When buying a pig, whole or half, one of the often overlooked options is the head and related cuts. The ears are a great cut to get both to cook yourself (very popular in some cultures) or even to have smoked as a special treat for your dog. The jowl is a delicious cut – again, not as common in the US as other areas, but well worth asking for. There are other recipes for the head and stews or soups are often the target here, but at a minimum, it provides trimming for sausage and scrapple.
I do encourage you to do a little research on your own and consider this as an adventure to explore in your next cut list or trip to the butcher!
Pig’s Ear on a griddle and Red Braised Pig’s Ear – This link provides 2 methods of cooking and also an entertaining read about the process of picking them up and a little history. When buying a whole or half pig you will not have a quantity of ears, but if you ask ahead of time, we can coordinate with customers who do not wish to get the ears back and you might get a free add on bonus! (We won’t let them go to waste either way.)
Super Bowl Snack: Crispy Pig Ears – These treats take a different approach and are from Chris Stewart, the co-owner of the Glass Onion in South Carolina. A quick tip on this take is the simmering in the over portion calls for a mirepoix – for those who might not be familiar with that, it is essentially a mix of onions, carrots and celery but can be varied.
The jowl is a cut that is essentially, bacon. It is rich in fat and meat and can be treated like a belly cut for bacon, or cooked as an accompaniment for black beans or other dishes.
First up is a recipe from Taste of Southern and covers frying the jowl. I am including this one as it is well done, with great photos and ideas. It is primarily focused on the bacon approach, but is a good site to explore on it’s own as well.
Another approach to the jowl is covered in a very solid article over at mattikaarts.com and is Home Cured Guanciale. As described on the site, “Guanciale is a whole pork jowl, that has been rubbed with salt herbs and spices, and air dried.”
Once you make it, the resulting product can be used like a super rich bacon in salads, pasta or any other dish. I think this is worth a try if you are serious about your pork, though it represents an investment in time and energy.
Wrapping it up
Generally, with the head there are so many things you can do I encourage you to make google your friend. (or whatever search engine you like)
There are more options out there to try than you can imagine and so many great flavors and treats to eat. Do not be afraid to experiment and provide comments to us and we will post it here if you wish.