I fell in love with brawn long before I knew what went into it; all that lovely jelly round a tender tasty meat seasoned with a hint of nutmeg. We eat it on toasted brown bread lightly buttered and topped with tomato ketchup at this time of year.
In summer with a salad it is a change from other cold lunch meats. I have been making it for years, originally when we had our own pigs, and now after a chat with our local butcher who, when asked, usually has a pig’s head in the back room.
Perhaps like me you have good childhood memories of brawn, or you have seen it on the charcuterie counter and bought it or hesitated to buy it. Now could be the time to have a go; it is easy and cheap to make, give it a try!
- ½ pigs head, ask for it to be cut into 3 or 4 pieces
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- bay leaf
- 1 tsp dried parsley, thyme and optional marjoram
- ¼ tsp peppercorns
- salt and pepper
Soak the head pieces in cold water to remove any blood. Once clean remove the pieces and put into a large pan and cover with fresh water.
Add the carrots, onion, herbs, bay leaf and ¼ teaspoon of peppercorns and simmer for 2 hours. Remove any scum that floats to the top.
Check the meat is tender. The cheek muscle is the best trial area. Turn off the heat and allow the head to cool in the liquid for an hour or so.
When you can handle the meat remove it from the pan. Put any bones back into the pan and simmer without the lid to reduce a little for the jelly.
Discard the eyeball, dark bits of blood vessel and any of the skin that has bristles. Choose the meat you wish to conserve and put it into a bowl: this includes the skin scraped off both sides of the ear cartilage and skin removed from the fat.
Cut all the selected bits into ¾ inch cubes. Look for the whitest fat and chop up about 1 tablespoons worth. Add to the bowl with the other ingredients and season with salt pepper and grated nutmeg. Add a ladle full of reduced stock and mix together. Adjust the seasoning.
Put all the ingredients into a mould. I use a 1 ½ pint oval casserole, but a Pyrex bowl with a lid is perfect. Press the meat down and top up with a little extra stock if necessary.
Reverse the lid of your casserole or Pyrex bowl to get a flat top to the brawn. Put a couple of weights on top and place in a tray to catch any juices that spill out. Allow to set in a refrigerator.
Once set run a sharp knife around the edge and turn over onto a dish. Give it a shake if it doesn’t come out.
Eat up quickly, as it won’t freeze!
Pulled Pork Sandwiches