Perfecting Cochon de Lait with John Folse

We invite you to come try our new John Folse inspired cochon de lait at our Acadian Thruway location. We slow-roast a suckling pig over a pecan wood fire everyday in the middle of the restaurant and serve it starting around 5:00pm. Come celebrate our Louisiana culinary heritage!

Ever since pigs were domesticated in what is now Turkey, people have delighted roasting whole pigs over open fires. Nothing can compare to the aroma of wood smoke infused with pork. Slow-roasting has long been a preferred method of cooking pork to obtain savory tastes and rich textures.

Cochon de lait is technically the French term for suckling pic, referring to a young animal, traditionally stuffed, roasted on a spit and served on special occasions. In Louisiana, while the origins are the same, cochon de lait has also come to mean the social event surrounding the roasting of a pig before an open hardwood fire and the feast that follows. Louisiana cannot lay claim to the custom of roasting suckling pig. This delicacy has been around for centuries and provided a festive centerpiece for many royal tables. It is also unclear how the custom first came to Louisiana and evolved into its current status. What is known is that the custom of roasting pigs in front of an open fire began in Louisiana more than a century ago and has since been popular throughout Cajun Country.

Local legend tells that veterans of Napoleon’s army brought the traditional preparation of cocoon de lait to Louisiana in the early 1800s. Many of those soldiers settled in a town in Avoyelles Parish they named Mansura after the site of their last major campaign in El Mansura, Egypt.  Since then, Mansura has been designated by the Louisiana Legislature as “La Capital du Cochon de lait.”

Normally, families cooked pigs in cochon de lait style as the centerpiece for holiday gatherings or special occasions. The pig, usually weighing less than 30 pounds, was sometimes cooked hanging from the fireplace in the kitchen. The most common method was to cook the pig outdoors over a pecan wood and sugarcane fire. The basic process of the cochon de lait has remained the same over the years, but today much larger pigs are often cooked for bigger gatherings. Pigs up to 200 pounds are regarded  as excellent for open-fire cooking.

Ever since its introduction to Louisiana, cochon de lait has slowly evolved based on the many different culinary influences of Native American, African, French, German, and Spanish cultures. In Louisiana, cochon de lait has always been about celebrating food and community—large families, groups of friends, and neighbors to this day gather to partake in this truly unique Cajun tradition.

Today, cochon de lait is alive and well in Louisiana thanks in part to the annual cochon de lait festival in Mansura and Louisiana chefs, such as John Folse, who have championed Cajun and Creole cooking traditions and introduced the ancient art of roasting sucking pigs over fire to new generations.

TJ Ribs is honored to help keep the cochon de lait torch burning bright. Thanks to the guidance and wisdom of legendary chef John Foles, TJ Ribs is able to share this part of our Louisiana heritage with our customers each and every day. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

 

The Perfect cochon de lait

Cochon De Lait

By Chef John D. Folse

The cochon de last is a Louisiana tradition and one of the main social events of the Cajun and Creoles. Remember that each pig is different and will require varying seasoning amounts and cooking times. Any measurements given here are approximate and will work best on a 50-pound pig.

Ingredients:

  • 1 50-pound pig
  • Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
  • Granulated garlic to taste
  • 4 cups melted butter
  • 2 bottles beer
  • 1 cup Louisiana hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup granulated garlic

Method:

Traditional Cochon de Lait starts with selecting the ideal, fresh suckling pig. A 25-75 pound pig (dressed out) is preferred. Make sure your butcher properly prepares the carcass for open-pit roasting.

Season the pig well inside and out with salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Combine butter, beer, hot sauce and 1/2 cup granulated garlic. Use more or less of each ingredient depending on the size of pig. Inject front and rear hams and tenderloin with this infused liquid. This signature seasoning process helps bring out the full flavor of the pig and enhance the natural juices, resulting in a full-flavored, tender and delicious pig. For best results, season the pig the day before roasting.

Using a meat saw, cut through backbone at neck and tail. Lay pig open flat. Wrap pig in wire mesh and secure it with wire chains or hooks 4 feet in front of a hardwood fire made preferably with oak or pecan wood. Remember, hot coals and radiant heat will cook the pig, not fire. The fire simply creates coals used for cooking.

Begin by placing pig hams down and bone side in. After first hour of cooking, flip pig front shoulders down and bone in. After After every hour, flip pig to ensure even cooking. You may wish to baste with your favorite marinade or more injection liquid while cooking. Estimate 1 hour of cooking time for every 10 pounds, but keep in mind that not all pigs will cook at the same rate. If fire is maintained, it will cook a 50-pound pig in 6 hours.

This method will  ensure a final masterpiece of smoke, herbs and swine. Bon appetite!

Oven-style cochon de lait

Although cocoon de last is traditionally prepared outdoors before an open fire, the same delicious results can be achieved in the home. By using a small sucking and your home oven, you can cook a wonderfully flavorful cocoon de last for your family. The oven-style cochon de lait recipe can be found in Chef John D. Folse’s book, The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cusine.

This method will  ensure a final masterpiece of smoke, herbs and swine. Bon appetite!

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