Cochon de Lait
Cochon de Lait literally
translates from French to English as "pig in milk", or it is called a "suckling
pig". A Cochon de Lait is basically a cajun pig roast of a whole young
pig. The pig is slow roasted for 6 to 12 hours. That is what
makes a Cochon de Lait an event rather than just cooking a meal.
It's an extended "male bonding", "story telling", "bull shooting", "beverage
of your choice drinking", "fire tending" event ! I learned how to roast
a pig from my late brother-in-law Ronnie Nezat. Click
for pictures of one of those early cochon de laits at Ronnie's hunting
camp on the banks of the Atchafalaya River.
25 to 100 pound young pig
injecting marinade (see recipe below)
cajun seasoning mix (homemade,
Chachere's or Zatarain's)
several heads of garlic
lots of wood
Preparing the Pig
Obtain a 25 to 100 pound young pig. I've usually
cooked about a 70-80 pound pig. The largest pig I ever cooked was
115 lb, which fed about 80 people.
||Cochon de lait - "pig in milk"
These are 80-100 pound pigs.
Seasoning the Pig
The pig needs to be butchered by scraping and not
skinning. The skin needs to be on the pig so the meat does not dry
If you do not want the little fellow looking at you
while its cooking, then cook it without the head. Personally, I consider
having the head on part of the presentation of a cochon de lait.
But by all means, remove the eyes.
Prepare a sturdy frame to spread and skewer the pig.
You will have to partially split the backbone of the rib cage from the
body cavity side in order to spread the pig flat. The pig needs
to be supported for its full length, or else it may fall apart when it
||Pig with the legs attached to a top and bottom
bar, with reinforcing wire for support.
Another method would be to sandwich the pig between
Methods of Cooking
This is the most important part. The pig needs
to be injected with a marinade, stuffed with garlic, and coated on all
sides with a seasoning mix.
About a quart of marinade is injected into all parts of the pig.
Use an injector needle that has holes on the side. I have never made
the same marinade twice, but it is always mixture containing a cajun seasoning
mix, garlic powder or juice, onion powder or juice, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire
sauce, and sometimes butter. For starters, try the following turkey
injecting recipe, without butter.
liquid garlic, 6 oz
liquid onion, 6 oz
liquid crab boil, 3 oz
Worcestershire sauce, 6 oz
Tabasco/red pepper sauce, 6 oz
cajun seasoning mix (homemade,
Chachere's or Zatarain's), 6 tbs
makes about 28 oz
Inject the marinade into all parts
Stuff Garlic: Peel the cloves
of garlic. Cut cloves in half lengthwise . Moisten
and coat the cloves in cajun seasoning mix. With a slender, sharp
knife, cut small slits in the skin and into the meat. Insert a 1/2
clove garlic in each slit. Insert garlic into all parts of the pig.
For my taste, you cannot overdo the garlic!
Coat with Cajun Seasoning Mix:
Coat all surfaces with a good cajun seasoning mix (homemade,
Chachere's or Zatarain's).
Allow the pig to marinade in a cooler or on ice at least overnight, and
longer if possible.
The method I use is a cooking shed
made out of tin. The shed needs to be about 4-6 feet wide,
about 6 feet tall, and 6-8 feet deep. You can build the three sides
and top as panels, so the shed can be quickly assembled and disassembled.
A rotisserie needs to be mounted above an opening at the front of
the shed, and above the tin so it is out of the heat. You can use a small
electric rotisserie like those available for gas barbecue pits .
The pig needs to be hung from a rotisserie so it constantly turns at a
slow speed. This method requires a lot of logs because the fire has
to burn for a half day or more - so be prepared.
First generation cooking shed at a
Floriculture Club lake outing in the 1980s
"New and Improved" cooking shed at the 2002
Note: Chicken cooking on a rod in the upper right,
and a rack cooking a brisket in the upper left of the shed. Click
for larger still image.
My good friend, the late Gene Duos, built a metal lined plywood box with
racks inside to lay the pig, or what ever you're cooking. The top
is metal and double walled, containing a propane burner over a metal plate.
Wood chips are laid on the metal plate to create the smoke and the burner
can be regulated to adjust the temperature. The picture below
shows Gene and his son, the late Barry Duos, cooking pig in his Cajun Microwave
for a undergraduate club outing on South Padre Island. Boy has he cooked
some good food in the old box!
||Gene (right) and Barry (left) Duos, and Gene's
Cooking the Pig
Some hang the pig from a frame, such as a swing set,
and the pig is rotisseried next to or above
an open fire.
Some roast the
pig on a parallel rack suspended above a coal filled ground pit.
Start the fire in the back of the shed. Let the fire burn until you
have good coals to keep the logs burning.
Hang the pig and start the rotisserie.
Keep enough wood on the fire so it is hot enough that you can stand or
hold your hand by the pig for only 5 or 10 seconds. I have no idea what
temperature that would be (I'll measure it next time), but I'm guessing
about 180 to 200 oF. It's not a bad idea to start out
with a pretty hot fire to get the outside of the pig up to temperature
quickly, then let the fire die down a bit for the rest of the cooking period.
Flip the pig and hang it from the other side every couple of hours so the
pig will cook evenly.
Now comes the easy part. Sit back, drink a cold beverage, throw some
wood on the fire every now and then, tell some bad jokes, and enjoy the
company of your friends.
Cook the pig until the skin is golden brown,
starts cracking, and the meat
starts drawing away from the bones. This can be anywhere from
6 to 12 hours, depending on how hot you kept the fire and the size of the
If you like, you can insert a meat thermometer into the hind quarter to
check the internal temperature. Cookbooks indicate a temperature
of of 170 oF is desired for pork. However, the only time
I ever measured the internal temperature, it never went above 155 oF
, yet the pig was cooked through-out and the meat was falling off the bones.
When our shop built the last cooking
shed, I had them hang a rod in the top of the shed to skew chickens
and hang sausage, and hang a rack to cook briskets.
Cooking brisket to go with the pork
Cooking chicken to feed the cooks
Carving and Serving
The chickens and sausage are to feed the cooks while
cooking the pig, and the briskets are done about the time the pig is done.
Lay the cooked pig on a flat surface, skin side down. Filet the meat
off the bone and away from the skin.
Enjoy the feast!