All Brawn and No Brains

No I wasn’t making pea and ham soup, I answered the butcher when I rang to order two bacon hocks. He told me I was very brave.

I decided I’d learn to make brawn. How hard could it be?

Two Wessex Saddleback snouts had met my gaze from the depths of the chest freezer each time I opened it.

It was our mobile butcher, David Bleathman’s, second visit to #Blissfarm. The sheep drew the short straw. He suggested I keep their livers. I’ve eaten pate so ipso facto I could eat those livers too. (BTW I didn’t mind them cooked Moroccan-style with caramelised onions.)

The pigs were next. He asked if I wanted to keep the heads. Conscious of our quest to live more sustainably, from paddock to plate, I said yes.

And so they sat until freezer space was at a premium.

I trawled briefly through the internet and chose a random recipe. There but for the grace of God, go I.

I’ve since discovered other recipes that suggest useful stuff, like brining the meat first or using a blowtorch to remove hairs. It also confirmed what everyone knows: internet searches elicit all manner of things, like the term head cheese, the other name for brawn.

This is what I learned making Pork and bacon brawn.

Brawn is not hard to make but it takes a long time. Start early.

I didn’t.

I’m not good at finishing off a big cook up late at night. Fortunately, The Lovely Deputy rose to the occasion (aka melt-down cleanup) and packed the muddle of head and feet up to cool overnight and I went to bed, overtired and sooking.

The blowtorch-thing makes a lot of sense. A brûlée torch should suffice. Next time.

Peering into the stock pot at one point, The Lovey Deputy had asked if we ‘had to eat those gubbins?’

The meat didn’t need all of the cooking time suggested. Keep it nice (aka don’t let EVERYTHING cook to disintegration point – you want to be able to recognise what you don’t want to eat right?). This is the reason the recipe calls for adding the second lot of vegetables in the last 10 minutes of the initial cook.

I didn’t.

So I ended up with a slurry of celery I largely lost when straining the mixture. I raise the bar on that recipe and recommend adding the second lot of vegetables on the second day.

Which lead me to my next insight, strain the stock TWICE through muslin and a fine strainer. No really. Do that.

You don’t have to use a lot of the stock when assembling the brawn. Mine was mostly meat with a little gelatine, but there was still enough to hold shape.

Timid and prudent, I cut the beast in half and froze the portions. The Lovely Deputy and I would never eat the entire terrine in one sitting and I still needed to work up the courage to tuck in.

I returned to the internet to find its most common use was on sandwiches with mustard either at room temperature or heated a little. I went for the latter, serving it on a slice of fried bread like a giant crouton, along with some left over Christmas piccalilli, and homegrown roast potatoes and a green salad.

What did it taste like? Delicious, just like slow-cooked pork and bacon.

Nothing to worry about at all.

Want to know more about what we’re up to at #Blissfarm – here’s our last post – Animoolz and Humans #6.


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