Using the pig’s head is an old tradition, esp. in Italy. Whilst this used to speak just to the economics of the poor peasant, it’s now very much part and parcel of the modern desire to not waste any part of the food you’re preparing, to respect the animal and the work that’s gone into producing it as well as being bound up with a dawning recognition that food waste is a significant factor in contributing to global warming.
It was a great day, fun, interesting & relaxed and, whilst my attempts at boning out the head left more than a little to be desired, not helped by a slight natural tremor exacerbated by (possibly) rather too many gins the night before — and the population of the UK should be grateful that I never went into delicate brain surgery — which meant that the skin didn’t stay as intact as it should, all the attendees came out with something that was worth cooking and later eating. Even mine; thanks to the recuperative help from Hugo and one of the others on the day it looked less like some horrendous road-accident than when I’d first finished trussing it up.
And why is this type of thing important? Because you should choose meat judiciously, cook it with love & affection and, finally, not eat it recklessly. A germane quote from one of the C&C team:
“We all want cheap food,” says Rennie. “But we don’t understand that cheap food comes at a price. You might not pay that price but somebody else does.”
Meat shouldn’t be cheap, It takes a shit-load of work on the part of the farmer to get this animal to market:
“You spend one day with a farmer,” says Rennie. “And you realise how fucking hard it is to rear animals properly.”
So, respect the animal; eat everything it provides. It’s the right, ethical, thing to do.
Finally, courtesy of Hugo, here are the instructions for doing this at home. Go on, you know you want to. And you can. Fuck, if I can, anyone can…
Rolled Head Ham
1 x whole pig’ head
20g curing salt
2 cloves garlic, minced (fresh or powder)
Handful thyme sprigs, finely chopped (fresh or dry)
Handful rosemary, finely chopped (fresh or dry)
Teaspoon ground peppercorns
1. Completely debone the head. WARNING: this may take you some time… This video may help you to make less of a cock-up of it than I.
Cover the inside of the head in a light layer of the curing salt that has been mixed with pepper, garlic and herbs and leave in the fridge overnight.
The following day, wash the cure off and pat dry. Using some butchers twine, roll the head up and tie it into a kind of ‘Swiss roll’ shape.
Place in a stock pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and skim any scum that comes to the surface. After this you can add some stock veg if you like, or any other flavourings you want but bear in mind if you’re going to use the liquid as a stock for later use it will become a little salty due to the curing the head has gone through.
Leave the head to cook at a simmer for around 2-2.5 hours. Drain the head and leave to cool either on a silicon mat, foil or non-stick baking parchment. When cool slice as you would an ordinary ham.
1kg pork mince
200g cooked and minced pork skin
1 beef bung casing
2.5% coarse sea salt salt (Natural, unrefined, no ‘anti-caking’ additives)
0.25% curing salt Number 1 (optional; only necessary if you’re going to hang it up to dry for a couple of weeks)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Handful thyme, finely choppped
Teaspoon ground black pepper
Any other herbs or spices you like
Rinse out the casing and leave to soak in warm water for 15 minutes.
Weigh the pork and skin just to check you have the right weight. Then weigh the appropriate amount of salt and curing salt (if you’re using it) and any flavourings of your choice. Combine everything and stir until you have a consistent mix.
Stuff the mix into the casing and tie the end up. Continue to tie the sausage using a butcher’s technique for tying a roast. NOTE: this also may take you some time…
At this point the sausage is ready to cook at a slow simmer for 2.5 hours.
Alternatively you can hang the sausage to dry out before you cook it – leave for 3-9 days in a well ventilated, cool, dark space. This will result in a firmer, dryer sausage.
Serve, as is traditional, with lentils and plenty of fresh herbs.