My commitment to myself: eat seasonally (ie as locally as is possible), and not only participate in the process of getting the food to my table as much as possible, but also to use all of the food I am provided with and to not produce unnecessary waste.
One sunny Wednesday this fall I met a farmer in a seedy back alley behind Queen St., and a deal was done. Sounds unscrupulous, doesn’t it? Scandalous even! What went on in that alley was a long time coming, the result of a post on wellpreserved.ca, from one of my food gurus, and I waited to make as my dish for the yearly birthday party I throw called Meatluck. That’s right, Meatluck. Meatluck is an all meat potluck where I invite 50-60 friends over and everyone brings some booze and a dish containing meat. That is the only rule, at this point, that the dish must have a meat component. I randomly choose which course my friends are responsible for, and leave the rest up to them. Appetizers, sides, mains, and yes even desserts.
I like to do something out of the ordinary for my dish, and use an ingredient that most people would not have been used to, and the first two years I used calf tongue. The first year I just slow cooked it, and served it with challah and a bunch of mustard, while in the second year I cooked it and added it to a sauce of soubise that I learned how to make from Vicki, who learned it from Jaime Kennedy (recipe here). So, back to this years dish and the boar head I was gifted by Fred and Ingrid at Perth Pork Products, where I get the majority of my swine from.
As per the process on Joel’s post (Joel #2 from Wellpreserved.ca, in this case) I cleaned up the head, brined it, and slow roasted it. I did very little different than the method that Joel describes, but I did include a lot of flavour in my brine in hopes that the meat would be extra tasty, not that it necessarily needed any help. Bay leaves, juniper berries, clove, pepper, and salt, all went in the pot, as did some sugar to add another level to the flavours. All said and done the head roasted for eight and a half hours at between 250-275, with a special basting liquid (yes, it’s a secret) applied in the last hour of cooking.
After the party there was still lots left over that was not to be wasted, so the skin was turned into cracklin’, and the meat into a terrine. I got a real satisfaction from the entire process, but getting my hands dirty and really getting every bit of meat off was really great. When I rendered the fat from the skin off while I was making the cracklin’ I also added some duck fat I had sitting around, so when I poured it over the meat for the terrine there would be a richer flavour.
I really suggest you try this for yourself, it is really rewarding and your guests wont know what hit them. I borrowed a chafing dish from a friend, so the surprise of the head could be revealed, and have maximum impact. I love a good show. Head, knife, and a bunch of greasy fingers make Joel a happy boy. What will I present to my friends at Meatluck next year? It is going to be a doozy, and a year long process that will begin in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.