Hure, from Middle Latin which signified a cap, and later a man’s spiky hair or the mane of a pursed-lipped wild beast. In Old French, hure came to signify the head of a boar, wolf or bear in heraldry. Early documented recipes for a boar, either before the popular husbandry of pigs or when wild boar presented a regal alternative to the plebian porcine are found in Guillaume “Taillevent” Tirel’s iconic Viandier:
Bourblier of fresh boar. Put it into boiling water, remove it very soon, roast it, and baste it with a sauce made of spices (to wit, ginger, cassia, cloves, grains of paradise and some grilled bread soaked with wine, verjuice and vinegar). When it is cooked, [cut it into bits and boil] everything together. It should be clearish and black.
Boar, hog, lamb, mutton, veal, horse, pike, salmon and such animal heads gilded with golden yolks graced the banquets and cookbooks of France throughout the 14th and 18th centuries.
The head in question was taken from the business end of a 40lb Pennsylvania shoat. It was rinsed clean in cold water, injected with a 5% salt brine flavored with warm spices and rosemary, then left to sit in said brine for 10 days. The noggin was rinsed clean of the brine and the tongue & ears was poached until respectively tender. The sides of the head were cut away and pared to an equal thickness throughout; scraps from the sides and skull were reserved for the forcemeat.
The diced portion of the forcemeat was made up from tongue, ears, fatback and larger scraps. Remaining trimmings were ground, half of that ground twice and mixed with the diced components, roughly chopped pistachios, ground black pepper, rosemary and distributed along the inside cheeks of both sides. The sides were rolled around the forcemeat, a challenge due to holes from the eyes and mouth, then wrapped in foil and chilled in the freezer to firm the shape for easier wrapping in cheesecloth and tying.
Both pieces were gently poached with aromatics in barely simmering water overnight until tender, though that was kind of hard to determine. They were left to cool in the liquid. A cast-iron Dutch oven was the only pot that accommodated the halves of head and aromatics and accordingly, though regrettably, tinted the cooking liquid an authentic medieval “clear and black”. Such cookware may have been the medieval standard.
Heady times! Not really. Anyone who trumpets the gustatory merits of a pig’s head must have just gotten theirs out of one’s ass. Overall the taste wasn’t as unpleasant as the texture. If the almost crunchy ear cartilage elements were peanuts and the rest of the meat were chocolate, peanut butter, nougat and rainbow fucking sprinkles, then I nailed it. The ears could have benefited from much longer cooking time, like a week. Or perhaps they should have been prepared as one cooks a carp North Carolina style: Put carp on a wooden board and cover with salt. Let sit 30 minutes. Throw away carp and eat wooden board.
The forcemeat, with the exception of the auditory appendages was well seasoned and when sliced thin was quite enjoyable, particularly with mustard. The skin was certainly not, as is invariably the case with cold skin, especially when it has little stubbly hairs coming out of it. Seasoning the forcemeat was a challenge since the meat was brined and any extra salt could have made the final product unbearably salty. Whatever the case, the hure should have been cooked much longer. It may have made the skin more edible (yuck), or at least easier to peel off. In the unlikely event of being stranded on a deserted island populated with feral pigs, such an attempt might be considered again. Until then, it will not.