Brawn and Head Cheese

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Carcasses yield a number of items such as heads and feet which can be prepared for the refrigerator or freezer in the form of brawn or head cheese – pieces of solid meat or shredded meat set in a firm jelly. There are many regional variations in brawns, but basically they are made by simmering the chosen meat very slowly, removing bones and cutting the meat into small chunks or shredding it with forks. The bones are returned to the cooking liquid and simmered to a rich stock which is then mixed with the meat, and pressed down in a bowl. The mixture may be slightly grey in colour but if the meat has been salted, the brawn will be pink. Pale jelly will result from using pork bones for the stock, but if beef bones are added, or some onions in their skins boiled in the stock, the result will be a rich brown colour. Brown colouring may also be introduced with a little vinegar, black treacle or brown sugar. While pork is most commonly used for brawn, beef and lamb are also acceptable, while oxtail, chicken and rabbit are all excellent. Flavours may be varied by the addition of a pinch of nutmeg, a little lemon peel, parsley, thyme, sage or bay.

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