Friday, March 20, 2015

The Pig Head Party
Yes, that is a pig being stuck. 
Today we kill them first.
WARNING: Some content may be disturbing to some readers... others may find it "OMG that is sooo cooool!".  If you don't want to look at the face of a dead pig, you can read down for the recipe and instructions then stop when I start singing; though if you don't want to see the face of a dead pig I can't imagine why you would want to know how to stuff one... in any case, the pictures are after the song.

While this was not intended as a Historical Food Fortnightly challenge, it fits a missed challenge to a T, so I'll toss #18 in and check it off the list.  "Descriptive Food January 25 - February 7
We all know those recipes that come attached to interesting and imaginative names - slumps, crumbles, buckles, trifles, flummery. Pick a historic recipe that has a descriptive title."  Boar's Head isn't a funny name, but you know exactly what you are getting.

The Boar's Head feast was a traditional dish served around Christmas in Medieval Europe, Elizabethan times and later centuries, predominantly in France and England, but also America.  Usually sometime during the 12 days of Christmas, which are December 25th to January 5th, for those of you who don't know.  Advent is what comes before, from Nov 29th to Dec 24th.  There seems to be a modern confusion of those blocks of time.
I didn't make it for Christmas as we had originally planned.  This and that delayed the project and it actually ended up being a week into Lent.  Oops.

Also, what I had originally planned as being a full Christmas dinner turned into a dish-to-pass party, which worked out very well; but no king cake, or plum pudding or gingerbread.  I did what I had the time and resources for.

There are a few redactions and original recipes that I pulled information from, and some things I'd do differently next time (har), but it turned out OK.  The main thing I regret, aside from forgetting the ears (oops), was not having sprigs of rosemary to surround Miss Piggy.  That was a major oversight, but again, I did what I could with the resources I had.  Mistakes aside, I'm insanely pleased with how things turned out.*  It's a rich meat and fruit pudding/stuffing, and it certainly made a statement.   
*I cackled.

"Take a head, large or small. Boil it in water and wine, and when it is boiled make sure that the bones all stay together next to one another. And remove all the meat from the bones of the head. Strip the skin carefully, the white part from the meat and chop the other meat from the boar’s head very small. Put it in a pan. Spice it well with pepper, ginger, and a little cloves, nutmeg, saffron, and let it get very hot over the fire in the broth in which the head was boiled. Next take the boiled head and lay it in a white cloth and lay the skin under it on the cloth. Then spread the chopped meat all around on the head and cover it with the flayed skin. And if you have too little meat from one head, then take it from two and cover the head entirely as if it were whole. Next, pull the snout and the ears out through the cloth. Also, pull the teeth together again with the cloth, so the head is held together while it is still warm, and let it lie overnight. In the morning cut the cloth from around the head. In that way it will stay whole. Then serve it with a cold farce made with apples, almonds, raisins. Thus you have a lordly dish."
Marianne Hansen. “And Thus You Have a Lordly Dish: Fancy and Showpiece Cookery in an Augsberg Patrician Kitchen.” Medieval Food and Drink, Acta, vol. xxi. 1995. (Many thanks to for posting several recipes & redactions)

This is the one I was going to do to the letter, but disliked the way some of her teeth looked, and didn't want to chance that she had an abscess* so I did not boil the bones or use them as a base to re-dress the head.  I pickled the skin in a wine mixture
1 c. salt
1 c. apple cider vinegar
3 c. cheap sherry (bottom shelf)
water to cover.
Heated this and let the skin sit for 3 days in the cool basement (about 40F). 
Then proceeded as stated above, but without bones, so the face skin ended up being a sack.  I left much of the facial muscle structure intact so that she had some character without the bones.  On the down-side, I had to buy A LOT more meat to fill this.  I served it hot due to time constraints, so it was more like stuffing than pudding. 

*(rotten teeth, abscesses & enlarged livers happen due to high grain & dairy diet in pigs, the diet is common in American feeder pigs, which usually don't live long enough to suffer the ill effects; but is not so good for a keeper who is expected to breed, and my guess is that this pregnancy didn't take due to a dietary imbalance & her enlarged liver.  Fine to eat the meat, but if she had been human her doctor would have put her on medicine and told her she needed a change in lifestyle and diet).

OK, I've dithered long enough, if you haven't figured it out, the gore is about to appear.  So, if you don't want to see it, bail now.  You've been warned.