Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Suckling pig & scalding temperatures

This time of year I get a lot of call for small pigs -- 6 to 15lbs, usually with the request that they be still on the sow.  It's basically the pig version of veal, and several different cultures have a suckling pig as a celebration meal.  Weddings, wakes, birthdays, fiestas... 

I've posted entries about how to prepare this size pig (or one that's a little larger,) here, and that covers the basic field dressing of the animal, but I've found that the scalding/scraping is the hard part of this process. 

Once the animal is dead, having a good scald is important for the complete removal of the hair and outer layer of skin.  I've found that a temperature between 140 and 145 degrees F. to be the range that works best for me if I have a situation where I can heat the water continuously to keep it at that range. 

Immersion in the water for 3-4 minutes, with a little agitation to make sure that the whole pig is exposed, makes the hair removal pretty easy.  It still does take some time, and you still will need a razor or sharp knife to remove some of the hair, but the majority comes off with some finger-pressure scrubbing.  If the animal is particularly dirty, a little detergent added to the water makes things easier. 

The pig in the picture is was 20lbs live weight, and dressed at 14.5lbs, which is pretty consistent with the yield you get from larger pigs -- live weight to hanging weight. 

The final prep for this animal is to position it while it is still limp into the cooking posture that will be used.  This particular animal has been positioned so that it's appropriate for spit-roasting.  The hind legs are tucked in below the body, towards the head, and the front legs are pointed towards the rear of the animal.   The goal of this is to make a nice cylinder of the animal, so that when the spit is inserted the pig will roast evenly.  If a leg stuck out (was closer to the heat) that portion would burn.   Here's a picture of an 80lb pig in the right position.

Alternatives to this is to butterfly the pig -- split it along the backbone, but leave the two halves connected -- for roasting flat in the la caja china style.  For pictures of this, check here. 

Some cultures want to bury their bbq, and that's tasty too.  I've found that visually the spit roasted pigs are best, but as far as taste goes, the pit-roasted or caja pigs are best.  The tongans put sugar syrup on the outside of the pig as they spit roast it -- it browns the skin nicely. 


Nicole said...

Hi I am looking for buying a pork (organic) and I need some references if you can recommend something. I live near Seattle on the East side, (Issaquh) and I am trying to find something around.

Thank you,

Bruce King said...

I don't know of any producers in king county. County regulations have made it very difficult to farm pigs there.

I'm in snohomish county; skagit river ranch is a producer that I like myself that is certified organic. you can find their website here: http://www.skagitriverranch.com/
and they're at several local farmers markets on the seattle side. That's about as close as I can get for you. They sell by the cut or by the pound.

I sell whole or half animals.

I haven't pursued an organic label for my farm for two reasons: 1) the term has been co-opted by industry and really doesn't improve the quality, and 2) many of the organic certification organizations will just take your word for whether you're organic or not. I could claim to be organic and be feeding nuclear waste and no one would know.

I raise pigs on pasture, feed them a variety of foods, give them free choice of pasture, and eat them myself. That's a pretty good indication that I think they're tasty, and wholesome.

Unknown said...

Does anyone know of any places that will roast the pig for you?

Unknown said...

I am looking for a pigs head. Does any one know where I can get one.. my brother wants a pig skull for his bday . So I'm trying to locate one..... any ideas ???

freeman said...

"my brother wants a pig skull for his bday . So I'm trying to locate one..... any ideas ??? "

-Get your brother a good psychiatrist.

Bobby said...

I am looking for a suckling pig about 10 to 12 lbs in the Blue Earth,MN area....does anyone know where I can find one?

Bobby said...

I am looking for a suckling pig about 10 to q2 lbs in the Blue Earth,MN area

Unknown said...

I live in southeast Alaska and have been dying to raise a pig for slaughter. Do you know any farms in the Washington area that could potentially ship a live pig? I'm not sure the legality of that or the logistical issues involved but if it's even possible it's something I've been looking into for awhile now

Bruce King said...

I have sold pigs to people who have told me that they're taking them to bc or alaska, but I don't know what the logistics are. Two of the sales were to people who were taking them up on the deck of a fishing boat going up for the season, one was a guy who was driving up.

Generally speaking alaska isn't a big pig production state, so they probably don't care about importing pigs, but canada might if you have to cross a border. Might be as simple as a health certificate, which I can facilitate.