“Native” or Hybrid Piglet???
The native pigs supposedly have more flavor, less fat, more muscle and I suspect, more flavor. These are those black skinned and more scruffy looking piglets rather than the squeaky pink ones. It’s not so easy to find them in the markets or livestock dealers, you need to have your own piggery or know of a purveyor from the smaller cities outside Cebu, I think… I think the answer here is definitely native, IF you can find it.
Lechon de Leche or Lechon (Roast Suckling, no SUCKING pig / Roast pig)???
Lechon de leche means you roast a pig that is still sucking milk from it’s mother; as such it is a “Roast SUCKING Pig,” and NOT a Roast SUCKLING Pig, because the suckling pig is actually the mommy pig, not the baby pig (see Alan Davidson in the Oxford Companion to Food). Remember that bit of trivia the next time you are at a dinner, and some know-it-all but ill-informed foodie next to you translates Lechon de Leche as Roast Suckling Pig. You can casually say “you mean sucking pig, right?” Heeheehee. Sucking pigs are eaten at 3-6 weeks of age, and after that they start to eat solids, and in my book, are just called piglets or piggies. In Spanish, lechon refers to suckling or sucking pig, but now in the Philippines it is more broadly descriptive of the roasting process, on a spit in particular, so that Lechon Manok (should be Litson Manok) means a roasted whole chicken on a spit/rotisserie contraption.
I think the younger pigs have much less fat and a wonderful skin. However, if you are to feed a crowd, the larger pigs are necessary. For this first experiment, we got a pig that was some 8-9 weeks old and weighed in at roughly 15 kilos or so. It didn’t have much fat at all. This could easily have served 12-15 with very generous portions. For the purposes of future experiments, we will be mostly using 15-18 kilo pigs. Though there is one experiment I want to try on say a 25+ kilo pig with more body fat.
What do The Pigs Eat???
The commercial pigs we purchase will have been fed commercial feed, probably with all kinds of undesirable ingredients. Ideally, I would like to purchase a pig that we then feed for another 2-3 weeks with lots of good stuff like mangoes, chicos, vegetables, and other tasty things so that hopefully it will have a positive impact on the pork/meat. Conventional provincial wisdom has it that the piglet is only allowed to drink water the day before its slaughter, so that the intestines aren’t too crowded. I would have thought that the pig would be a bit stressed and hungry if it wasn’t fed… but I don’t know.
How Best to Kill the Pig???
Every single time I have seen a pig readied for the lechonan, it has been slit at the throat while it shrieks something fierce, and the blood drained out before it has its guts cleaned out. Now I don’t know if a stun gun or a quick burst of electricity is more humane, but I haven’t seen that latter version here. I guess one has to be as swift yet as safe as possible when the piglet is to be dispatched!