Hello! Becky has pointed out I should introduce myself and make it clear I’m not her. I’m Josh, Becky’s glamorous assistant in green living. Errr. That’s that, for now.
Warning: The rest of this post includes (well, is, really) description and pictures of the creation of a pig’s head terrine (aka brawn). May not be appropriate for the squeamish among you!
On Wednesday we visited a local butcher who is preparing our pigs for various customers, including half a pig for us. Apart from taking a look at the operation and giving him our instructions on what cuts we wanted, we were there to pick up a pig’s head (not half a head – it turns out most people don’t want theirs!) to turn into brawn, which is a sort of terrine. In addition to the head, we took away a couple of trotters which are also needed for the recipe.
Today I started the process. I had frozen the head for a couple of days, and stupidly forgot to defrost it, which left me handling freezing cold chunks of pig head – not an experience I recommend. The head had already been cut up by the butcher, which gave me an interesting anatomy lesson trying to work out which bit had come from where. If you look closely in the picture below you may be able to make out teeth, tongue, the soft palate and even eyelashes.
According to Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall, who is my guru for these sorts of things, one must first remove any “bristles” (which I take to mean any hair at all) and clean out any ear wax. In theory the latter requires you to cut off the ear first, but our butcher had done this for us (and it would appear, sadly, thrown away the ear). You can see below a picture of the pig’s tiny ear ‘ole, and some lovely bristles which I removed with a razor. The eagle-eyed may recognise it as a gilette mach 3; only the best for our pigs. I can report that shaving a pig is a strange experience but not especially difficult.
Thus trimmed, the head was placed in brine for 24 hours. I packed the bits into the bottom of a pan (for this I needed a truly prodigious pan – our 6L stockpot was not quite up to the task, so I ended up using our jam making pot), and measured out enough cold water to cover, which turned out to be 4 litres. I then removed the head and added salt, which Hugh tells me should be between 250 and 330 grams per litre of water. I added 1250g.
There followed a good deal of stirring. Salt doesn’t dissolve particularly quickly in cold water, and I didn’t fancy using hot water and then waiting for it to cool before putting the meat in. It didn’t take more than about 10 minutes for the salt to dissolve though.
Once done, the pig’s head went back in. Alarmingly (but unsurprisingly in retrospect) the head sunk in the cold water but floated in the brine, meaning carefully measuring just enough water to cover the meat was no longer effective. I weighted it down with a plate and a couple of tins of chick peas (I am sure baked beans would also have worked but would, I feel, have been less appropriate for this blog).
Next: the cooking bit.