I think a suckling pig is a real show-stopper and you might be surprised to hear that a good suckling pig is no more expensive than a good turkey. If you’re going to give it a bash, just make sure you measure your oven and your largest baking tray before ordering your meat.
If your oven is too small for a whole suckling pig, ask your butcher to order you a neck end. It can be cooked in exactly the same way as this recipe here. Free-range or organic suckling pigs can be hard to track down, but do have a go.
It’s best to do all of the prep the night before if you have the chance. Start by scoring the pig or neck end. Set a Stanley knife so the blade is only a centimetre deep and score your pig all over about 2cm apart from each other. Be careful not to score so deep that you cut into the meat; you only want to score the fat. If you find this part a bit daunting you can always ask your butcher to do it for you, but I’d recommend having a go as it’s really quite easy.
Next, rub the scored pig all over with the Christmas rub and leave in the fridge overnight. This will give you wonderfully flavoured meat and brilliant crispy crackling.
Preheat the oven to its hottest setting and, if using a whole pig, pop a clementine into its mouth and cover the ears and tail with a double layer of foil to protect these more delicate areas. Place your pig or neck end on a roasting tray in your screaming-hot oven, then turn it down to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 and cook for about 4½ hours. With 1½ hours to go, add your chopped veg to the tray and pop it back into the oven.
For the last 10 minutes of cooking, glaze the pig or neck end with the marmalade, spooning it over generously to make sure you cover over the whole pig. Sprinkle it well with black pepper and put back into the oven to finish. Once done, allow to cool a little, then carefully transfer to a board, cover loosely with tin foil and leave to rest while you get on with your gravy.
To make the gravy, tip your roasting tray at an angle and spoon off most of the fat. Place the tray over a medium heat and add a couple of spoonfuls of flour. Stir it around, scraping all that goodness from the bottom of the tray. Cook it out for a minute or two, then use a potato masher to mash up all the veg. Next, add the port or red wine and about 500ml of the stock. Simmer until you have a consistency you like, then sieve the gravy, again making sure you push that lovely flavour right through the sieve. Remember, you can always loosen it with a little extra stock if you wish.
Shred the pork meat on to a beautiful large platter with plenty of good-sized chunks of crackling for everyone to tuck into. It will be absolutely delicious served with the hot gravy and whole roasted apples.