I don't know why I didn't think of doing this before. Maybe its one of those epiphanies that happen at a certain point in a home cook's life, and mine just happened right now. I think it all started with the discovery of Chef Chris Consentino's roasted pig's head at Cockscomb. And wanting to make a baked crispy pata at home. Those reasons and I wanted to make something extra special for my birthday party. So I guess pig's head+pata(legs)+special party= roasted sucking pig.
To make this, I've been referencing this detailed blog post (thank you, Serious Eats!). And of course, Julia Child's video (see below). I only had to find a source for piglets. Golden Gate Meat Company here in San Francisco is an awesome source and their staff were super helpful. I've bought from them twice so far and they only needed a few days notice. The only caveat is that they cannot guarantee that you will get a piglet close to 20 lbs. The most important thing I've learned is that the weight is everything, as anything larger than 20 lbs WILL NOT fit in a regular sized oven. Besides GG Meats, I have yet to find a convenient and reliable source for pigs in the Bay Area.
Another source that I've had success with is buying through the internets. SteaksandGame.com was able to provide me with almost the exact weight that I specified and arrived when I needed it (a weeks notice). The only thing is you will get a frozen meat that you'd have to defrost for at least 3 days in the fridge. I researched where they got the pig and found that it came from Lynch BBQ in Iowa, which appears to be a responsible company specializing in swine. I felt pretty good (ok) about purchasing from them but I would really prefer that it was closer to home. As far as cost, it was the same as ordering from GG Meats.
The prep was pretty simple. I seasoned the cavity with a liberal amount of salt and pepper and stuffed it with rosemary, thyme, onions, lemons, lots of garlic. You can also use lemongrass or pretty much anything you would normally use to stuff a chicken. Sewing the belly shut was a little challenging but can be done with a leather needle and butcher's twine (Julia's trick turned out to be the easiest to do but might freak out your guests to see carpentry nails). And then I pat the skin dry and rub with even more salt. Cover ears with foil and stuff the mouth to keep it from closing during roasting. Off it goes to the preheated 275 degree F oven for about 3 hrs (best to stick a meat thermometer) until the meat is 165 C and then blast the oven to 500 C for another 30-45 mins to crisp the skin. You want the skin to be pretty red, not just brown, in order to get the crackly skin.
In the end, I had a great bday party because of this piglet. There were also lots of leftover pork meat, that ended up becoming pozole (omg the drippings from this make such a powerful stock!), sisig and pupusas. I would definitely make this again after I find a good local source.
Thanks for reading! As Julia says... "Don't be afraid!"