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Brawn / Fromage de Tête Recipe

Boned meat from a pig's head, gently cooked in white wine with pig's trotters; set in moulds, and when a jelly has formed, eaten cold as an item of charcuterie. Brawn was extremely popular in the Middle Ages, when all meat was at a premium.

Britain then had plentiful wild boar supplies, and the tougher cuts were often made into brawn along with the head. Ale or verjuice/verjus would have been used as the liquid, and this would have preserving qualities.

Most butchers will supply the head/half head brined and this gives a much better flavour. If your head is unbrined simply soak it (and the trotters) for 24 hours in a 'Brine to make ham' mixture (q.v) - you will need a non-reactive crock or stainless steel container large enough to hold the head (which your butcher can cut into pieces) plus the liquid. If reboiled, the left over brine can be used one more time for brining a ham. This makes the process more worthwhile.

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For 6 helpings:
½ a Pig's Head – already split by your butcher then chopped into about 4 manageable pieces (you won't be using the brain for this dish, but could freeze it for another recipes)
2 Pig's Trotters – split by your butcher
2 medium Onions, peeled & halved
1 large Carrot – peeled and cut into big chunks
1 large Leek – the very dark section discarded – the pale green section split & carefully washed to remove grit
3 medium Cloves of Garlic – peeled & left whole
2 Bay Leaves
2 big Sprigs of Thyme or a level teaspoon of Dried Thyme
a teaspoon of whole Peppercorns
½ bottle Dry White Wine
The juice from 1 Lemon – microwaved for 10 seconds then sieved of pips
Enough water to cover

Equipment needed: a non-reactive (so not aluminium) saucepan – big enough to hold all the ingredients


1.If you've soaked the head/half head in brine yourself, remove the meat from the liquid and if you wish to use the brine once more, skim off any skum and bring it to the boil, before cooling it completely. Rinse the head thoroughly in cold water.

2.If your head has already been brined, continue as below.

3.Put your head piece/pieces, and all the other ingredients (except the white wine), into a heatproof pan large enough to hold all the ingredients and bring the mixture gently to the boil.

4.Cover, first making sure the liquid completely covers the ingredients.

5.Simmer, very slowly for about 3 hours or until the meat is falling off the bones - continue simmering until this point is reached. This can be done in a slow oven if the top of your cooker is too fierce.

6.Drain the solids through a colander, keeping all the liquid. Allow the meat to cool until you can handle it.

7.Wash out the cooking pan and return 1 pint/450ml of the cooking liquid to it, also adding the white wine.

8.Return this to the heat and reduce by half. Remove from the heat, and when it cools a little taste for seasoning - baring in mind, that when cold the level of effective seasoning will drop - however, you will almost certainly need a little salt. Add the mixed spice.

9.While the liquid is reducing, remove all the meat from the head and trotters, cutting it into small dice. Do this by hand, leaving you a good texture.

10.Add the chopped meat to the liquid and simmer for 15 minutes.

11.Remove the mixture from the heat and pour it into a glass bowl or similar dish. If you feel you have too much liquid remove a little - you might be able to use it to seal something else.

12. Refrigerate until set, then serve with good French Bread or Melba Toast and perhaps some Gherkins.

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