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Suckling pig, a succulent traditional Spanish dish

Wiki Spanish Food editorial team

Cochinillo, or suckling pig, is a piglet that is slaughtered before it's three or four weeks old, when it weighs barely six or seven kilos. It is usually roasted, which makes the meat extraordinarily tender. Eating it is a truly interesting pastime, not only for locals, but also for many tourists. It has always been very popular, almost since it became a recurring dish at large medieval banquets.

Suckling pig is emblematic of traditional cuisine from Arévalo. Gastronome Julio Escobar highlights that town, in Ávila, along with the province of Segovia, as the best locations to discover this delicious dish. Cándido restaurant in Segovia has perhaps been its greatest proponent.

A traditional style from the 15th century

Although Cándido made it fashionable to carve the pig with the edge of a plate, which was later smashed before customers as part of a spectacle, the traditional method for breaking it into pieces dates back to the 15th century.  However, as other famous restaurants like Duque and José María know, the real key to this recipe's success is not so much its preparation, which is very simple, but, rather, the raw material.  

Suckling pig meat is very interesting from a nutritional standpoint: it has less fat than an adult pig, around 40% less, with the result that it does not increase cholesterol levels. Its meat is pink or pale red, and it has a fresh smell, like a young, unweaned animal. Its texture is firm, but not hard.

The Quality Guarantee regulation

Only pigs born in Segovia province on registered farms, such as those in Cuéllar and Santa María La Real de Nieva, are eligible for the Suckling Pig from Segovia Quality Guarantee.

Suckling pigs with the guarantee have only been fed milk. Purists also recommend including piglets raised the old-fashioned way, with a diet of top-quality feed and grains, and sometimes even cabbage and cooked potatoes. That's what makes the flesh so extraordinarily tender.

During roasting, the only ingredients allowed are water and salt, as the natural layer of fat on the Segovian pig has to be eliminated during the cooking process. Once roasted, it cannot be reheated. They secret to the suckling pig's success is the quality of its meat.

Wines from Ribera del Duero and Valtiendas

Suckling pig should be paired with a good wine, and there is a wide range of possibilities depending on the method of preparation. A perfect option would be a red wine from Ribera de Duero or Valtiendas, in Segovia, which has been aged in the cask and which doesn't overwhelm the subtle aroma of the meat but which has a bit of body that withstands the intensity on the palate.

We recommend a few places to experience the magic of cochinillo, starting with its home, Segovia, and the most traditional restaurants—CÁNDIDO, DUQUE and JOSE MARIA—which have many years of experience in preparing this dish and in delighting locals and tourists alike. These restaurants are the most popular among tourists in Segovia.

In Arévalo, Ávila, the other prime spot for this dish, ASADOR SIBONEY and ASADOR LAS CUBAS are the restaurants to visit for the best suckling pig.

However, there are other provinces in the region where you can find this dish in all its glory. In Medina del Campo, Valladolid, CONTINENTAL restaurant serves traditional-style roast suckling pig.

And, unsurprisingly, it's also available in many eateries in Madrid. One of the most famous restaurants, and the oldest in the world (inaugurated in 1725) according to the Guinness World Records, is CASA BOTIN, next to Plaza Mayor, where cochinillo is the specialty. At COQUE, in Humanes, the Sandoval brothers prepare a delicious version by roasting it over holm oak firewood in a special, cutting-edge oven.

ADDRESSES

CÁNDIDO. Pza del Azoguejo, 5. Tel.: 921 425 911.  Segovia.

DUQUE. Cervantes, 12. Tel.: 921 462 482. Segovia

JOSE MARIA. Cronista Lecea 11. Tel.: 921 461 111. Segovia

ASADOR SIBONEY. Figones, 9, Tel.:920 301 523. Arévalo. Ávila.

LAS CUBAS. Figones, 4. Tel.: 920 301 523. Arévalo. Ávila.

CONTINENTAL. Pza. Mayor de la Hispanidad, 15. Tel.: 983 801 014. Medina del Campo. Valladolid.

BOTIN. Cuchilleros, 17. Tel.: 913 664 217. Madrid

COQUE. Francisco Encina, 8. Tel.: 916 040 202  Humanes. Madrid

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11/12/2014