So I roasted the head of a pig today. It was meant to be done on Friday, but I’m at work now, instead of at home, so we brought the piece de resistance forward.
Here is Arthur. He is sitting in the sink, waiting to have his ears and nostrils scrubbed and to have a shave. Like a recalcitrant husband (that’s you Willie Thorne).
I can tell you that pig’s noses feel lovely. You need to prepare your head. This means shaving off bristles (I used a Bic razor) and then scrubbing the inside of the ears to get the wax out. I found an old toothbrush was an excellent tool for that job. In truth, Arthur didn’t need very much shaving or scrubbing. I did think he had very big ears though.
And his little number was on the back of his ear too:
There are lots of recipes online for the roasting of a pig’s head. Basically you put it in the oven for about five hours, covering the nose and the ears with tin foil about half way through. Temperature about Gas Mark 4 (but on the warm side of that).You can rub some spices into his skin and the flesh at the back of his head. I chose some cajun spice mix from the health food shop. I then basted the head all the while with a mixture of honey and water about every hour while it was cooking. I’m not sure whether that was actually a good idea.
Here he is with his little ear-and-nose-cosies on.
Got quite the tan, hasn’t he?
So what do you do when you’ve got your roast pig’s head out of the oven? Well, if you’re me, panic a little. When I worked for the Hog Roasting doing bits of butchery, the pigs almost alway arrived headless. If they did have a head, it was to be cooked separately generally because it was a Filipino Christening. (A bigger Filipino population than you would imagine in Lincolnshire.) So I umm’ed said I’m not sure a few times. Then got busy with scissors, a knife and a fork.
I was tipped off on twitter that the meat in the temple was the sweetest, so I pulled that out. Then I found some lovely juicy meat that ran along the snout. Then I went in for the cheek. We’ve had cheeks before (post here), but what I didn’t know was that they were under a thick layer of fat. In fact fat was encountered pretty much everywhere I looked on Arthur’s head (apart from his ears). Much more fat than I could really cope with to be honest. Maybe if I’d cooked him an hour longer more of it would have melted but there was quite a lot. Also, I couldn’t find a way of getting into the skull to get at the brains. Poor planning.
Anyway, Daz and I both had a plate each of very tender meat. The best bits were the temple and snout bits. And now I have half a pig’s head to recycle into more edible things. I would say brawn, but I’m going to saw that for later in the year. I’m sure I’ll think of some things.
What would I do differently next time? Cook for an hour longer. Get the butcher to split the head in half and roast two halves. Score the skin so Arthur II looks a bit like Darth Maul. No honey. An apple in his mouth. LOLLLLLZZZZZZZZ.
In all seriousness, nothing I’ve cooked so far has brought me closer to the animal. Arthur has eyes (AND EYELASHES – I couldn’t bring myself to shave them) and a face and I’m sure he had a personality in whatever farm (since I bought him for £2.50 at Bennets butcher in Leeds market, I’m not sure it was a skippy-happy farm, but the local vs. organic is an issue that repeats) he grew up in. Now I have him, I’m not going to waste him. Even though the bits that are left aren’t, perhaps, to my taste.
But then, that’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Being less wasteful, encouraging myself to be more creative and eating in a sustainable manner. Most of all, being responsible for all the meat I put in my mouth and making sure I make the right decisions about it. I’m sure Arthur would agree!
That was Arthur, agreeing from a chopping board in Beeston.