Our editor is always roasting pigs in a pit in her Manhattan backyard. This is her favorite recipe. A 15- to 20-pound pig, while large, yields just enough meat for 8 to 12 people. The meat will melt in your mouth.
Order a few days ahead and have the butcher prepare the pig for you by cleaning it well and removing all organs, including the kidneys, eyeballs, and lower lids. A 20-inch roasting pan is ideal. Do not use a disposable aluminum pan, as it will collapse. The day before or just before roasting, prepare 12 cups of one of the following stuffing’s:
1 ½ recipes basic Bread stuffing, 1 recipe Bread stuffing with Toasted Nuts or Chestnuts and Dried fruit,1 ½ recipes Sweet Potato and Apple Stuffing, or 3 recipes Couscous Stuffing with Dried Apricots and Pistachios.
Position a rack in the lowest part of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Generously oil a 20-inch-long roasting pan. If the pan is smaller (no smaller than 17 inches), have ready a loaf pan and lots of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Place in the sink:
1 suckling pig (15 to 20 pounds)
Check to make sure that no bristles or hairs remain. If any do, shave them off with a razor blade or singe them with a flame. Rinse the pig well inside and out and pat dry. On a work surface, turn the pig on its back and fill the cavity loosely with the stuffing. Truss with string or skewers about 2 inches apart. Skewer legs into position, pulling forelegs forward and bending hind legs into a crouching stance. Turn the pig over. Slash the skin on either side of the backbone in long parallel diagonal cuts about 2 inches apart, to prevent the skin from swelling and bursting during cooking and to release the fat and allow it to baste the meat. Avoid cutting below the layer of fat into the meat. Put a block of wood or ball of aluminum foil in its mouth to hold it open. Mix together and rub over the entire pig:
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
Place the pig in the roasting pan, resting it on its haunches and keeping it upright. If your pan is to small, arrange the pig diagonally in the pan and prop its head up with the loaf pan under its chin. Slip heavy- duty aluminum foil extending out from the roasting pan under the head and loaf pan to catch the juices and let them flow back into the pan during cooking. If the pig has a tendency to lean, prop it up with balls of aluminum foil. Cover the ears and tail with pieces of foil. If desired, pry open the pig’s mouth with a screwdriver and prop open with a ball of aluminum foil or a wooden block. Place the pig in the oven, uncovered, and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and pour the roasting pan:
3 cups dry white wine
Baste the pig all over with:
½ cup olive oil
Roast until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the rump reads 150 degrees to 155 degrees F, 2 to 2 ½ hours more (the temperature will continue to rise 5 to 10 degrees out of the oven.) Baste the pig every 20 minutes with the wine and pan juices. Place the pig on a platter and let stand for 30 to 60 minutes. Skim off the fat from the pan juices. Place the roasting pan over medium- high heat and add:
2 cups chicken stock or broth
Bring to a simmer, stirring to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Serve with the pan juices or pour the juices into a saucepan and make a gravy. Mix together and whisk into the simmering juices:
¼ cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons cold water
Bring to a boil, whisking, to thicken, and cook down until it is flavorful. Season with:
Salt and black pepper to taste
Remove the foil from the pig’s ears and tail. Gently roll it on its side and remove the string and/ or skewers. Return the pig to its right-side-up position. Remove the foil ball or wooden block, if using, and place in the pig’s mouth:
(1 apple, lemon, or lime)
And in the eyes:
Garnish the platter with:
A bed of watercress or other greens, Apples Stuffed with Sausages or Tomatoes provencal
After presenting the pig at the table, carve it by removing the forelegs and hindquarters and arranging these on a platter. Cut the skin into squares. Remove the loin meat and cut into slices. Sparate ribs. Arrange the slices and skin on the platter and let the guests pick at the rest. Pass platter with the gravy.