It’s a lot of work… said the butcher as he handed me the pigs head. I smiled, shrugged and took the plastic bag. I needed a weekend project to beat the January blues, and this seemed ideal. The plan was (1) Friday night – clean and brine the head for 24 hours (2) Saturday – boil it, strip the skull down and leave to set (3) Sunday – eat like a pig…
Lets be honest here, it’s intimidating. Sitting there on the kitchen counter, seeping a little blood. I pulled on the kitchen gloves and started to shave the head, little piggy black bristles falling away. Got an old toothbrush and brushed out the ears, snout and teeth. Shudder. The practicality of it all just about overcoming the oddness. The head, once cleaned, was put in a large plastic bucket, covered with a salty brine and left to soak overnight.
Saturday lunchtime, after rinsing off the brine, I put the pig into a large stockpot filled with water and some cloves, star anise, and peppercorns. For the next 6 hours, the pot was kept at barely a simmer. Impurities floated to the top and were skimmed off. The brains liquefied into the stock along with all the bone headed goodness which when reduced would be the jelly to hold the terrine together.
After about 6 or 7 hours, the head was removed and the stock brought to rolling boil to reduce down.
Back on with the rubber kitchen gloves to strip the meat from the head, which was no trouble, as the meat easily fell away from the bone. You can pretty much figure out what’s edible and what’s not as you go along. When the meat was stripped I mixed in a bunch of roughly shredded parsley leaves and spooned the head meat into a cling film lined dish. Poured over the gelatinous reduced stock which when cooled would set the terrine, and put it in the fridge overnight.
…and on the 3rd day, the terrine was set. I ate this over the course of about 4 or 5 days. Slices served at room temperature – to smush into toasted sourdough bread for breakfast. Thick slices cut and served with fried egg, roasted chicory and a pickle water vinaigrette for lunch. I even boiled a slice in a pint of water until it fell apart and became the stock base for a ramen noodle dish.
My personal favourite was when nuggets were carved out of the terrine, floured, egged, crumbed and shallow fried until crisp. The heat from the frying melts the terrine a little. So when you bite into it, the hot slightly liquid jelly and head meat bursts in your mouth. These were simply served with quick pickled red cabbage and steamed kale leaves.
Can’t really say I scored myself some ‘man points’ for tackling a pigs head because the abiding memory is of me mincing around the kitchen in bright yellow marigold gloves trying not to be squeamish while putting on a <brave face>. Job done. The butcher was right though, it was a lot of work, but strangely satisfying…. and very tasty.