3

votes

We're butchering pigs: should I take the feet &heads--the WHOLE HEADS! What else?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 29, 2012 at 6:46 PM

In April, some friends and I will butcher a couple naturally/organically/humanely raised pigs. We all enjoy the usual parts: loins/chops/roasts, bacon/belly, fat, leaf lard, bulk ground, and various sausages in natural casings (we grind the meat with a bicycle-powered grinder--no joke--and stuff the sausages on-site).

Last year I took home the jowls and cured them like bacon--that was the only odd bit of the sides we got that no one else wanted. (They did not come out great--overly smoked, unfortunately. I think I'll try guanciale instead this time.)

But I found out more parts are available, it's just no one else wants them, so they're never ordered. I've a feeling those unwanted parts are going to be cheap, and I want to snag them. Obviously I'll get the livers. I'm not into kidneys (they taste worse than Budweiser to me), unless there's something obviously delicious into which they can disappear.

I know I like beef hearts, but are pig hearts good to eat? What about the whole heads, feet, tails, skin? Is the skin the same thing as "rind," and can I make chicharr??n with it? Can I make chicharr??n with just any skin, or only certain skin?

I could end up with two whole pig heads, 8 feet, dozens of pounds of bones, and who knows how much skin. But I currently have NO idea how to process any of that. Should I take a chance and get all that stuff anyway? I have a smallish chest freezer that could probably hold most of it and have considered investing in a bigger one anyway, since this seems like it's going to become something of a hobby for me.

And what the hell will I do with a whole pig's head anyway? I picture presenting my family with the classic "Boar's Head" at Christmas: apple in mouth, on a trencher festooned with fruits and vegetables. Can this actually be eaten at a meal (and how?), or is this just a fantasy?

What about all those leftover bones after we butcher? Are pig bones--especially dozens of pounds of them--worth keeping for bone broths? It seems folks here rarely discuss pig bones for broths.

Thoughts?

alt text

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on March 08, 2012
at 02:26 PM

Sure! We didn't utilize the brain.. you totally could tho. Make fritters or something similar to a sweetbread preparation. Crispy and light.

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on March 08, 2012
at 01:45 PM

Thank you for this great suggestion. As a food hobbyist, I really enjoy exploring the food preparations (and foodways in general) of other cultures, and the foods of the Phillipines haven't gotten much attention from me yet. That looks like a great starter recipe for my experimentation, and it uses some of the odd bits I wondered most about.

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on March 08, 2012
at 01:25 PM

LOVE this response! Not doing it, but absolutely love the festively gruesome attitude! The notion of shrunken heads has always fascinated and disturbed me, and, well, I sort of like that sort of thing....

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on March 08, 2012
at 01:18 PM

Thanks so much for the great response! Just a quick follow-up question about cooking the head: regardleess of preparation, do you just leave the brain in there, or do you remove it first? Did you eat it?

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8 Answers

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6
Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on February 29, 2012
at 07:57 PM

For the sake of all that is porky YES take it all!

You can roast, or smoke, the whole head, or half a head, and pick away, that's what we did at my old cooking place, we also would plop heads into huge pots for stock. Add the trotters to stock, or roast in light stock and other things like a casserole, with a ton of herbs and such and slow simmer - mm. You can cook up those little tails and gnaw on them - braise them in stock until they are so tender "you can pinch right through them", then drain. Dip them in egg beaten with a little mustard and then anything that would work as a coating (nuts, potato starch bloddy blah). Fry until toasty golden.

For reals don't say no to any of it. Except maybe the anus. Get one to try.. but.. poo butthole snack skeeves even me out.

Definitely agree with Jennifer McLagan's book but have you ever heard of Fergus Henderson or Au Pied de Cochon? Fergus owns St. John in London and Au Pied is a favourite restaurant of mine in Montreal. The links go to their cookbooks - a good start for sure :) And definitely utilize your local library! Enjoy!

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on March 08, 2012
at 02:26 PM

Sure! We didn't utilize the brain.. you totally could tho. Make fritters or something similar to a sweetbread preparation. Crispy and light.

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on March 08, 2012
at 01:18 PM

Thanks so much for the great response! Just a quick follow-up question about cooking the head: regardleess of preparation, do you just leave the brain in there, or do you remove it first? Did you eat it?

2
4b8ce2e8143119b39e00d5705b76cfa6

on February 29, 2012
at 09:20 PM

Take the skull out, flip the skin inside-out, scrape all the meat off the skin, flip right side-in, sew eyes and mouth holes shut, boil with red wine and oak bark (lots), for a couple hours, remove and fill the (now shrunken) head with hot rocks and move them around/mould the features to remain pig-like, remove the stones as they cool and replace with smaller hot rocks. Repeat until you are using hot sand. Cook meat scrapings and enjoy your meal with a brand new shrunken head!

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on March 08, 2012
at 01:25 PM

LOVE this response! Not doing it, but absolutely love the festively gruesome attitude! The notion of shrunken heads has always fascinated and disturbed me, and, well, I sort of like that sort of thing....

2
Medium avatar

(2923)

on February 29, 2012
at 07:44 PM

Pretty much the entire thing can be eaten. Maybe be a little careful with the liver (risk of Hep E from recent Perfect Health Diet article).

THE classic of the field is Fergus Henderson (featured on No Reservations a couple of times) and his book: The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating.

2
Medium avatar

(12379)

on February 29, 2012
at 07:08 PM

The ears are great - excellent when boiled until the skin starts to lift off a little bit then julienned - they are excellent crunchy salad toppers.

Keep the tails for adding to stews for extra richness (like oxtail)

Trotters are really great!

Check out Jennifer McLagan's book Oddbits for recipes.

1
0266737ea1782946902fd3f8e60fa0b9

(2504)

on March 01, 2012
at 02:00 AM

My husband is from the Philippines, and even a squeamish meat/fat phobe like me LOVED pork sisig. Uses all kinds of unpopular pig parts to make porky goodness: http://www.pinoyrecipe.net/filipino-pork-sisig-recipe/#axzz1npIAbH8j

Our friends had a pig head and made head cheese. Kind of like a terrine. People seemed to enjoy, I was not feeling quite brave enough to try so cannot make a personal recommendation. Here's a recipe: http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1627,135175-244196,00.html

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on March 08, 2012
at 01:45 PM

Thank you for this great suggestion. As a food hobbyist, I really enjoy exploring the food preparations (and foodways in general) of other cultures, and the foods of the Phillipines haven't gotten much attention from me yet. That looks like a great starter recipe for my experimentation, and it uses some of the odd bits I wondered most about.

1
9b2e3130786c8c33ae0ec7439c277e0f

on February 29, 2012
at 11:47 PM

Stock is good from pork bones but probably not as good for you as beef.You could also go for the caul fat if you're looking for some lard. Pork tongue, if cooked right from what I hear, is pretty good too. The nice thing about the caul fat is that it is easy to break it off the carcass once the guts have been taken out.

1
5fb654380d04ac372b750ca3faad2e99

(277)

on February 29, 2012
at 08:00 PM

My parents used to slow cook pigs feet and eat the ears as a snack.

1
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on February 29, 2012
at 07:28 PM

With pigs you should take everything but the squeal. They truly are usable from head to tail.

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