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Tout est bon au cochon.
If you want to eat an animal in an ethical way, I think you have a moral responsibility to at least try and eat the whole thing.
Liver, offal, and the wobbly bits generally are the cuts that most people turn their noses up at, which is such a shame, because offal recipes are cheap, and full of nutrition. My father is a liver lover, and if it’s even half as good for you as he claims it is, he’ll be with us until he’s 120.
I’ve been reading a lot of old French and German cookbooks recently. Cookbooks starting from the 50s, going back to the 1890s. These books were written by cooks who understood that a pig does not consist solely of bacon and pork chops. They were written for frugal women who needed to find uses for all of the pig. Everything except the oink, they used to say.
This kind of nose-to-tail cooking is especially sensible if you have raised the animal yourself, but I think all meat-eaters could take a lesson from those less wasteful times
But liver is just so strong-tasting, and with a texture that puts even adventurous eaters off. For many years, I wanted to like this under-loved part of the pig, but I just couldn’t. Then I started turning up more terrine recipes using offal, and decided to try a few.
They were a revelation. The liver is toned down for novice offal eaters with the addition of a bland, fatty cut, and complimented with fresh herbs, spices and a judicious splash of booze. The texture, often dry and mealy when whole, lends itself perfectly to grinding, passing though the mincer like silk.
The cooking vessel is lined with fat, which keeps it wonderfully succulent. I’m sure that for every person you can find who likes plain liver as much as my father does, you can find 10 who will eat the commercially processed liver pâtés, spreads and sausages. This is so much better than that.
Try making this at home. It is simple, wholesome and cheap. You could make it in one large dish, or try cooking it directly into a flip-top preserving jar, which is how the French preserve it. The terrine cooked in a jar makes a portable picnic food, with a crusty baguette and a bottle of wine. Unopened, the jars will be good for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Make one jar as a sophisticated starter — take the other to the fields next weekend. If it is made as one large terrine in a loaf tin, use it as quickly as you would any other cooked meat product.
The quantities given do not have to be followed slavishly. If you want to start with a little less liver, go ahead, if you are sure you will love the taste, add more. Just remember to keep a good proportion of fat in there for a creamy texture. Experiment with different flavourings, try juniper berries or a different kind of alcohol, white wine for example. And then come back and tell me if you still don’t like liver.
Note: The terrine is improved by the brining stage, but it can be skipped if you are in a hurry.
French Liver Terrine Recipe
• 1 lb pig’s liver
• 1 lb belly pork which you have soaked in a mild brine overnight.
• 8 oz back fat, thinly sliced, or fatty smoked bacon
• 4 oz bacon lardons
• ½ cup of sherry
• 2 heaped tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
• 1 tsp allspice
• 1 tsp nutmeg
• salt and pepper
1. First grind up the liver and salted pork. You might be lucky and find a butcher who is willing to do this, but I find there are fewer and fewer who actually process meat on the premises. You can find hand-cranked grinders on eBay for next to nothing, and for small amounts of meat like this, they are perfect.
2. Add all the seasonings, the sherry and the lardons to the mix. Using clean hands, turn them in gently. Remember, meat that will be eaten cold needs to be much more strongly flavoured than meat you would eat hot, so season generously.
3. Line your cooking vessel with the strips of back fat or bacon. I used Weck preserving jars, so that each jar made one portion, but you could use anything that has a lid. If your chosen vessel doesn’t have a lid, you could improvise one out of aluminum foil. The fat bastes the terrine as it cooks, and keeps it moist.
4. Pack in the meat. Fill the cooking vessel well, as it will shrink as it cooks. Wipe any meat from the rims of the jars, if using, and clip down the lids. If you have no lid for your vessel, put another layer of fat or bacon on top of your terrine before covering with foil.
5. Place your filled terrine in a larger dish or baking tray. Fill the outside dish with water. Bake in at 340 degrees Fahrenheit for 1½ hours for smaller jars, or 2 hours for one large terrine.
Hannah Wernet grew up self-sufficiently on a sheep farm in Wales. When she was 20, she moved to Austria where she works as a teacher and owns a small expat bar. She dreams of one day returning to a self-sufficient life in the French countryside. Read all of Hannah's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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