Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Everything but the squeal.

So ends the saying that starts "How much of a pig can you eat?"

Today I road tested this adage by making brawn. Brawn is a "potted meat" or coarse pate which is also known by the rather unappetising name of Head Cheese.

The main ingredient of the dish is half a pigs head and a couple of trotters. I happened to have both of these staples in the freezer as they came with the half pig I bought two or three weeks ago. Now I have made brawn before and I know that it may have been an appealing dish 75 years ago or more when meat was a rare treat but to today's palates it is a little on the basic side and needs a little extra to make it an appetising cold cut.

That little extra oomph is provided by a piece of brisket that accompanies the pigs head. So, where do we start. First you need one of these............

I've left the eye in - it'll see you through the week
 Half a pigs head, two trotters and a small piece of brisket. Not the most attractive set of ingredients but stick with me. These are placed in a large pan of water with a can of dry cider, a load of chopped stock vegetables, salt, ground black pepper, a few black peppercorns, some ground nutmeg, bay leaves and a good bunch of parsley and thyme.

This is then left to simmer for a good two to three hours. At the end the "meat" is removed and the stock is left to reduce to about half of its original volume. While that is happening the meat is dismantled.There is a lot of material to be discarded; fat, gristle, bones and skin. The choice cuts are removed and shredded. The main pieces of meat are the brisket and the cheek muscles from the head. The trotters do give up a few morsels but are mainly there to make the stock and give up their gelatin content.

The shredded pork and beef is placed in a bowl and some of the reduced stock is added. A weighted plate sits on top of the brawn and it will be left overnight in the fridge to set.


The end result is a superb potted pork/beef cold cut that is great sliced with salad and pickles. Some of this will be frozen to enjoy at a later date.

The left over stock has an amazing flavour that puts an oxo cube to shame. This will be frozen as well and used in soups or stews later in the year.

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