By Lyn Funnell
A week’s supply of fresh meat for just £5. Impossible, surely!
Oh no it’s not.
I went to Hailsham Market last Friday, and butcher Steve had a large pig’s head hanging on a hook in his butcher’s van. https://unknownkentandsussex.co.uk/hailsham-not-just-another-sussex-town/
‘How much is that pig’s head?’ I asked him.
‘£5,’ he replied, and chopped it in half for me.
I just had to have it, to experiment with it. It used to be used a lot more than it is now that people are so squeamish about food and a lot more wasteful. As all Steve’s meat is local, I knew that it was a Sussex pig. The British farms have the highest welfare standards in the world and there would have been a short distance between the farm and Steve’s van.
The head was as large and heavy as our Christmas turkey. I could hardly lift it.
When I got home, there was no way the pig’s head would fit in the fridge. So I soaked it in brine in a large bucket overnight to give it a final clean and tenderise it a bit.
In the morning I rinsed the two halves and simmered them in a big saucepan for three hours. Add a whole onion.
As they were too big to be completely submerged in water, I wrapped the ends with foil and placed a lid on the top.
After the three hours I turned the heat off and let them cool for another hour.
Tip the liquid into a bowl and leave it in the fridge overnight. It will jell beautifully.
Then I lifted the two halves into a roasting dish and again covered them with foil.
I roasted them for another couple of hours, turned off the heat and left them in the oven to cool.
After they were cool, I took them out of the oven and pulled the skin off. We cut that up for the birds. There was a layer of fat underneath, so I pulled that off. And underneath was lots of thick, meaty pork.
You don’t even need a knife. You can pull it apart using your hands.
Some people discard the brains but other people say it’s one of the tastiest bits.
I kept it and mixed it into the brawn.
The meat is ideal for dishes like Bolognese, Cottage Pie, (I call it Sty Pie as it’s made with pork) Curries, Pate, Casseroles, Soups or Pork Pies. A Fidget Pie is a pork pie with apple in it.
I divided it into seven bags. There was plenty of meat for a week, and there’s also the Brawn!
In America Brawn is known as Head Cheese.
It can be made with pork trotters too.
Everyone who I told about making brawn said, ‘My mum used to make brawn.’
Then they shuddered and said, ‘Euw, yuck.’
Take the liquid out of the fridge. It will have solidified. Put it in a saucepan with any small pieces of the meat. I also added a dash of cloves, parsley and seasoning.
Boil it until it’s reduced by about a third. Pour it into a dish and when it’s cooled, place in the fridge and leave overnight.
The next day, you can tip it out onto a plate. It will be solid, like a jelly.
Yuck? I don’t think so. It’s a very attractive dish.
What to do with your brawn?
The famous chef Jane Grigson wrote in English Food: Press the brawn into warm, toasted breadcrumbs. Eat cold with salad, mustard and potatoes – mashed potatoes for instance. Or else with wholemeal bread and butter.
I think it would be nice with a Ploughman’s, with cheese, pickles, gherkins, etc.
Other uses are Pork Brawn and Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Brawn Omelette, and Brawn Spaghetti, which I will try.
Cook and drain the spaghetti, then mix in some brawn and gently heat.
I’d add some chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic, chopped green pepper and maybe some mushrooms, all pre-cooked in olive oil.
What I’ll do with most of my brawn is, keep it in the fridge and use it like stock, adding several tablespoons to soup, chilli, curry, casseroles and gravy.
It’s just pure meaty goodness, with no additives.
Yuck? what’s wrong with them all?!!!