My Citizens, we are now more than ½ way through our week of international whole pig recipes in celebration of the “Divine Swine”, the Chinese New Year of the Earth Pig! Today, we visit the legendarily beautiful island of Sardinia for their take on this classic form of cookery!
The cuisine of Sardinia is the traditional cuisine of the island of Sardinia, and the expression of its culinary art. It is characterized by its own variety, and by the fact of having been enriched through a number of interactions with the other Mediterranean cultures while retaining its own identity.
Sardinia’s food culture is strictly divided into food from the land and food from the sea, reflecting the island’s historical vicissitudes and especially its geographic landscapes, spacing from the coastline to the ragged mountains of the interior.
The Sardinian cuisine is considered part of the Mediterranean diet, a nutritional model that was proclaimed by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage.
Porchetta or porcetto, in Sardinian porceddu or porcheddu, the suckling pig of about 4 – 5 kg or twenty days, cooked slowly on a spit, on grills and flavored after cooking with myrtle or rosemary. This roast is a classic of Sardinian pastoral cuisine – before attempting this dish, please read all about how to do a whole hog cook here.
A research paper abstract I found online cites:
Su porceddu, the roast suckling pig, is widely regarded as the Sardinian dish of choice – the dish that identifies Sardinians.
The recognition of its role, its pervasive presence on tables at home and in restaurants, as well as its transformation, in the discourses of Sardinians and of foreign observers, into a sign of Sardinianness and into a collective stereotype, have a long history of deeply intertwined material, religious, economical, cultural, and political dimensions.
As further elucidated on cliffordawright.com:
The slaughter of the pig across the northern Mediterranean is a time of celebration. The whole family and the village partake in the festivities.
Although the moment of slaughter is a solemn affair, it immediately turns joyous when Sardinians clean the pig for roasting, as in this porceddu. If the pig is not to be spit-roasted, it is then butchered, with use found for every part of the pig.
Both the farmer and his wife make lard and mustela (pancetta) to season cabbage, wild fennel, or chicory minestrone. The trotter might be stuffed and the head boiled and served as a delicacy. The ham is used to make prosciutto, and the intestines cleaned to make sausages. The blood, carefully collected at the time of slaughter as it drains from the pig, is mixed with pine nuts, raisins, and honey to become a delicious sweet.
There are two ways in which this traditional suckling pig is prepared. For the first method, a large pit is dug in the ground and covered with rocks. A large fire is built upon the rocks, and when it has burned for many hours, the pig is set upon it and covered with hot coals, which are then covered with myrtle branches.
The earth is piled on top, leaving no evidence of what is happening under the ground. This method was typical of the bandits who once populated the desolate reaches of the island’s interior.
In the second method, a fire is built with aromatic woods such as juniper, mastic, olive, arbutus, or holm oak. The pig is splayed and affixed to a large strong stick that is pushed into the ground in front of the fire, and basted with a chunk of pork fat. Once the pig is done, it is smothered with myrtle leaves and left for 30 minutes before carving.
In place of the exotic woods, build a fire with whatever wood you have available. Once you begin to roast the pig, throw any combination of leftover nut shells, dried herb twigs such as thyme, marjoram, oregano, mint, or basil, bay leaves, or water-soaked apple wood chips onto the fire to create an aromatic smoke. In this country, myrtle is used only for ornamental plant purposes and it is unlikely you will find pesticide-free myrtle. After experimenting I believe that the closest thing to myrtle is a mixture of bay and sage leaves. If unavailable, use rosemary leaves to smother the finished pig.
Citizens, I have managed to find a source for dried wild Myrtle leaves to help you achieve the authentic flavor – you can buy them in quantity here. You can buy juniper wood pieces here if you don’t have a local source. You can buy pesticide-free Myrtle twigs (and fresh leaves in the Spring and Summer!) here.
This is a superlative and ancient recipe that I am positive will become a great joy for the entirety of TFD Nation!
Battle on – The Generalissimo