Wednesday 4 December 2013

Head Cheese

Brawn - the red is carrot, the green is fresh parsley.
The brawn is made. This is Liz's first time making it and she'd never eaten it before but not letting those minor problems get in the way of a good cookery experiment, in she went, internet recipe to hand and just me at the end to tell her how genuine it looked and, Wow! the gorgeous flavour and texture. Tick that one up to the 'keep' repertoir along with others like Yorkshire Puds (again, she had no experience of them; they didn't really do them in Ireland) and pretty much from the get-go, became the best Yorkshire cook any of us know.

We were amused to learn that brawn is called 'Head Cheese' in France but also, dredged up from Liz's folk memories of books she read long ago, also in some famous literature. She could recall a fairly detailed description of the killing, cutting up and processing of a pig in "Little House in the Big Woods" (with its better known stable-mate, "Little House on the Prairie")

"As soon as the hog was dead Pa and Uncle Henry lifted it up and down in the boiling water till it was well scalded. Then they laid it on a board and scraped it with their knives, and all the bristles came off. After that they hung the hog in a tree, took out the insides and left it hanging to cool. When it was cool they took it down and cut it up. There were hams and shoulders, side-meat and spare ribs and belly. There was the heart and liver and the tongue, and the head to be made into headcheese, and the dish pan full of bits to be made into sausage" and later "Ma scraped and cleaned the head carefully and then she boiled it till all the meat fell off the bones. She chopped the meat fine with her chopping knife in the wooden bowl, she seasoned it with pepper and salt and spices. Then she mixed the pot liquor with it and let it stay in the pan to cool. When it was cool it would cut into slices, and that was headcheese". See? Nice children's literature!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas round here. We got a superb result on the tree buying. We like a 'real' tree and need one about 6 feet tall. As well as being hard to find round here - with local traders telling you "we stopped doing them" and not knowing where you might get one - they can be pricey. Last year we had to go all the way over to Ardcarne Garden Centre, half an hour away and choose from trees which were up in the €50, €60, even €70 range. We were even contemplating lashing out the €250 on a decent artificial one because it'd see several Christmases out and pay for itself in the end. Then we were walking round Balla-D and one of Liz's knitting ladies tipped us off that our local supermarket, SuperValu were doing them for €20 or €25 if you spent just €30 on groceries. So here we are, erected and dressed today, our 6 foot 'cheapie'. Very nice it looks too both from inside the house and also you can see the top through the window from down in the lane.

1 comment:

Margaret said...

Well done on the brawn making.... not sure I like the name 'head cheese' think that might put me totally off it :)