One by one, the porketta roasts are sliced, garlic and fennel inserted, and then covered with a pigskin wrap and crossed with thick twine to hold it all together.
Babe Oliva has prepared thousands of these roasts in his lifetime. He explains the importance of each step: the pig's skin keeps the meat moist. The fennel and garlic, and salt and pepper, add a nice flavor.
Porketta is a traditional Italian roast, popular in Milford year-round, but especially at the holidays. Oliva, 82, prepared four of the 6- to 7-pound roasts in just a few minutes Tuesday. The market will sell about 30 of them by the time it closes Wednesday night for Thanksgiving.
That's just a warmup. Two- to three-hundred of the roasts will be sold at Christmas, for holiday parties, dinners and family gatherings.
The next six weeks will be the market's busiest of the year, like tax season at an accountant's office. The phone rings constantly. People come and go. Most customers know the Olivas by first names. People planning holiday parties, family dinners, office parties, have already started calling, placing orders. The first of the large holiday parties to be catered by the market will be held this weekend, said Nick Oliva, the market's general manager.
Marla Lombard, a Realtor, stopped by the market for some dinner to go Tuesday.
"They have the best food here," she said, explaining that Oliva's is her go-to place for food for her broker Open Houses, in which she hosts other real estate agents who examine a property, then give the listing agent feedback.
"If you feed them, more of them come," she explained. Lombard always makes sure to advertise the food: "luncheon from Oliva's." So even more come.
The day before Thanksgiving at the market will be hectic. About 20 turkey dinners, fully prepared and pre-sliced, will move through the door. Many more people will discover they want something extra, and stop by. Nick Oliva explained the most popular items for Thanksgiving are the side dishes: butternut squash, and two soups: Chicken pastina and pasta and beans.
The selection of breads will be remain the same, with a few additions for the holiday. On Wednesday morning, Oliva plans to make cinnamon rolls.
Best to get there early.