This post will be one of many, simply because roasting a suckling pig on a spit over an open flame is really, really complicated. It’s also one of the more primal acts a group of people — I’ll go out on a limb here and say “men” since the only involvement from the women among us was to put the nearest hospitals on speed dial — can do. You read about roasting animals in the Iliad and Odyssey, and I’m sure the first homo sapiens hundreds of thousands of years ago roasted meat as soon as they found the batteries for their spit motor. Much more on spit motors a little later.
Where to Find Your Suckling Pig in the DC Area
To start, you have to find a purveyor of suckling pigs. A quick note on what “suckling” means, just so you know what you’re getting into. ”Suckling” pigs are pigs that are slaughtered while still “suckling,” or drinking their mothers’ milk. Put simply, they are baby pigs. They are increasingly difficult to find in the Northeast, since feed is relatively cheap, and if pig purveyors let their pigs get past the “suckling” stage, which is from 10-20 pounds, they can grow to over 200 pounds. So suckling pigs are more expensive than your average pig — $7 a pound or so cleaned.
I found our suckling pig from my trusty butcher at Eastern Market — Union Meat Company. I asked him about our pig over a month in advance, and he was not totally sure he could get his hands on one. But a couple days after I asked, I got the call. He had secured us a pig, and it would be ready when we needed it.
How to Transport Your Pig
Wif picked it up on the Wednesday before the Saturday we planned to roast it. The first of many problems we ran into was that the pig was 30″ long, so it would not fit easily in a smaller cooler, which was all we had. So the butcher found us a styrofoam container from the fish store. He wrapped the pig in a clear plastic bag, wrapped the pig again in a black plastic bag, then onto the styrofoam. I wrapped the pig in a couple more black plastic bags to make sure it wouldn’t drip on our luggage before putting it in the car. I also emptied a couple bags of ice on it to keep it cool.
Brining Your Pig
All the plastic bags came in handy, because I chose to brine the pig on the day before we would roast it. In order to make the pickling liquid, I used two gallons of water, enough salt to make the water as salty as the sea (about a cup), a healthy handful of thyme, and the zest of around three lemons. I would have thrown in a half head of garlic after smashing each clove, but I forgot. I continually forgot the garlic for this recipe, which is rare for me.
I poured the brining solution into the plastic bag that immediately surrounded the pig. The styrofoam contained the liquid well, which helped to keep every part of the pig submerged in salty-lemony-thymy water.
I put the pig and its brine into the fridge, and left it overnight.