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Pig of the Week: Off with Their Heads

The King of Pork is back with the perfect recipe for your next medieval backyard festival.
By Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen

This column is an insult to columns. Pig of the Week? More like Pig of the Year. But enough about my failings and inconsistent contributions. I have a truly memorable event to report on: the cooking of a whole pig’s head.Yes, the whole head, chopped in two. Not just the cheeks or the ears. The whole swine shebang – brains, snout, strange unidentifiable glands and fatty glory holes – braised off with beans, wine, and some spuds.

My previous encounter with a pig’s head was at St. John Bread & Wine in London, where their head chef (no pun intended, but that title never seemed more apt), Lee Tiernan, served it with black pudding, beans and golden, crispy skin. So, in order to honour the proud animal I consulted Lee for some tips and direction on the cooking.

As an addition to the recipe from the second of the St. John cookbooks, Lee suggested boiling the head for a few minutes to clear off the worst filth, and then brine or salt it overnight. We went for salt, but you could also marinate the whole mug in Breton cider, according to our headmaster.

One final thing to consider; our butcher offered to remove the gnarly bottom of the ear and the eye. But after he had done this to the first half of the head, the pig looked a bit manhandled and sad. So for the second half we decided to keep things intact; just as God had intended this glorious animal to look.

Roasted pig’s head
 
Prep Time
Cook Time
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A roasted pigs head is a great outdoor festival food
Author:
Recipe Type: Main
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • A whole pig’s head split in two. (Get your butcher to do this unless you have a chainsaw at hand in the kitchen drawers.)
  • A disposable razor for shaving the pig.
  • One cup of sea salt for seasoning
  • Duck fat
  • 1kg of small potatoes (peeled)
  • 15-20 shallots, peeled and kept whole or halved
  • Garlic
  • 400g of smoked bacon
  • Borlotti beans (soaked overnight)
  • Bundle of thyme
  • Two litres of chicken stock
  • A bottle of white wine
  • Dijon mustard
  • Flat leaf parsley
Instructions
  1. Give the two halves of head a good shave with a disposable razor to remove all hairs.
  2. Boil them in a large pot of water for about 5-10 minutes to clear off the worst scum.
  3. Rinse the heads and pat them dry.
  4. Give them another once-over with the razor and a small knife. Especially the inside of the ears need a good clean.
  5. Salt them generously, wrap up and leave overnight in the fridge.
  6. Depending on the size of your oven and the heads, you can either get a large roasting tray or two separates ones for each half.
  7. Start off by placing your roasting tray(s) on the hob and heat up a dollop of duck fat.
  8. Fry off the shallots, garlic and bacon.
  9. Place the beans in the tray and nestle the pig’s heads on top. Add the bundle of thyme and fill up with stock and wine until the head is halfway submerged up towards the middle of the cheek. Please refer to the brilliant video by Tim Hayward and Fergus Henderson to see how you should create this alligator-like effect – http://bit.ly/xlUdWR
  10. Wrap the ear in tin foil and cover the whole tray with parchment paper and then tin foil. Put the tray(s) in a preheated moderate oven and leave to braise for about three hours.
  11. Take out the tray, unwrap the pig, add the potatoes and put back into the oven for another hour or so. You want the skin to crisp up and turn golden, but not burned. If the skin still feels a bit soggy at the end, you can crank up the grill for a few minutes, but be very careful.
  12. Once your head is ready, remove it from the tray and leave to rest for a few minutes. Add a couple of teaspoons of mustard to the bean and spud stew, some chopped parslay and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Place the two halves of pig’s head back in the tray on top of the bean mixture and serve with a crunchy green salad on the side.
Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen

Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen

Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen lives in Copenhagen where he writes about food and football for the Guardian newspaper. Prior to that he spent 10 years in London where he studied journalism, worked on the Guardian’s newsdesk and enjoyed a passionate love affair with British food culture (stop sniggering at the back) and the pub.

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Originally Published: January 17, 2012

3 Responses to Pig of the Week: Off with Their Heads

  1. Ruby Rasa

    Ruby Moukli Reply

    January 18, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Head chef! ;-) This is kind of like Dexter meets Gordon Ramsey, isn’t it. And given Gordon’s personality, it’s really not such a stretch…

    • Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen

      Lars Eriksen Reply

      January 19, 2012 at 3:29 am

      Gordon certainly looks like he’s got some lovely juicy cheeks, which, after all, are the best part of the pig ;) Haven’t watched Dexter but I’m a big fan of any TV programme that showcases some good knife skills

  2. Alexia Kannas

    Alexia Kannas Reply

    January 19, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    I was eyeing off the pig’s heads at the market the other day, which totally creeped-out my shopping partner. I can’t wait to do this!

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