Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Brawn: first check your pot

So there is a lot to be said for just-doing-things.  Fundamentally the main thing stopping people from doing things like quartering your own chicken is just buying a chicken, a knife and a book and getting on with it.  The first time you do it it’s a bit messy, the second you feel more confident, the third you just do.  Having said that, sometimes more planning does help and this is one of those occasions.  So writing it up anyway in the hope it inspires people to do better, and hopefully provides some slight amusement.

So two half heads and some trotters taken out 36 hours prior to defrost and put in the fridge.   Defrosting like this in the fridge means that luckily if plans do change, you can refreeze things which you shouldn’t if you defrost on the table top.  It also means if you need to re-portion something down a bit you can refreeze the other bit.  This is really useful as you can buy something oversize, or cut the meat into the largest joint you might need for a special occasion, but if it turns out just to be you and the family and need to cut it down before cooking.

The plan is that the meat never gets above 4c or whatever your fridge is at, but obviously defrosting like this is going to be slower.  This normally works great, especially for things going in for a slow cook where you only need defrosted enough to cut and prepare.  The 12-16+ hours in the oven then making sure it is very thoroughly cooked through which is important especially with pork.  Make sure you adjust up your cooking times if still slightly frozen!  If fast cooking room temperature meat works much better – so allow to thoroughly warm up. Use a meat thermometer in the middle to check it is cooked all the way through to a safe temperature.  Remember lots of people poison themselves with inadequately defrosted cooked meat, turkeys especially. 

So armed with what should have been ready to work meat, puy lentils, herb and spice bunches, an old razor and a large glass of nerve steadying single malt close by, along with lots of enthusiasm what was the issue?

It was not even vaguely defrosted.  Some combination of having been right at the bottom of the freezer for a while, there being a lot of it to defrost in the fridge, the fridge being on coldest setting for the beer over Christmas, or maybe the skull holds the cold better than a more fleshy join, it just wasn’t workable and it was clear the moment I laid it out.  Even as I’d planned to up the boil time from 4 to 6 hours – this wasn’t going to work.  However that didn’t really matter as…

… it was also clear it was not even vaguely going to fit in the pot.  I thought the 28cm stock pot was big, it was the biggest that the cooking equipment shop had had when I bought it.  It turns out for making brawn you need a properly big pot – right into the second hand from a professional kitchen size.  Any suggestions on where to source from near Cardiff happily received.

So it went back in the freezer.  Feeling foolish, as both the sources I was uses mentioned difficulty getting into pot, or needing a big one. 

Anyhow if you’re out there thinking about having a go, you can definitely do better than this.

On the plus side, I met the awesome Tom and Kate from @GrowUpBox today in Royal Festival hall in the #Soutbank, and they have promised to help the Thin Jetty cook Cerviches Tilapia from their amazing aquaponic micro-farm sometime soon, which I’m really looking forward to.

I also got to ride up and down in the singing yellow JCB lift in the blue zone Royal Festival Hall (RFH).  Worth a surreal ride for free if you are a tourist in the Southbank.  RFH also a great free space inside for lots of impromptu meetings, and people competing for the seats near the sparse power sockets on the wall.

Lastly apparently you can buy Coffee plants as house plants, or I presume for #GYO but no-one I’ve yet talked to who has bought one has seen one flower let along make beans.


  1. I bought the coffee plant from Rocket Gardens - great little company!

  2. Does look like a great company http://www.rocketgardens.co.uk/ will see if Amber wants to choose something to grow this year!