Friday, June 12, 2009

Getting a Head

Fellow blogger (and brother of Loo) Hank Shaw, of the Beard-nominated blog Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook, is one of the most adventurous eaters/cooks I know. Game is his middle name, and if he can kill it he'll find a way to use everything from head to tail and make it look and sound delicious. Recently he went boar hunting and decided to make his first batch of head cheese. An excerpt follows:

I’d never done this before. After all, who wants to eat something called "head cheese?” But Maximus was not a large boar, and I wanted to to use everything I could — besides, Maximus had impressive tusks, so I want to make a skull mount, and you need to simmer off all the meat to do that.

Let’s start with the head itself. All hog’s heads are not created equal. And I have been fortunate to have the two extremes of the porcine world in my kitchen: Maximus the Wild Boar, and a Mangalitsa pig’s head. Wild boar, especially real Eurasian boar, are generally devoid of fat. Mangalitsas, on the other hand, may be the fattiest pigs in the world.

Note the difference in the back of the head. There is more fat on the back of the head of the Mangalitsa at right than there is in the whole body of the boar at left. This matters, as it will make the coppa di testa from Maximus very, very lean. Which, ironically, is good — all the recipes I read say to remove most of the fat when making brawn. So there you have it: Wild boar make better brawn.

But there’s one problem: Domestic pigs, and especially the snub-nosed Mangalitsas, have short little snouts. Wild boar have extremely long snouts, lined with vicious tusks. You will need a bigger pot than you think.

For the rest of the story, more pictures and a description of how it all turns out, read Wild Boar Testa: Don't call me head cheese.

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