Spit-roasted suckling pig is always a crowd favourite at a party, but it's hard to perfect. A spit-roaster can be easily hired from a barbecue-hire service, found in most areas. They can supply you with all the utensils you’ll need, plus coals. Most good butchers will happily supply your suckling pig. It's best to give them advance notice to avoid disappointment as they can take a few days to source. Always insist on a fresh pig.
- 1 suckling pig (approx. 8 kg)
- 10 cloves crushed garlic
- 1 tbsp coarse salt
- 1 tbsp cracked pepper
- ample vegetables to fill the cavity. I recommend onions, carrots, apples garlic and parsley (the traditional recipe calls for lemongrass alone)
- heavy wire and a pair of pliers (to stitch the belly of the pig). This is usually provided with the spit
- 750 ml salt-reduced soy sauce
- 750 ml olive oil
- a shovel, for moving the hot coals around
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
First, light the barbecue coals. The coals are not ready until white (no flame should be present when cooking). This will take an hour or two.
With a sharp knife, remove the tail and ears of the pig. Turn the pig over and remove the kidneys and any loose fat.
Rub the surface of the pig with crushed garlic, ensuring it is well massaged in. This will add flavour as well as moisten the skin. Once thoroughly massaged, place the remaining pieces of garlic inside the cavity of the pig.
Apply a liberal amount of coarse salt to the skin and massage well. The salt is crucial to dry the skin and create a perfect crackling. Add salt and pepper liberally to the cavity.
Apply a liberal amount of pepper to the skin.
To ensure an even roast, fill the cavity with the roughly chopped onions, carrots, apples, garlic and parsley. Once the cavity is filled, stitch the belly closed with heavy wire, ensuring a tight seal.
Massage the soy sauce into the skin. This will help create a golden-brown colour.
To mount the pig on the spit, place it flat on a large bench or table, belly down. Instructions will be provided on how to use the spit attachments (each varies slightly). Ensure you have them all in place as you slide the main axle along the length of the pig. The axle is inserted from the rear of the pig. It is vital that the pig does not slide around on the axle – check it prior to loading onto the spit.
An 8kg pig will require approximately an hour and a half to two hours of roasting time.
With a shovel, move the bulk of the coals to the edges, underneath the legs and shoulders, with only a small amount of coals under the mid-section. The legs and shoulders are the thickest areas and require the most heat.
As the pig cooks, ensure the colour remains even. If any patches are lighter in colour, move more coals under this area. If an area is darkening too quickly, move coals away.
Occasionally, apply olive oil with a basting brush to improve the crackling.
In the late stages of roasting, the vegetables in the cavity of the pig will soften and release their juices. It’s a good idea to wipe the juices away to maintain an even finish on the skin.
When the knuckles of the pig begin to be exposed, the pig will be close to ready. To test, stop the rotisserie and insert a meat thermometer into the thickest portion of the leg of the pig. A reading over 70°C will indicate the pig is ready. Alternatively, insert a small knife for 30 seconds and remove to test whether the tip of the knife is hot.
It’s important to move the pig to the place you wish to serve it, prior to removing the spit-mounting from it, as the connective tissues will have cooked and the pig may fall apart if it’s moved after the apparatus is removed. Turn the rotisserie off and use tea towels or oven mitts to handle the spit-mounting. You will need two people to move the roasted pig.
Once the pig is in its final position, carefully remove the spit-mounting, carve and serve.
Photograph Yasmin Newman