Poached pigs head and trotters

There's been a recent revival in cooking offal, and in this recipe, Stefan Gates celebrates a rich British heritage with his classic dish
By Stefan Gates
Poached pigs head and trotters
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 8
  • Cook Time: 6 minutes
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes plus 2 days soaking and chilling
  • Effort: hard


For the brine

  • 6 litres water
  • 1 kg sea salt
  • 1 kg sugar
  • 4 lemons, juice only
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp juniper berries, optional
  • 1 nutmeg, halved, optional
  • 3/4 tsp cloves, optional

For the meat

  • 1 pig's head, halved
  • 2 pig's trotters
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves
  • bay leaves
  • peppercorns
  • 2 lemons, juice and zest
  • bunches parsley, chopped


1. Put all the brine ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil - this is to sterilise everything and ensure that the salt and sugar dissolve properly. Simmer for 5 minutes, then cover and leave it on one side to cool.

2. Rinse the pig's head under a tap, and brush away any dirt from the nostrils and teeth.

3. Pour the cooled brine into a large tub or bucket, and add the pigs head and trotters. Leave to soak for 2 days.

4. Take the head and trotters out of the brine, rinse thoroughly and put in a large saucepan. Stud the onion with the cloves and add to the pan. Cover with cold water and add an extra 3cm water, so that the head is completely immersed. Bring it all to the boil with the bay leaves and peppercorns.

5. Gently simmer everything for 4-6 hours with the lid on the pan. Turn the heat off and leave to cool. Lift out the head and trotters and put them in a large roasting tin. Pour off all but 2 litres of the remaining broth and set aside.

6. Pick through the remains of the head and trotters, removing as much meat as possible. Dice or shred the meat and place in a bowl. Cover and set aside.

7. Put any remaining bones and skin back in the pan with 2 litres or so of the reserved broth. Simmer for another hour until it's reduced by half.

8. Strain the resulting broth and combine 500ml of it with the meat from the head. Add the lemon juice, zest and the parsley. It should be of a porridge-like consistency.

9. Line 3 x 500g loaf tins with cling film and spoon in the meat and broth mixture. Leave to cool before chilling overnight in the fridge. Serve with English mustard and crusty bread.

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