My butcher friend James takes some pleasure out of things that make others a bit squeamish. He regaled me with tales of tying a piece of string to the ear of a pig’s head, displayed in their shop window. The grown men behind the counter, taking great sport out of frightening both young and old with a wiggling ear. While chatting, I regaled James with tales of my recent pigs trotter adventures. He asked me if I had ever cooked a pig’s head.
I hadn’t. But, now I have. The thought of preparing some lovely brawn got me over my natural squeamishness about such things and I collected a free range pig’s head to get things underway.
Side note on squeamishness: If by any chance you have wandered in here to get out of the rain or if you think that there isn’t going to be any gory stuff on a blog called ‘One Man’s Meat’, you need to steel yourself for the food preparation shots. It’s pretty extreme by modern, sanitised standards. You have been warned.
First, get a pig’s head and pop it into a large (very large) saucepan. Cover it with water and bring it to the boil.
Pour off the resulting scummy water and replace with fresh water. Prepare a tray of aromatics.
When the aromatics have been added, return the pot to a boil and reduce to a gentle simmer. Let it simmer for a good three to four hours.
Second warning on the gruesome stuff: I just thought you should be notified a second time. It gets a lot worse from here. Read on at your own discretion.
Let the head cool in the pot until it is OK to handle. Then lift it out and take the knife to it.
Next, peel off the skin and separate the lean meat from the fat. There really is no way of doing this but by hand. I wore gloves.
In the end, I had just shy of a kilo of useable meat. Everything else, bar the skull went back into the pot.
I simmered this for another couple of hours before removing the gory bits and the remaining vegetables. Next, I strained the stock through a sieve and then through muslin.
I then reduced the stock by about two-thirds until I had a rich, pork smelling, gelatinous liquid. I strained this once more through muslin.
The stock needs to be kept warm, to prevent it setting.
Next, I cut some fresh herbs from the garden and got a mango from the fruit bowl.
I sliced the herbs nice and small. I sliced the mango into slivers and placed enough of them to cover the bottom of a loaf tin, lined with cling film.
Next I seasoned the pork with lots of black pepper. I then added another layer of mango, a layer of meat, a layer of black pepper and a layer of parsley. I finished it off with another layer of pork and parsley.
I did something similar to a second loaf tin, substituting chives and sage for the mango and parsley. Both tins were placed in the fridge overnight. The next day, we enjoyed some truly delicious terrine for our lunch. (The addition of the mango makes it a terrine, a fancy version of traditional Irish brawn). There was enough to feed half the crew at the office (the half who weren’t grossed out by the prep shots).
The Wife favoured the more traditional herb and pork brawn. I went with the more exotic mango version.
It would be churlish of me to not show a plated shot of a traditional brawn, on a rustic plate, with some old cutlery, on some sacking. All to create a nice traditional feel.
Should you happen to find yourself in possession of a big pig’s head, you could do worse than preparing a nice terrine or traditional brawn, either or both will be delicious.
Footnote: There is one additional benefit to preparing these loafs of loveliness. I managed to squeeze a tray of pork ‘flavour bombs’ for use with other dishes. They are living (for the time being) in our freezer.