Take one head

pig head.jpg

I note that about a year ago I spent Saturday night scooping brains out of lamb heads. Well, another year, another head.

This Saturday I taught myself how to butcher a pig head (thank you YouTube) and in doing so solved a conundrum that had bedevilled me for a while.

Recipes for pig cheeks often stipulate up to four cheeks per person yet I have always found that one cheek is more than enough for 4 meals. Conor at One Man’s Meat helped me solve the problem by telling me that often the cheek is though to be just the muscle hidden deep beneath the more fatty jowls. Our butcher/abattoir has always cut the whole ‘cheek’ (i.e. cheek and jowl) off the pig which is great for making Guanciale, braised pork stew or pork and beans.

However, our pigs head came back intact this time – well sliced in half – so I had an opportunity to experiment. I sliced around the skull so I could lift up the jowl and see the cheek.

pig cheek.jpg

There it is. Then I removed the jowl before carefully cutting out the cheek.


I will use the jowls to make pork and beans as the fatty cut will go very nicely with some beans. The heads I then boiled for a while before stripping off all the meat, tongue, brains, eyeballs, skin etc  – you get a lot of meat from a pigs head. This will feed the dogs. The liquor from boiling the heads will also go to the dogs – no waste here.

But what to do with the cheeks?


Only one option really – I remembered that Conor had posted a recipe for sous vide pork cheeks with broccoli which looked amazing – see here.

So I decided to make it – only I don’t have a sous vide machine, I forgot about the five-spice seasoning and the garlic in the mash and I was too tired to cook up some apple. But anyway, Conor was my inspiration so thank you Conor. For the pork stock I used a little of my tonkotsu ramen pork broth – see here. I did remember to cut off the white membrane on the cheeks though that Conor mentions.

Braised pork cheek in white wine: 44 pork cheeks, white wine, garlic, pork stock, 2 red onions, cornflour, seasoning, oil, flour; broccoli and mash to serve.

Dust the pork cheeks with flour and fry in a little oil in a  small-ish casserole dish. Remove from the pan and fry the onions and garlic until soft. Add the pork cheeks back in, splash in a  generous amount of wine and top up with some pork stock. Cover and gently simmer for a couple of hours. When the meat is falling apart remove some of the liquor into a little bowl, stir in some cornflour then add back into the stew to thicken it – do this until it is as thick as you like it to be, but the cornflour does need to cook a little in the sauce to thicken it. . Season to taste. Serve over mashed potato.


We had ours with our first white sprouting broccoli of the season – yay for the broccoli.


N.B. it would have been better with some fried apple, but in my defence I used the apple in a crumble for afters. I was just too tired after a day moving pig arks, ear-tagging and worming lambs, sowing seed on the churned up pig field, and digging over the old weed infested bed at the back of the house.

N.B. if we can get a large enough clean space together sometime I would really like to learn how to butcher larger animals …..



4 responses to “Take one head

  1. hmm… I believe your blog is much “weirder” than mine… and I love this post. It is nice to see that you are not wasting pig parts…

    I was being shown how to make tamales and was instructed that the pigs head is a key ingredient for making good tamales… but I have never actually butcher one myself. You have amazed me… thanks for sharing

  2. A complete impossibility – despite my best efforts, I don’t think my blog comes anywhere near to being as weird as yours, but it gives me something to aspire to :). I would send you a pigs head for tamales but it generally isn’t good to get one in the post (for all sorts of reasons) and they are heavy!
    I should add that the man at the abattoir severed the head and sliced it in half – although if I got the circular saw out I reckon I could do a good enough job!

  3. Wow!!!
    You just continue to impress me Claire.
    I enjoy the hell out of pig cheeks. There’s a few restaurants by me that serve the whole pigs head and the best part is digging into the cheeks for those tasty, tasty morsels.
    You did such a great job on butchering this head and extracting those cheeks, I’m so freaking impressed, Claire!!

    • awwww, thank you Dana, that means a lot. I still want to do a roast pig’s head but I think that would just completely freak James out. I still have some lambs’ heads in the freezer though – hoping to roast these and then bone them as they do in Turkey. Probably need to look on the internet for instructions though …. and then there is haggis to make …. just need the time 🙂

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