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Janine is looking for a recipe for brawn. Not just any recipe, but one that calls for allspice which she hopes would be like the delicious brawn my mother used to make, because we do remember her using allspice.
Of course there are recipes online but none that sound like what she’s looking for.
Never mind baking bread, making brawn is COVID-19 activity at its greatest manifestation. Brawn is a traditional British recipe made from a boiling a pig’s head with onions and myriad herbs and spices. It is not a process for the fainthearted.
I vaguely remember something from very early days about my father bringing in a pig’s head from “out west,” meaning the Codroy Valley area. Hearing that your father is coming home with a pig’s head is not the kind of thing a child would forget even if I don’t actually remember seeing said head and of course I wouldn’t have eaten the brawn if life depended on it.
My mother’s brawn was actually quite delicious but I was an adult before I learned that. By that time my father was no longer working out west and pig’s heads were in short supply in Corner Brook. I dimly remember moose heads coming into it, but my main memories are of pig’s feet and whatever bony cuts she could get her hands on; pork, beef or otherwise.
I made it once, with my mother’s guidance, adding and tasting as I went along. I used the bony cuts of meat. Even that was too much for my delicate constitution, picking out all the fat and gristle. Ick.
So far in this lockdown I haven’t turned much to the kitchen for comic relief. Newman has! He emerged from the lagoon one day with a recipe printed off for cabbage rolls!
Just to be clear, I do make cabbage rolls. Not as often as Newman would like but often enough over the years that I no longer follow a recipe.
Newman’s is a fancy recipe that calls for Savoy cabbage. As they would say on the cooking shows, this elevates the lowly cabbage roll to another level. Ha ha.
I don’t know what else the recipe calls for; I stayed out of the kitchen until I was needed to give a rolling demonstration. He picked up this highly skilled procedure very quickly and my time on the job was less than ten seconds.
He had to add liquid part way through the cooking because they had dried out but they were quite good. I’m a big enough person to admit that I actually like Newman’s better than mine, so I may be asking for his recipe.
On second thought I won’t. As long as his are better than mine he might as well keep making them.
I’m not sure at what point in our relationship Newman started to cook. Maybe it was when I started not to cook. Ha ha. This coincided with when we realized that we didn’t each have to eat the same meal if we didn’t feel like it. He can have his favourite vegetable — potatoecabbagecarrotturnip — every night if he wants to as long as I don’t have to cook it. I can have chicken livers whenever I want to as long as he doesn’t have to eat them.
I do cook for us both two or three times a week. Depending on the leftovers, that leaves at least two days where we each do our own thing. Newman often opts for a pork chop while I have a rendezvous with one of my delicious home-made hamburgers. Newman might cook pasta while I have pizza and we’re both be happy.
During the last lockdown I made crusty bread and banana bread. So far this time I’ve made biscotti which so underwhelming even the birds won’t eat it
I have more biscotti in my future, but am not yet moved to anything else.
And that includes brawn.
Update. The cookbook “Fat Back and Molasses” has a brawn recipe. It calls for “nutmeg and other spices.” I think that’s probably as exact as its going to get.
And Janine is not using a head of any description.
Janice Wells writes from St. John’s