Brawn

Brawn was an essential cold dish at royal and noble feasts from the twelfth to the seventeenth centuries. After that it continued to be made at many farms and manor houses when a pig was killed, but it was served less often on grand occasions. In early manuscripts it is always referred to as “A Shield of Brawn”, but it is not clear whether this was because it was made in such quantity that only a shield was a large enough dish for it, or whether it was made rather flat and moulded to look like a shield. This is a very simple Wiltshire recipe which is very good as a summer lunch or supper dish. Mustard or a sauce made of mustard and cream is traditionally served with brawn and sets off the flavour. A potato salad and a green salad should also be served with it.

Ingredients

  • 4 lb (2 kg) pork belly
  • 1 lb (½ kg) lean pork
  • 1 pig’s trotter
  • ½ teaspoon sage
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs

Method

Put the pork, the trotter, herbs and seasoning into a large saucepan, pour in cups (1.6 litres) of water and bring to the boil. Skim, then cover the pan and simmer very gently for 2 hours.

Lift the meat and the trotter on to a large dish. Allow to cool a little, then remove all skin, bones and gristle and return them to the stock. Reserve the meat. Boil the stock briskly, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced to about 1 quart (9 dl).

Meanwhile, peel and quarter the eggs and arrange them in the bottom of a bowl or mould. Cut all the reserved meat and about three-quarters of the meat fat in ¼ to ½ inch (0.5 to 1 cm) dice and put on top of the eggs. The bowl should be almost full. As soon as the stock is reduced, strain it over the pork. Cover the mould and leave it in the refrigerator to set, preferably overnight.

Scrape away any fat that has set on the top. Pull the brawn gently away from the sides of the bowl with the hands and turn out. It should be very firm. To serve, cut in neat pieces.

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