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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pig's Head Torchon

I have a special recipe today for Pig's Head Torchon. It uses a real pig's head, shown above. The original recipe is from The Momofuku Cookbook.

I came across this pig's head from my local freecycle group. Freecycle is a group where people give away things they don't need any more- things like old furniture, kids clothes, books or... pig's heads. A woman posted a list of things she had to give away, and way down at the bottom, she listed:
"2 Pig heads -- yes, pig heads. Frozen, organic, happy (mostly), free-range pigs we had raised & butchered. We got the head and thought we'd make something exotic with it but we haven't. I thought maybe someone knew what to do with it and would be happy to get it ?"
Well, though I had no idea what to do with it, I am always up for trying new organic free range animals and was happy to get it!

I didn't tell my husband when I went to pick it up, but later that night, I couldn't keep it a secret any longer.
"Why is the garage freezer plugged in?" he asked.
"Oh, I got some pig parts today."
Something in my voice must have tipped him off, "Chanelle, what kind of pig parts are we talking about?"
"Oh, you know, just parts of a pig..."
"Chanelle!" (If you've ever heard Ricky Ricardo call out "Lucy!" you'll know the tone he was using here.)
"Well, the head part. And she gave me a heart too! And some fat to render into lard!"

Needless to say, he was not as excited as I was. The thought of eating the head of any animal just plain grossed him out. I have been giving a lot of thought to this pig, particularly this pig's head, as it has sat in my freezer for the past week or two. We are so disconnected from our food supply. In Food, Inc., they point out that there are no bones in our meat anymore. Most of the meat we buy is off the bone. It kind of separates us from the fact that this is a real animal we are eating. I think that, in a weird way, it shows respect to the animal to eat all of it. There's a philosophy out there about this, called head-to-toe eating, where you try to use ALL of the animals edible parts. It also shows respect for the earth as we try to waste less and use all that we can.

With all those thoughts in my head, it was time to deal with the head of the pig. First I boiled the head with some vegetables. Then came the hard part: separating the meat from the um, unusable parts. I expected to be grossed out by the eye; it really wasn't so bad. The tongue and the teeth were by far the "ickiest" part (to quote my mom).  Regardless, I got through the meat picking and on with the recipe. This is what it looked like when I got through picking the meat.

I separated the meat from the fat to make the torchon. I then added salt, pepper and roasted garlic to the meat. I layed a layer of fat on plastic wrap and lay the meat on top of that. There is a surprising amount of meat on a pig head, mostly around the jaw. But since this pig was skinned (a good thing since I didn't have to look at the snout), I didn't have a big layer of fat. You can see in the picture below that there is much more meat than fat.

The next step is to roll it all up and refrigerate for 2 hours.

After refrigerating, you are supposed to slice it into 1 inch slices. My little roll didn't stick together, I think because there just wasn't enough fat/ skin. So, I improvised. I got out the food processor and pulsed the fat and the meat together. I was then able to form the meat and fat into little patties.
I dipped each patty into 3 bowls: flour, egg and water mix, and bread crumbs.
Then I fried them for a couple minutes on each side in a mixture of butter and olive oil.

The final verdict? 
Pretty good! My 5 year old ate 3, my daughter liked it and ate one, I ate two, and my husband... well, he knew it was pig's head and he tried it, so I think he gets points for that.

This post is part of Pennywise platter Thursday.


  1. Chanelle, my husband and I both enjoyed this post. And your husband's. We eat lots of fresh homemade tamales when we can get them and they are usually made from the pig's head. We also have them made from deer meat. I hope I don't get comments from mad deer lovers. They eat our garden, we eat them. It's a shame you don't live close by, you could visit our cows, chickens, and goats. If you are ever in our area, stop by and enjoy the farm for as long as you like.

  2. Wow, a pigs head on freecycle. Now I've seen everything. I am just dying picturing James' face when he saw the thing.

  3. We just had lamb's head the other night. Whenever we get a lamb butchered, we ask for the head. My husband cooks it, because he grew up eating it. I still have a few "ick" issues I am working through, but I will eat it.

  4. Regina, wow, deer eating your garden? The only animal that gets in ours is our neighbors cat.
    Tamlynn, I spared him having to see the "before" and only served him the "After." Still, just knowing what he was eating was about all he could handle.
    Rosita, It is hard to get over the "ick" factor when your dinner is looking at you!! :)

  5. This is an awesome post! You could have made hog's head cheese from the meat. It's pretty tasty. I think that uses brains though, so you may have not had that available.

    Regina, do you shoot the deer eating your garden? I saw a doe near my house, but not in my garden. I told dh that if saw that deer in my garden, I was going to become a ninja assassin and take her out!

  6. You are so brave! I was just looking for some good for you recipes & stumbled on this post... love it! Oh, & thank you for adding the husband-wife dialouge, I had a "lol" moment reading it! ;)