darn pig is yummy—from the cute pink nose to the curly little pig tail. When I see a cute little pink piglet, I think: “aweeeee, that’s the cutest little pre-bacon EVER!”
Many cultures around the world have a traditional feast built on this premise.
First of all a very brief language lesson…
The Spanish word for milk is Leche. The French Word for milk is Lait.
Now, a tiny little history lesson…
The Spanish settled The Philippines, making it a very diverse mix of Asian and Latin cultures. In essence, Filipino.
They also colonized Cuba.
The French colonized the Louisiana territory here in the United States.
Now, a miniscule biology lesson…
A pig that is still fed on its mother’s milk is called a suckling pig, or a milk pig. Typically between the ages of six and eight weeks, and 15-25 pounds.
You will note aspects of all of the above lessons in the names of the following meals. And you thought you’d never use your Junior High French or History lessons again, didn’t you???
In the Philippines, their whole hog feast is called Lechon Pinoy or Lechon Baboy. This Filipino version is a whole pig, slow roasted over hot coals for many hours. The body cavity is stuffed with banana leaves, lemon grass, garlic, onions, anise and other yummy things. As the pig is being roasted, it is basted with a sweet blaze which may contain soy sauce, Sprite, and sometimes the Chinese Bee Cheng seasoning. The result is very tender and flavorful meat, with a crispy mahogany skin that can only described as “pig candy”. Do you ever fight it out in your clan about who gets to eat the burnt ends off the turkey, ham, brisket or meatloaf?? Yeah, you’ll actually fight to the death over who gets the crispy sweet roasted piggy ears.
Our Cajun cousins to the immediate East of us serve up Coshon Du Lait (translates as milk pig), or suckling pig as a matter of cultural tradition, and by-God culinary necessity. The Cochon du Lait is simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic, and is injected with marinade such as wine or apple juice mixed with melted butter and Louisiana hot sauce—much like you would a Cajun fried turkey. The pig, which may run very large with the Cajun method, is butterflied and roasted over an open flame, usually of pecan wood and sugar cane. The resulting pig has a crisp delicious skin, and very tender white meat. In fact, due to the high ratio of collagen in the meat of a baby pig, the meat can be described as unctuous–in a good way.
The Cuban or Puerto Rican version, or Lechon Asado, is very similar to both of the above. It may be left whole, or butterflied. It is seasoned heavily inside and out, and if left whole may be stuffed with banana leaves and other aromatics. It is also roasted over hot coals, until a beautiful crisp skin is accomplished. Due to my proclivity for Caribbean food and culture, this is the one we recently prepared for a feast with my hubby’s family. Although not traditional to the Caribbean style lechon, I also inject mine. Because it’s delicious, and that’s how I roll.
Because we did not get our pig spit-roaster built-in time, we simply used a large BBQ pit. I will give you those directions, because I am guessing you don’t have a pig roaster lying about. For a very small pig (less than 18 pounds), you could also roast in your oven, but you would lose the benefit of the smoke.
Also, the ingredients here are based on the 35 pound pig we used. You would scale up or down depending on the size of you pig, but always err on the side of more flavor than less. Because flavor is the bomb.
Lechon Asado a La Texicanaserves a small army of about 20
- 1 whole pig, dressed (I don’t mean in clothes—I mean it should already be cleaned, gutted, defuzzed)
- 2 cups salt
- 1 cup pepper
- 2 bunches cilantro (about 4 cups packed)
- 4 fresh jalapenos
- 12 limes
- 12 lemons
- 12 oranges
- 1 bottle of garlic juice (spice aisle)
- 1 bottle of onion juice (spice aisle)
- 3 feet of 16 gauge wire, cut into 4 inch pieces
You should place the pig on a plastic covered table outside. The prep work can get messy.
Combine the salt and pepper in a bowl. Rub the inside cavity of the pig liberally with the salt and pepper. Set aside the remaining salt and pepper.
Juice all of the citrus fruits, placing together in a large mixing bowl. SAVE THE CITRUS SHELLS. Combine ½ of the cilantro, jalapenos, and some of the juice in a blender and process until very smooth. Repeat with the remaining cilantro and jalapenos. Mix into the bowl with the rest of the juice, including the onion and garlic juice. Mix in 1/2 cup of the salt mixture. Use an injector to inject this marinade liberally all over the pig. Let the kids get involved—they think injecting stuff is cool. Maybe it will encourage them to go to medical school. Use about 20 different injection spots. This will be messy, you WILL get squirted with marinade.
Set aside the remaining marinade.
Now place the citrus peels and banana leaves into the body cavity.
Use the pieces of wire to sew the cavity shut, as seen below. You may choose to wire the legs close against the body.
Now rub the outside of the pig liberally with salt and pepper.
Now, you can let the pig set for an hour or two while you prepare the fire.
Start a large hot fire in your pit. We use oak and mesquite, but use what you like. When the fire has reduced to glowing hot coals, use a poker or shovel to move the coals to the front and back walls of the pit, kind of leaving a wide trench down the middle. The goal is to not have the pig resting directly over the coals, but to have them running up and down both sides of the pig.
Once this is done, lay the pig in the pit, and close it up. Once an hour, baste the pig with remaining marinade, and add small chunks of coal or wood to the coals, to keep the coals hot.
A 35 pound pig should roast for about 8 hours. Obviously, the cook time will depend on the size of the pig, and heat of the coals. If you use a meat thermometer, once the thickest part of the pig hits 160 degrees, let it cook for 2 or 3 more hours so that it falls off the bone and shreds easily.
This is a big deal, so make a big deal out of it. Serve it on a bed of banana leaves, with a lemon in it’s mouth. Serve alongside a ginormous amount of sides…Sofrito, guacamole, rice, beans, plantain, cilantro, tortillas, etc…Let the feast begin!
Go WHOLE HOG!