"The skilful and economical housewife can buy a pig's head for 3s or 4s; this is what she can make from it - pig's ears wth a piquant sauce, brains in puff pastry, Bath chap, 1 1/2lb of sausage meat for making pâté and some excellent rillons. There is on average 4 1/2 lb of boneless meat on a pig's head. And an excellent clear soup or aspic jelly is to be made from the bones." Jane Grigson - Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery, 1966
And she didn't even mention the tongue. Ugh.
For my lucky dip I picked out Jane Grigson's (I think first) book Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery, which I bought at a time when I enthusiastically thought I would make my own sausages until I came up against the problem of getting the skins to put them in. It has some excellent pork recipes in it and I have used it in the past from time to time. Indeed I should use it more. But when I went to the'lucky' page I found pig's head and a long and complicated recipe for brawn. I was somewhat revolted and immediately searched for another 'lucky' page which turned up cassoulet. Have I done cassoulet?
Anyway I felt guilty about not sticking to the serendipity of the lucky dip and so I am returning to pig's heads. I took the picture at the top of the page in Tuscany, back in 2012 in the small town of Castiglione di Lago where we found ourselves on the same day as a market on the side of the lake. I just couldn't resist taking a picture of the pig's head. I think it has been roasted. And it looks like the shredded meat is used in a sandwich/roll. And indeed, when I started my 'research' most of the sites that came up were for roasting a pig's head.
Indeed roasted pig's head seems to be a thing in some quarters - the 'nose to tail' fraternity which is led by Fergus Henderson in England. And from a brief check on the internet it seems to be a thing in America. But I'm pretty sure there are not really a lot of people who would go for it. I mean it doesn't look that tempting does it?.
Back in history of course it was often a centrepiece - the pig's head with the apple in the mouth, although sometimes the head was just part of it. You often got the whole thing. And in parts of Europe, and therefore here too, you still get spit-roasted suckling pig. I looked for pictures and found plenty, but I just couldn't do it. It really is rather confronting to me, who I suspect may gradually be turning into at least a partial vegetarian,
The boar's head though was a celebratory thing - particularly at Christmas. And often served with an apple in the mouth for some reason. But:
"Over the last few centuries they fell out of vogue because... well, because gross. And eyes. And pointy swill-tempered teeth."
Anneli Rufus - Huffpost
So I'm not going to give you any recipes here - I doubt that any of you are interested.
There is a theory of course that if you eat meat then you should be honest about where it comes from and eat all of it - waste not want not and all of that. Care tenderly for your animals until you kill them for food. And to be honest I have probably eaten pig's head - or bits of it anyway without realising it, as I tucked into various French charcuterie delicacies, or sausages. I mean sausages can hide a multitude of things can they not. I have eaten pig's trotters, which were tasty, and I have eaten ox cheek, and calves' tongue - all of which were delicious. And I would probably not have chosen to eat any of these. No that's not quite true. I think the pig's trotters were a recipe from Elizabeth David that took a lot of work. It tasted good but was so complicated I never made it again. I think the other things were served up to me and so I could not refuse. And it has to be noted that a lot of foodies, including Jane Grigson think that the various parts of the head are delicious.
A pig's head is an embarrassment of riches. There are the obvious and much-loved pig's cheeks, which are truly the only sections on the pig that manage to be both lean yet moist and flavorful. You'll get a similar type of flesh down in the hocks and trotters, but cheeks eclipse the hocks in terms of moistness and the trotters in terms of size. Though there's a lot of fat and skin surrounding the cheeks ...
By the time you're done sifting through the treasures on the head, you'll have huge piles of pure meat, flesh mixed with collagen and fat, skin, and a much smaller refuse pile. In short, just about everything on the head is good to eat, you'll have plenty of options for how you want to eat it." Chichi Wang - Serious Eats
And here's a not particularly nice memory that just flashed into my head. At high school we had to dissect an eye - and we all had to go to our butcher and buy one. I'm pretty sure it was a pig's eye. Of course we all were a bit repulsed, but then when we started to dissect it, it all became rather fascinating. Such is our talent for repressing unpleasant facts when it doesn't suit.