Catholic Recipe: Roast Suckling Pig
There are of course households in which the New Year's family reunion and dinner menu are traditional and inviolable. But for those open to suggestion, we offer a dinner built about a central dish of suckling pig, the standard New Year's roast in many European countries. Usually a bright red apple or an orange is put in the pig's snout, although the Hungarian custom is to put in a four leaf clover. Around the pig's pate is often placed a wreath of bay leaves.
The European side dishes which accompany the New Year's suckling pig are usually heavy and a bit complicated. We would suggest fluffy mashed potatoes covered with finely chopped onions slightly browned in butter, a dish of Brussels sprouts surrounded with braised chestnuts, and a sharp green salad. The dessert might well be an Apple Florentine which hails from seventeenth-century England. According to the old recipe, this was a deep-dish apple pie baked in a huge pewter or Sheffield plate, filled with "good baking apples, sugar and lemon to the very brim." When baked and before serving, the rich crust was taken off and cut into triangular pieces ready to be replaced, but before this was done a full quart of well-spiced ale, "quite hissing hot," was poured over the apples. We might follow the same instructions but substitute hot cider for the ale.
Clean the pig carefully. Insert a piece of wood into its mouth to keep it open while roasting. Sage and onion dressing is traditional, but you might use a prune-apple stuffing or a sausage stuffing. Stuff your pig, truss and skewer it. Make 4 parallel slits about 3 inches long on each side of the backbone. Place on a rack, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper, brush with melted butter, and dust with flour. Roast for fifteen minutes at 480° F.; then reduce heat to 350° F. and continue roasting, allowing thirty minutes to the pound. If you wish to have the skin soft, baste every fifteen minutes with hot stock; if crisp (and it's better that way), baste with melted butter. When the roast is ready, remove to a hot serving platter. Remove the piece of wood from the mouth, replace with a bright red apple and insert cranberries for eyes. Finally crown with a wreath of bay leaves. The ears and tail have a tendency to burn, so wrap them carefully in buttered paper which should be removed during the last half hour of roasting.
Recipe Source: Feast Day Cookbook by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger, David McKay Company, Inc., New York, 1951