Here at Mr Pickles’ we’re always excited to try something a bit different – whether it be a new variety of apple from the wonderful Sheffield Organic Growers, an interesting flavour combination from Charlie’s Country Garden or an unusual cut of meat. Which is why we’re very pleased to have pigs’ cheeks in store for the first time.
Sourced from Anna’s Happy Trotters, the cheeks are already butchered down and trimmed – ready for you to cook at home. And, how should you cook them? Well these little nuggets of meat like nothing better than a long and slow braise – until the meat is tender and giving.
Here are a couple of our favourite recipes.
Pigs’ Cheeks Cooked in Cider
This is a great recipe if you don’t have time to braise cheeks for hours on end. And, although they’re only cooked for an hour and a half, they’re still tender and delicious.
4 pigs’ cheeks – trimmed
1 small onion – finely sliced
400 mls dry cider – try Feral Nancy from Sheffield’s own CiderBeast
3 sage leaves
Salt & pepper
1) Heat your oven to 160C or Gas Mark 3
2) Heat an ovenproof casserole dish, one that has a lid, over a medium to high heat and brown the pigs’ cheeks on all sides in a mixture of the butter and oil.
3) Remove from the pan and keep warm.
4) If required, add a little more oil and butter and sweat the sliced onion in the dish until soft.
5) Return the cheeks to the pan, add the cider, season and bring to the boil.
6) Place a lid on the dish and transfer to the oven.
7) Cook for an hour, then add the sage leaves before cooking for a further half hour.
8) Remove the meat and allow to rest in a warm place whilst you reduce the cider sauce over a high heat on the hob.
9) Serve with a garlic and mustard mash and seasonal vegetables, such as savoy cabbage and purple sprouting broccoli.
Recipe adapted from the Essex Eating blog.
Slow-Braised Pigs’ Cheeks with Parsnip Puree
This recipe, adapted from Anton Edelmann, requires around 4 hours of braising time, but it can be adapted for the slow cooker for a mid-week tea.
8 pigs’ cheeks – trimmed
Flour – for dusting
2 onions – chopped
Half a leek – chopped
Large carrot – chopped
2 sticks of celery – chopped
1 clove of garlic – finely sliced
100g tomato puree
Half a bottle of red wine
300ml stock – homemade pork stock would be best, but chicken will work just as well.
Half tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp caraway seeds
1 bay leaf
10 parsnips – chopped
200 ml full fat milk
1) Preheat your oven to 140C or Gas Mark 1
2) Season the pigs’ cheeks and dust with a little flour.
3) Heat some oil in a large ovenproof casserole dish, one that has a lid, over a medium to high heat and fry the cheeks until browned on all sides.
4) Remove from the dish and keep warm.
5) Add the onions, leek, celery, carrots and garlic to the dish and fry until soft. You may need to add a little more oil at this point.
6) Add the tomato puree and a little of the red wine. Reduce until the puree starts to caramelise and darken. Slowly add the rest of the wine, in stages, allowing it to reduce resulting in a rich and dark sauce.
7) Return the cheeks to the dish and pour in the stock – just enough to cover the meat. Add the peppercorns, caraway seeds and bay leaf and bring to a simmer.
8) Cover the dish with its lid and place in the oven to cook for around 4 hours – stirring every hour or so. If the dish looks a little dry at any stage, add a more stock. Alternatively transfer to a slow cooker and cook on low for around 8 hours.
9) Prepare the parsnip puree by placing them in a pan with the milk and 200 mls of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer until tender.
10) Remove the parsnips from the pan and place in a blender along with a little of the cooking liquor. Blend until smooth – adding more liquor if required. Keep warm until you’re ready to serve.
11) Once the pigs’ cheeks are soft and tender, remove from the dish and keep warm. Strain the cooking sauce through muslin into a pan, bring to the boil and reduce until it’s at your desired consistency. Check the seasoning and add salt & pepper if required.
12) Serve the cheeks on top of the parsnip puree with a little of the reduced cooking sauce poured on top. Any seasonal veg will work well with this dish – right now we’re enjoying Sheffield Organic Growers’ cavelo nero.
Recipe adapted from Anton Edelmann.