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 porceddu 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.
Porceddu is a superlative and ancient recipe that I am positive will become a great joy for the entirety of TFD Nation!
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
- 11 pound piglet (after cleaning weight), cleaned by your butcher according to the instructions in the TFD BBQ God post
- 1 large jar stone-ground mustard (TFD likes Kosciusko brand)
- Inner flesh seasoning blend made from equal amounts of garlic and fresh thyme, blended
- 3 large bunches fresh sage leaves
- Stuffing Ingredients:
- 3 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into thick slices
- 1 fennel bulb, sliced
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 1 orange, sliced
- 6 garlic heads, papery outer skins removed
- 10 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
- 1 lemon
- 1 pound pork fat or salt pork, in one piece
- Finishing glaze:
- 1 ¾ cups dry white wine
- ¼ cup minced garlic
- ¼ cup white wine vinegar
- Finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 3 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
- ½ cup smoked paprika
- 1 pouch CERTO Fruit Pectin
- Dried herb twigs, thyme, oregano, mint, basil, apple wood chips, bay leaves, and marjoram to throw on the coals
- Myrtle leaves (strongly preferred) or a mixture of sage and bay leaves
- Make the glaze:
- Mix wine, garlic, vinegar and rosemary in a 3 or 4 quart saucepot. Stir in sugar. Add butter or margarine to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to full rolling boil that can’t be stirred down. Take the pot off the heat briefly and add the package of Certo and paprika. Boil for a minute exactly. Take off the heat and start to stir again for an additional five minutes. Use an immersion blender and make a smooth mixture with no chunks. Let cool and refrigerate.
- For the pig, coat the inside flesh of the pig with stone-ground mustard and then the herb blend made with garlic and thyme. Add Sage leaves on top of the herb blend. Pork tenderloins are inserted to replace the rib cage and ensure the proper shape of the porchetta when sitting belly-down. Add the other stuffing ingredients. Stitch up the pig per the master recipe instructions and place a lemon in its mouth.
- Cut small slits made all over the pig skin and stuff the garlic slivers pushed all the way in.
- Prepare a hardwood fire in a fire pit, grill, or smoker and let it burn for 3 hours, replenishing as needed with wood, until you have a good supply of hot coals – TFD prefers a fire made juniper and myrtle for his recipe. Do not use wood made of composite materials. You can also use regular lump charcoal of the highest quality, and add some well-soaked juniper and myrtle chips to the coals periodically to provide flavor.
- Affix the pig to a straight hard stick that you should be able to find lying around (this might take you 15 minutes) and place 20- inches in front of the fire, chest side towards the fire – TFD prefers a modern spit roaster for this. The pig should be leaning slightly towards the fire. Make sure there is a drip pan under the pig to catch the dripping fat. Again, please check the BBQ God post to see how to do this properly!
- Cook for 3 to 4 hours, basting with the salt pork or pork fat affixed to a meat fork. Dried herb twigs, thyme, oregano, mint, basil, apple wood chips, bay leaves, and marjoram should be on hand to periodically throw on the coals – all should be well-soaked to produce lots of smoke.
- Turn and continue roasting for another 3 to 4 hours. In the last 30 minutes or so, baste carefully with the paprika glaze – make sure it doesn’t burn! Test for doneness by pulling on one of the ears; it should almost come off. Let the pig sit for 30 minutes on a bed of myrtle or bay leaves before carving and serving.
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