The first post on this blog was my attempt to cook a whole hogs head buried underground whole on a camping trip. For 24 hours. It was quite a scene and it led to me posting my cooking adventures on a (semi) regular basis on this blog and helping you lose weight with every reading. I assumed I would be back to cook another hogs head, just because I am cheap and they are $10 apiece at Meatland in JP. Oh, and I have had one in my freezer for the past year. I had to cook that one at some point.
This past weekend was blog character Dupee’s bachelor party on Webb lake in Weld, Maine. And, since it is between May and October, it’s time for a refresher on how Maine is the most wonderful place in New England for a few months every year.
With lots of fishing planned and steak tips on the menu for dinner, I wanted do something special for Dupe. So, I decided to give him head.
Well, really, I was planning to give everyone some head. Let’s just let that spoof stay where it lay and move on with the rest of the post.
When the first arrivals asked what exactly I was planning to do with a hogs head, Dupee shrugged and said, “probably make tacos”. Correct! In fact, I can’t figure out a damned thing to make with animal heads aside from head cheese and tacos. And why fix it if it aint’ broke?!?!?
Alrighty, here are some thoughts on the somewhat horrifying image above:
- The eye area was much cleaner and trimmed than the last one
- The ear area was far better cleaned too
- The skull was pre split for easy access after cooking
- There was a lot more meat at the back of the head than the last one
After patting the head dry with paper towels, I did a little inspection for any nasty bits that would need to be trimmed off and eventually just accepted that nothing was nastier than anything else on the head. I then moved on to removing the ears and stuffing them inside the mouth so they wouldn’t burn. Then, I covered every square inch of exposed flesh with a rub of paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, and salt before squeezing it into a Pyrex.
I wrapped the head tightly with foil and put it into a preheated 300F oven to bake for 6-8 hours or until I figured out a way to smoke it.
While the head cooked we did some more fishing and horseshoe throwing. But mostly fishing.
Around 6 hours into the cook time we came up with a plan to finish the hogs head in a smoker fashioned from fresh birch chips and a ‘Lil Smokey grill. I proceeded to babble about it nonstop and lay some pretty poor groundwork for eventually executing it without actually getting started. Then I got distracted, probably dug a hole in the sand with my feet, and eventually went up to check on the head and discovered it was already fully cooked.
The skin was crispy, the meat was falling apart, and there were some delicious bits of meat to pick off the back of the head. Considering that it almost fell into four pieces when I moved it three inches from the Pyrex to the plate and was completely cooked through, I abandoned the smoker plan and got started picking.
First up was the ears which were tender, sticky and falling apart. Sliced these into little pasta-like ribbons.
The tongue was up next and was definitely more innocuous looking than the one I cooked a few weeks ago.
From there I got a stack of paper towels, brought over the trash bin and started the messy process of picking through all of the fat and skin to get to the tender head meat. The bulk of the meat came from the cheeks, but there are also decent-sized deposits around the eyes, on the inside of the jaw, and multiple spots on the back of the head. A couple shots of the carnage.
With the meat keeping warm in the oven and my stomach stuffed with crunchy skin cracklins consumed while cooking, I moved on to the ears. I heated up a few spoonfuls of rendered fat from the head in a pan and threw the ears in. And I had a learning experience.
I once tried to make fried clams and had them all explode in the fryer covering my face with hot oil, but let’s give pan-frying ears its proper due as a close runner up to that. The oil got way too hot too quickly and the slices of pig ear started exploding like crazy, covering my arms and face with oil. I found out the following day that you gotta go the opposite way on the burner to get it to a temperature that won’t burn everything in sight. Oh well, the pig ears stayed about the same level of edible.
That bowl of ears didn’t last long, which was surprising. I think Dupe ate most of them but they were pretty much gone when I got back to the kitchen.
With dinner close, I heated up 24 corn tortillas in more of the pork fat for the tacos.
From there, it was pretty much serve and eat. I setup the taco bar with the head meat, raw onion, cilantro, limes, crumbled goat cheese (because I couldn’t find queso fresco), and some hot sauce. I probably could have cut the stems off the cilantro, but, meh.
There’s not a lot to say here that wasn’t covered in the first post, but these were tasty tacos. The meat was tender, flavorful, rich, and very very porky. Hence the need for all of the fresh ingredients and other strong flavors to accompany it with. I wish I had found a better way to serve the skin which I let go from crispy to soggy in the hour between when it came out of the oven and dinner. Some crispy pig skin slivers on top would have been a nice touch.
Probably not my last venture with hogs head, but not sure I will be roasting it again. Just not that much meat and my hands are still sticky. But, a decent, odd meal in honor of Dupe.
Next week, mystery cupboard fish parts!