More Small Joys – Day 24 NaBloPoMo 2015

I’ve had a great day – bustling and busy – but great nonetheless. This morning I fed and watered the hungry hoards and said hello to the baby bunnies, who are all growing at a phenomenal rate! Their eyes are open and they are getting quite inquisitive about the world.

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I picked raspberries (a daily job now) and I’m hoping to have enough to make a spectacular birthday cake for myself next week ūüôā When I went to give Boudica her daily raspberry leaf treat, I discovered someone had come out to see mummy and see what she eats ‚̧

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There were six eggs from six chickens this morning, so after watering the greenhouse, I pickled another dozen eggs using the recipe I shared  here recently and started another loaf of sourdough bread. This weather Wee Beastie is very active and needs more attention (and feeding!)

My son came over and hung out, he’s in the process of moving out of his old place and in with a friend who lives just up the road from here. I think he was just sick of sorting out the junk from the stuff he wants to keep and needed some chill out time. So we kicked back, drank lots of tea and watched cooking shows on television. We’ve agreed to have a birthday dinner at home for me next week – Roast Pork with all the trimmings, maybe some new potatoes from the garden – which will be perfect!

I’m gradually getting my head around this final assignment, which is due Friday afternoon. I’ve opted to write three poems for plus a 500 word exegesis. Although I’m a professional songwriter (and prolific blogger) I don’t have much experience with poetry and it’s a form I find quite fascinating. Interestingly, I’ve found the easiest way to start is take and idea and just write. Stream of consciousness seems to be the key way into it for me. Then I edit and arrange the words on the page so they make sense to me – and hopefully my tutor! So my poems are largely about the strange weather we get in Tasmania, the changing seasons, growing things, musicians and music.

The sourdough went in the oven late this afternoon and, as a light dinner I took fresh sourdough slices, slabs of Pork Brawn I made on Sunday and crumbled over feta cheese I made a few weeks ago. We put the slices under a hot grill for about 10 minutes – until the feta started to melt – and it was so delicious! The sharp saltiness of the feta worked so well with the rich, meaty Brawn on the fresh sourdough.

I was also reminded by HeWhoMustNotBeListenedTo¬†that everything on our plates was made by me. It was a very satisfying moment……

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So, tomorrow will be even busier – sand and pine bark chips are arriving for a project in the back end of the garden. I’ll have pics to show you all tomorrow night ūüėÄ

Pork Brawn Recipe – Day 20 NaBloPoMo 2015

I’m going to start again with a disclaimer. This post is all about pork and the preparation and cooking of a free-range pig’s head and trotters and does contain photographs. I have absolutely no desire to offend any of my vegetarian friends so if this isn’t your thing, come back tomorrow when I’ll be likely talking/writing about music, vegetables or home made cheesecake ūüėČ

Home made Blackberry Cheesecake from last summer

Home made Blackberry Cheesecake from last summer

Today I had a delivery from my friend Paul. He and his partner Trudy own Elderslie Farm, just out of Hobart. We met when I was searching for a local, low food miles, free-range meat producer and I can’t praise their produce enough. It’s flavoursome, tender, butchered and bagged to my needs and delivered to my door! The bonus is we’ve made new friends in the process.

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I got a side of pork earlier this year from them and, perhaps I was feeling some childhood nostalgia, agreed to have the head and trotters included so I could make Brawn. My grandmother used to make this along with various other dishes that used every part of a beast, where nothing was wasted. When I was little, my job was to pull the cooled cooked meat apart with two forks and I think it’s still my favourite job in this quite long process.

It went so well, I’m doing it again and right now the kitchen smells amazing – there’s a pork head simmering in the slow cooker with a head of fresh garlic and various spices. It’s so big I can’t fit the lid on properly!

For this post, I’m using photographs from the Brawn I made¬†earlier in the year.

Pork Brawn

Ingredients:

Pigs head, cleaned and de-haired ¬† ¬† Pig’s trotters, cleaned thoroughly ¬† ¬† Stock powder¬†(optional)

1/2 cup Marsala or sherry   1 onion, peeled and halved    1 head of garlic 2 or 3 Bay leaves  2 or 3 dried Chillies

Spices to taste in a cheesecloth bag (a few cloves, allspice berries, cardamon pods – whatever takes your fancy)

Water to cover

Method:

Start by preparing your cheesecloth bag with the spices. I sometimes put sprigs of thyme or sage in plus cloves, cardamon, peppercorns, star anise or whatever takes my fancy. Tie it up with some kitchen string and leave a tail to tie it to the handle of your pan. Put the clean head in a large pan or slow cooker. Then add the Bay leaves, chillies, halved onion, stock powder (if using it), pour over the Marsala and cover with water.

IMG_20150419_185456Cook covered on a very low heat for 4-6 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone. This will depend on the size of the head. I’m cooking mine in a slow cooker on a low setting for a few hours tonight. I’ll switch it off and leave it there overnight and check in the morning to see if it needs more cooking time.

It should look a little like the picture left – basically a pork soup. (Note the string that I tied to the slow cooker handle).

Once it’s cooked, it’s time to get into the messy part of this dish! Make sure you’ve got plenty of room to spread out and I suggest getting all your implements ready before you start lifting this around – it’s heavy!

Get a large clean pan and set it up next to the pork. Use a nylon strainer or a sheet of cheesecloth tied over the clean IMG_20150419_192017pan and start ladling the rich broth, straining the liquid. I find it best to do this stage when the broth is still warm but not scalding hot. Remove the spices in the cheesecloth and and large bones and skin as you come across them.

You should end up with a delicious smelling pot of stock, something like the picture to the right. It will be full of gelatin from the bones too, which will make your  brawn set.

Put this on a low heat uncovered to reduce the stock.

Meanwhile, the pot with the head and trotters are now ready to work on. IMG_20150419_192004My family like things spicy, so I usually leave at least one of the chillies in with the meat to chop up and go in the final dish.

Take it piece by piece, (the cheeks are particularly delicious) and on a clean board start shredding the meat with two forks. Put the meat into a bowl as you go. Continue stripping the head and if the tongue is still in the skull I chop that up finely and put it in too. (My gran used to do this separately as pressed tongue in aspic but I prefer it mixed in the brawn).

You can also chop the onion halves finely and as many cloves of garlic from the head as you like and add them to the meat mix as well.

By now, the stock should be reduced. Take it off the heat, cover and allow it to cool. Refrigerate it if the weather is warm. Cover the shredded meat mixture and refrigerate it until you’re ready to assemble the brawn.

While the stock is cooling, prepare some small ramekins or cups by lining them with plastic wrap. Pack the meat mixture into the ramekins.

Skim any excess fat off the cooled stock and ladle enough of the liquid carefully over the meat mixture. Leave it a couple of minutes for any air bubbles to escape. Then carefully fold the plastic wrap over the top. (Any excess stock can be frozen for later use in soups or stews).

Stack the ramekins on top of each other or put a weight on each and refrigerate.

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Finished turned out Pork Brawn

The finished product will set naturally from the high amounts of gelatin in the bones and trotters. There’s no need for any extra gelatin. Serve turned out on a plate with¬†slices of fresh crusty bread and with a green salad makes a lovely lunch.

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