Then Serve It Forth…

By Lady Rosemary Willowwood de Ste. Anne

By June mostof the crops are in, and time comes for repairing and building around the farmstead. Thomas Tusser recommends in his “Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry” that the farmer build sheds and other less permanent structures. “So likewise a hovell will serve for a roome. to stack on the peason when harvest shall coome. And serve thee in winter, more over than that, to shut up thy porklings thou mindest to fat.” This was important not only for storing the harvested dried peas (“peason”), but because through most of the middle ages, pigs were turned loose into the forest to forage on roots and beech-mast, then rounded up in the winter for slaughter. If one of the sows came back with some young, the hovel (we now spell it with only one “L”) served as a place to confine the half-wild piglets until they could be fattened and culled. Suckling pig was a real feast for the farmer and family.

“Stuffed Pigling (Pourcelet Farci)”
from Le Menagier de Paris [The Goodman of Paris], c. 1393
Translation by Power and Colton

Let the pig be killed by cutting his throat and scalded in boiling water and then skinned; then take the lean meat and throw away the feet and entrails of the pig and set him to boil in water; and take twenty eggs and boil them hard and chestnuts boiled in water and peeled. Then take the yolks of the eggs, the chestnuts, some fine old cheeseand the meat of a cooked leg of pork and chop them up and bray them with a great plenty of saffron and ginger powder mixed with the meat; and if your meat becometh too hard, soften it with yolks of eggs. And open not your pig by the belly but across the shoulders and with the smallest opening you may; then put him on the spit and afterwards put your stuffing into him and sew him up with a big needle; and let him be eaten either with yellow pepper sauce or with cameline in summer.

TRANSLATION: No translation necessary. Some of the terms will be treated more fully in the glossary

REALIZATION: Before beginning with the recipe, a word or two on the subject of suckling pig. You can still order these from a large butcher shop, but you better be planning a large party. Depending on how long the piglet was allowed to suckle, it could weigh anywhere from 12-35 pounds. That is an excessive undertaking for all but huge group, even on the lower end of the scale. I will discuss the recipe as though I were doing a small suckling pig, then offer a suggestion or two for a more modest undertaking, using only a part of a more adult pig.

For a 10-pound pig, you will need about 9 cups of stuffing. Hardboil a dozen eggs, peel and remove the yolks. Chop the yolks, 2 cups cooked chestnuts, mix with two pounds of mild pork sausage. If this amount will not lightly stuff your pig, you may bulk out the amount with celery or onions, if you use a savory sauce like the yellow pepper sauce, or with apples, celery or bread cubes if you wish to serve the pig with cameline sauce. Stuff the pig lightly and sew the opening up tightly with a heavy needle abd twine. Turkey lacers will not do here, as you want to keep as much juice inside the pig as possible, so a tight closure is desirable. Unlike the Goodman’s skinned pig, the one you get from the butcher will have the skin still on, which makes the closure easier. If you have a huge barbecue and lots of time, the pig can be grilled for best flavor. If a barbecue is not available, the pig may be roasted in the oven. Cover the ears and tail with foil to prevent scorching of these delicate parts. If you plan to serve the critter with the traditional apple in its mouth, you will need to hold the mouth open with a block of wood during cooking. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees; roast the pig for 15 minutes, then lower the oven to 350 degrees. Roast the pig for 5-6 hours (really!), figuring about 30 minutes per pound uncluding the stuffing. Baste occasionally with the drippings. Cook to 185° on a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of one of the hams, removing the foil during the last 30 minutes of cooking to even the color. If barbecued, the roasting should be done in a covered barbecue by indirect heat, basting with the drippings.

GLOSSARY:

Yellow Pepper Sauce: A sauce that was “peppery” from ginger and saffron, but actually contained no pepper. Thickening was from breadcrumbs soaked in broth of meat or vegetables, and sharpened with vinegar after it boiled.

Cameline: A sauce of ginger, cinnamon, saffron and half a nutmeg, moistened with wine. Thickening was from white breadcrumbs moistened in water and pounded smooth in a mortar. In winter the sauce was boiled with brown sugar; in summer they mixed it the same way, but the sauce was not boiled, making it somewhat milder.