cookBAVARIAN ROAST SUCKLING PIG (Bayrisches Spanferkel)


11- to 14-pound suckling pig
caraway seeds
1 cup melted butter or bacon fat, or pound sliced or unsliced bacon
1 bottle beer, preferably dark
1 to 2 cups water or stock, if necessary
1 tablespoon flour or 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in a little cold water
cup sour cream (optional)

In Germany, suckling pig is seared in a hot oven and then roasted in moderate heat. To do this preheat oven to 450 F and after 20 minutes, reduce heat to 350F. Nevertheless I have found that pigs brown more evenly and shrink less if roasted at even, moderate temperature throughout. To do this, preheat oven to 350 and roast, following instructions below. Allow 25 to 30 minutes per pound for roasting. The meat should be white, without any pink in the juices.

Have the pig eviscerated and cleaned by your butcher. Wash it well under running cold water and pat off excess moisture with paper towel. If you do this a day or hours ahead and pig has dried, wipe with damp cloth before seasoning so moisture holds the spices onto skin. Rub inside of pig with salt, marjoram and caraway seeds. Since this pig will not be stuffed, it will sink in slightly as it roasts, so stuff body cavity firmly with crumpled aluminum foil or clean white wrapping paper. This is only necessary for appearance of pig when served. The opening along bottom of pig does not have to be trussed closed. Tie front legs forward so feet come under the head. To tie back legs forward, bring them around under body on each side. Tie securely with kitchen string so they remain in place during roasting. Rub outside of pig with salt, marjoram and caraway seeds. Cover ears and tail with greased brown paper or double thicknesses of aluminum foil to keep from burning. Prop the mouth open with a block of wood or raw potato, so that you will be able to stuff it with an apple or lemon later. Pierce skin all over with a sharp-pronged fork, a larding needle or a skewer, so fat will drain off.

Lay pig on a rack or across two long wooden inverted spoons in open roasting pan. Pour in enough water to cover bottom of pan. To keep pig well greased as it roasts, either brush it every 10 to 15 minutes with melted butter or bacon fat, or lay strips of bacon across its back and replace them as they become crisp; or rub pig with a large, unsliced chunk of bacon. Place pig in a preheated oven and allow 25 to 30 minutes per pound for roasting, using either searing or even-temperature method described above. Brush or rub with fat every 10 to 15 minutes and add more water to pan as needed. When you baste, prick skin again to keep fat draining. If pig browns too quickly, cover it with greased brown paper or a double thickness of aluminum foil and lift this cover for basting. When there is still hour cooking time left, remove paper from ears and tail, and from pig itself if it has been covered. Continue roasting and baste 4 or 5 times with beer to give skin a crisp golden glaze.

To serve pig, cut trussing from legs and place pig on a large wooden carving board or platter. Remove the block or potato from mouth and put in a whole small apple or unpeeled lemon. Show whole pig at the table, but unless you are very skilled and experienced, carve in kitchen. If you want to carve it at the table, cut a circle around the neck, and cover this with a wreath of leaves or, at Christmas, holly.

In Bavaria, a very simple gravy is served with this. Skim excess fat from pan juices and add some water or stock if there is very little gravy left. Bring to a boil in roasting pan on stove and scrape coagulated pan juices into gravy with a wooden spoon. Thicken by stirring in flour or cornstarch dissolved in cold water and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, or until sauce is smooth and thick. Sour cream can be stirred in for creamier sauce. Season as needed and serve in heated sauce-boat.

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