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Gastronomically yours,

This little piggy went to lechon

 

My wife and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary by inviting friends and family together for a pig roast. My father-in-law dedicated himself to guiding us through the process of preparing a traditional Filipino style pig roast known as lechon.

 In Spanish lechon translates to suckling pig. In thePhilippines, lechon refers to a whole roasted pig commonly known as Lechon Baboy.

 The method of cooking lechon is that the whole pig is roasted over a gentle fire that burns a mix of wood and charcoal. The tedious process of slow roasting the pig leaves the meat tender and juicy with a crispy skin on the outside.

 I quickly learned that lechon means more than whole roasted pig. Lechon is a process. It involved many people working together sharing in a common task while celebrating through the entire process.

 The process to prepare lechon went like this; first I got a 70 pound pig from Otonabee Meats in Peterborough then on the day of the pig roast we all woke up around 5:30 am and quickly started work. First tasks included starting the fire and prepping the pig itself. First we rubbed the body cavity with salt and minced garlic. Next the pig would be traditionally impaled on a bamboo pole; here we substituted a maple tree which works as the rotisserie. We placed the spit between the thighs, along the inside of the body just under the spine and out through the mouth. As the spit does not pass through any flesh we had to tightly truss the hips, thighs and legs to hold them tight against each other and the spit. Then we did the same with the head and shoulders. You don’t want the pig to wiggle or slip as it needs to move as one with the spit. Proper trussing of the pig to the spit is critical for as the pig cooks the muscle fibres will pull apart and away from the bone causing it to loosen and possibly shift which could result in the pig falling off the spit into the fire pit.

 With the pig secured to the spit we then stuffed the pig’s body cavity with around one pound of minced garlic, two pounds of whole lemongrass, three handfuls of fresh thyme and about 10 metres of grape vines and leaves.  
Once the seasonings were all stuffed into the pig my god mother used her skills as a physician and a large trussing needle to stitch up the belly with heavy-duty butcher twine to keep the aromatic seasonings from spilling out.

The pig was then placed over the fire and continuously turned by hand for seven hours. We frequently basted the roast with a mixture of soy sauce, water and sugar throughout the cooking process which helped to develop a dark red caramelized glaze on the surface of the roast.

 We cooked the roast slowly keeping the flames low and moving the coals around so that the pig was about half a metre above the fire. The skin temperature was kept around 250°f.

 A pig will take from 3 to 10 hours to cook depending on their size. Suckling pigs cook the quickest. You cannot rush this process or you will simply end up with burnt pig. The hams and shoulders will take the longest to cook. I recommend that you use a meat thermometer to test for doneness. All internal temperatures of the roast pig should be at 165 °f.

You can serve lechon with any of your favorite dipping sauces, but I urge you to try it with a mixture of equal parts soy sauce and cider vinegar with some chopped garlic as this will help cleanse your palate.

 

 

It rubs the lotion on its skin
I smell bacon

Gastronomically yours,

Chef Brian Henry

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