Cabeza de Jabalí

cansaladeria puri

cansaladeria puri

I was wandering around the Boqueria looking for something exciting and came across some Cabeza de Jabalí (wild boar head) on the the Cansaladeria Puri (pork charcuterie) stall.

cabeza de jabali

cabeza de jabali

The wild boar head in question was actually wild boar brawn – listed in Larousse Gastronomique as Hure de Porc, potted head, or head cheese. In a  nutshell, the brined and slowly cooked head is turned into a terrine. Cooking the pig’s head is typical old fashioned nose to tail eating where no parts of a pig are wasted – this dish is common throughout Europe. Head cheese can also be made with cows and sheep, but pork is by far the most common ingredient.

wild boar brawn

wild boar brawn

Wild boar are native to Eurasia, North Africa and the Greater Sunda Islands. Like the pig, wild boar have also been introduced to the Americas and Australia.  In Britain, wild boar were hunted to extinction, probably by the 13th Century. There were moves to reintroduce them in the 17th Century, but as they were regarded by farmers as an agricultural nuisance, the new stocks didn’t last long. In the 1980s, wild boar were brought to Britain from France to be farmed. As this proved successful, other stocks have been introduced and bred from as far afield as Eastern Europe and Sweden. Today in Britain, there are real wild boar that have escaped and gone native. Across Europe the boar has been more successful than in Britain and in fact populations are exploding. In the vineyards of Europe the boar can be a particular problem, as a mother and babies can devour an entire harvest in a night or two! As they are hunted to keep their numbers in check, it seems only right to eat them – like deer and other game, their meat is lean and they haven’t been subjected to intensive farming. In short, they have lived decent lives.

I’ve eaten brawn made with pork quite a few times, but was excited by the chance to try the stronger wild boar flavour. The cabeza de sanglier was excellent in a bocadillo de queso – a Spanish cheese (manchego) sandwich in a baguette, where the bread is rubbed with garlic, tomato and olive oil (pan con tomate). It was also delicious served with a green salad, vinaigrette and pickles.

For a definitive brawn recipe, see Fergus Henderson’s book – Nose to Tail Eating.

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30 Responses to Cabeza de Jabalí

  1. Ruth says:

    I ate roasted wild boar on a spit when we lived in Grafenwoehr Germany. I remember what a snarl of a face it had but can’t remember what it tasted like.

  2. I feel like I should be grossed out by this, especially given my plant based eating these days, but I’m intrigued. I think I’d love this. In Chile my friends raised wild boar and we ate their ears which were quite good. Nice link for the brawn recipe. There is a difference in flavor between the two and I think the wild boar is better. I didn’t realize they’d been hunted to extinction then reintroduced. Amazing. Anyway I’d like to see your prepared version of this. Enjoy the week!

  3. Eha says:

    Mad, you know I have the biggest smile on my face: my very favourite party food in the whole wide world! There is no festive gathering in NE Europe without this glorious beauty!! I usually use pork hocks + some veal on bone for finesse! Have not had it with wild boar, but there are plenty of such in the forests of Estonia so I may be wrong!! If I may be rather ‘rude’ about Mr Henderson – his is not how brawn or headcheese is elegantly cut up and it is never, ever served in a roll!! Ugh!!!! Don’t like the ‘definitive’ recipe either ! It is simply beautiful as part of smorgasbord with punchy vinegar added upon eating, of course . . .

    • Mad Dog says:

      Hi Eha – the post is about a Catalan wild boar version, whereas Fergus Henderson’s recipe is for a traditional British pig version, which is chunky and quite different. I ate the above in a baguette because it came thinly sliced.

    • Eha says:

      All the different versions are so interesting! The Baltic/Scandinavian version has so much natural jelly you could never put it onto a piece of bread tho’ thin black bread naturally sits on the side of the plate . . . but I have to admit to liking a more ‘pulled pork’ appearance – we do not have big pieces of meat or ’tis said the cook was lazy and ignorant 🙂 !!! Oh I love it and have just decided to make some as soon as our record January heat of almost every day past 40 C is over . . .

  4. Small world! – Like Eha – when I was a child and bit later up into my 20 plus I too was used to beautifully cooked “wildschwein’, hunted in some of my friends forests :). Spit grilled at parties – oh what a joy. Then I was going to stop here, but when I read Eha’s answers to you I suddenly had a whole light bulb factory light up in my (memory-) brain – and yes, I absolutely agree with her and mentioning black bread on the site……..cant we all get together and have a feast?? I think one of the reasons she and I agree on so many culinary delights is that she has her Estonian blood in her and I, from my mothers side, Polish and that mixed with German from the Rhineland……..perfect 🙂

  5. Nadia says:

    Here we eat it with boiled potatoes drenched in butter, garlic and parsley.

  6. We love food like this, but it has fallen out of fashion in England a bit. My mum makes wonderful brawn from pigs trotters and now you’ve got me thinking about tongue which you never see anymore either.

    • Mad Dog says:

      You can buy pig’s heads from some of the butchers in London, so I think your butcher could get one for you (if you want one…). For some reason they seem to show up around this time of year. The last one I bought cost a fiver. I’ve seen ox tongue in Waitrose occasionally and Morrisons sell trotters and offal, including tripe.

  7. Conor Bofin says:

    I have had wild boar in the deep winter in the south west of France. Delicious (we were served a daub). I have made terrines from pigs head (I won’t post the link but, it’s there on the blog). My butcher friends tell me that they throw most of their pigs heads out as there is no demand. It’s a sad thing.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Hi Conor – I bet that boar was good! I’m sure I had a discussion with my butcher about the pig’s heads and here they do get used for something, but I’ve forgotten what – perhaps pet food. I’m fairly sure there was also a reason why they are available around this time. If I’d posted when I cooked my last head, I would have written it all down…
      It’s a dreadful shame if they are thrown away. When halved and slow roasted in stock, all the skin turns to crackling and the cheeks, tongue and brains are delicious!
      Fergus Henderson cooks a pig’s head.

  8. Michelle says:

    I understand there are lots of wild pigs in the Southern U.S. (though rare here). Steve, of course, will eat sanglier at any opportunity when in France. We’ve cooked domestic pig heads a couple of times. Haven’t yet perfected the head cheese, so I guess we’ll have to try again one day. 🙂

  9. Karen says:

    Now that is a sandwich my husband would happily join you with, he loves head cheese and had it served as a terrine at a fashionable restaurant the last time we were in Munich. I had a bite and it was delicious.

  10. Pingback: Corzo al Chilindrón | Mad Dog TV Dinners

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