Here at the Pantry we love to dig out old forgotten about recipes and at the same time make use of more economical cuts of meat. It is good to get to know your local butcher as they can really help with selecting meat cuts that are better value, a good butcher will also help with cooking suggestions. We don’t have a lot of space in the kitchen at The Pantry so it was great of Paul from Eric Tennants to offer to brine our pigs head for us, (a process of soaking meat in a salt water solution to firm the meat and season it).
Brawn is traditional recipe of pigs head set in its own jelly; now this description and handling the actual preparation may put a lot of people off, but I think the meat when cooked slowly is fantastic and beats pork loin or chops hands down in the flavour department.
There is a lot of meat available on a pigs head, from the tongue to the cheeks and even the ears. A pigs head won’t cost you much at all and will easily give you 10 generous portions of pâté which is great served with toasted bread and cornichons.
The recipe is quite time consuming but much of this is the simmering of the pigs head for up to 5 hours when you can get can potter on with other things.
1 pigs head
1 large onion
1 large leak
1 large carrot
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
2 bay leaves
A bunch of parsley stalks
2 pigs trotters
2 bulbs of garlic
- The butcher should have already prepared the pigs head for you if not then you can quite easily get to grips with any remaining hairs with a Bic razor.
- The pigs head needs to be first brought up to the boil to ensure any impurities are removed. Place the pigs head in a large stock pot and cover with cold water and bring to the boil, (if using trotters add them at this stage).
- Once this is done change the water and start again. This time adding all the vegetables and the herbs and spices.
- Once the water is boiling drop the heat to a gentle simmer, (you should never boil meat that you intend to eat as it will become tough) a gentle simmer is all that is needed. The simmering will also allow you to skim off any scum which will rise to the surface while cooking. The pigs head now needs to simmer until the flesh is giving and soft, this is anywhere between 3 and 5 hours depending on the size of the pigs head.
- Once cooked take off the heat and let the pigs head cool in the stock slightly.
- Remove from the stock and strain the liquid to a fresh sauce pan this can be reduced further if needed.
- When cool enough to handle take all meat of the head retain some of the fat to put through the brawn (optional).
- Take the skin of the tongue and chop up with a knife add to the rest of the meat.
- Check the seasoning of the meat remember that when cold the seasoning will be less intense. Then add some chopped parsley and a couple of ladles of the reduced stock, push into a terrine, individual ramekins or a traditional bowl shaped vessel, top up with the stock, chill and serve.
The remaining stock is fantastic in soups like pea and ham or minestrone.
To serve add toasted ciabatta or sourdough some nice pickles or cornichons.