December 26, 2012

Face Off!

What better to way to spend Christmas morning than by defacing a pig, literally?!?! 

Justin was welcomed into the family by receiving a pig head for Christmas.  I guess its a replacement for a lump of coal ;) 
So after opening presents on Christmas morning, we set off to make porchetta di testa!

First, we needed to grind up our spices that would later be wrapped in the face.  With Justin's new morter & pestle, we ground up black peppercorns, coriander, star anise, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and some juniper berries.
Next came Mr. Pig!
I gave him a quick shave to get rid of some of the longer facial hair.  He had a lot on his ears too.
Once he was clean shaven, and looking handsome, it was time to cut the face off.  I took the first stab at it (get it...stab...).  My cousin, Lauren, who'd taken a pig butchering class and learned how to make this, coached us along.  Using short strokes with the knife, and pulling the skin away, we just followed along the skull to release the face.  We were careful not to puncture the eyeball, and tried to keep everything in tact as best we could.
It was a little tough to navigate around the socket by his temple, but I managed to get the left side of his face off in one piece.  Next, it was Justin's turn to cut off the right side and the snout.

Then we were left with the pig face, in two pieces.  Since Justin cut the snout off, I had the pleasure of cutting out the tongue.
The next step in the preperation was to remove all the glands, lymph nodes, and other untasty bits.  We took off a fair amount of fat in the process, but there was plenty of meat left.  Before laying out the face to season it, we cut off one of the cheeks to make guanciale (more on that in a minute).  We tucked the ears through the eye sockets to fill the holes, and layed out the face.  It took a lot of flipping and turning of the face pieces to figure out the best way to layer the two sides so we could roll it into a fairly even log.  Once the pieces were in place, we massaged in our seasonings with Kosher salt, getting into all the little nooks.

With the leftover salt and seasonings, we packed it on top of the cheek we cut out, and placed it in a ziploc bag where it will sit in the fridge for a week.  When we get home we'll hang it up to finish curing, so we'll post an update when that's ready to eat.

Now, back to the pig face.  While removing the face was time consuming, it was quite a fun experience, while tressing it proved to be more difficult.  Essentially, we rolled our seasoned porchetta like a pork loin, but the uneven shape made it a bit of a challenge. It took me a while to get the hang of looping it around, but it turned out alright.

The porchetta is sitting in the fridge until tomorrow, when we'll roast it.  Once its ready for eating, we'll slice it thin, and treat it like charcuterie.  We'll let you know how it turns out!

And, so we don't waste any bit of the head, we're roasting it (eyeballs and all), to make pork stock.  It should make for some tasty dishes down the road.

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