Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Week on a Plate

Brawn is a meat that has been seasoned and simmered for hours, then strained and placed in a mould. The cooking liquid can be boiled down to reduce it, and when concentrated enough is poured over the meat to set as a jelly, which protects the meat from bacteria. Tongue, and cheaper cuts of beef such as brisket, are often made into pressed meats, cooked in a similar way, but the meat is pressed when in the mould and before the liquid is poured over. True brawn is made from chopped meat placed in a bowl, then covered with the liquid.
When cold and set it can be cut into slices.
Cow, sheep and pig heads/trotters make excellent brawn because their cooking liquid becomes very gelatinous. If you prefer to make brawn using using a selection of meat scraps, cook some bones with the meat or you have to resort to using ready-made gelatine.
Pressed meat and brawn will keep for a week in the fridge, but not advisable to freeze as the texture of the jelly will be spoiled.
Pig's heads and trotters should be soaked in brine 24 hours before using. If you order in advance the butcher should do this for you, and also chop up the head.

The method shown is the traditional way to make brawn, which can be adjusted to using what we have as long as we keep to the rough idea. Just think 'cooked meat in savoury jelly' and we won't go far wrong.
Brawn: to feed 6
half a pig's head, soaked in brine. strained and rinsed
2 pigs trotters', ditto
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 rib celery, sliced
half pint (300ml) dry cider
bunch fresh thyme, parsley, celery and bay leaves OR...
...1 tsp dried mixed herbs
6 peppercorns
salt and pepper
good pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Chop the head into manageable pieces and put into a large pan with the trotters, onion, carrot and celery. Add the cider, herbs, and peppercorns. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Remove any scum as it rises to the surface. Reduce heat to really low and simmer, covered, for 2 - 3 hours or until the meat is very tender. Then remove all the pieces of pig, leave to cool then strip the flesh from the bones.
Drain the stock and over medium heat, boil until reduced by half. Place the meaty pieces back into the stock, season well to taste and add the nutmeg, bring to the simmer and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Rinse a bowl with cold water, the pour in the meat and enough stock to cover. Cover bowl with foil and leave overnight in the fridge to set before turning out. If not wishing to eat it he same day, leave in the tin or clean and dry the bowl and replace it over the turned-out brawn.