Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Lucky Pigs for the New Year and Stuffed Belly Pork with Smoked Ham

Whilst looking for images for the New Year I came across lots of vintage postcards depicting lucky pigs. My curiosity roused, I decided to find out more about them. Apparently the New Year Lucky Pig (Glucksschwein) is Teutonic in origin and is a lucky symbol across Germany and Austria. Sources say that it was once popular in England and Ireland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I've never heard of this before and asked my elderly relatives if they can remember anything about it as children but they can't. However it's still used in the USA.

Pigs have been symbols of strength, wealth and fertility since ancient times – the Norse goddess Freyja rode a boar with golden bristles and pigs were sacred to her. Lucky pigs made from marzipan, sugar, fudge, chocolate or cookie dough are traditionally given in Germany as a gift on New Year's Eve. In Austria suckling pig is served on New Year's Day and often the table is decorated with sweet Lucky Pigs. The four leaf clover is also another symbol used with the Lucky Pig and sometimes green peppermint ice cream is served in the shape of a four leaf clover after the roast pig course. I wonder if this was inspired by the saying 'happy as a pig in clover'?

Dutch superstition says that eating pork on New Year’s Day brings good luck because a pig roots forward to look for its food, while chickens scratch backward and cows stand still. In Norway and Denmark, a tradition involves a rice pudding or porridge with a whole almond baked inside. The person who finds the almond in their dish receives a Lucky Pig as a prize.

A common saying in Germany is 'ich habe Schwein gehabt' (I have had pig), which means 'I've been lucky!' The saying is thought to have come about as you were considered lucky to have fattened up a pig, which meant you would have meat to survive the winter. The pig's status as a lucky charm in Germany is also supposed to date back to old decks of playing cards in which the Ace was known as 'die Sau' (a sow).

There is a mouthwatering recipe for Stuffed Belly Pork (Der Gefuellte Schweinebauch) that might be fun to try out over the New Year. Who knows it might bring you a little luck too!

Der Gefuellte Schweinebauch

1 kg belly pork
salt and black pepper to taste
1 swede, cubed
1 onion, quartered

2 cloves garlic, crushed


100g beef mince
100g smoked ham
100g breadcrumbs
1 bunch fresh parsley
pinch of sugar
handful of fresh marjoram
1 onion, finely diced

Cut a deep pocket into the belly pork. Mix the stuffing ingredients together in a bowl and stuff the pocket in the belly pork. Tie or sew the pocket shut with culinary string. Score the skin of the belly pork with a sharp knife and rub with salt so that it will form crackling as it roasts. Place in a deep roasting tin with the swede, onion and garlic cloves. Roast in an oven at 190ºC until the skin is crispy. Serve with mashed potatoes, the vegetables cooked with roast and gravy made from the juices in the pan.

Wine Pairing

Belly pork is actually the cut that produces streaky bacon or pancetta and Rosé pairs very well with these as well as pork, ham and gammon. Either Chateau Lamothe Vincent Rosé or Chateau Roques du Mauriac would be a good choice!

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