Wild boar was the most feared animal. (Even today feral hogs cause much destruction and anxiety in modern neighborhoods.) Its presence at a meal represented the victory of good over evil. Since wild boar became extinct in Britain during the 17th century a pig’s head was typically substituted.
The head was often brought in with theatrical relish, on a decorated platter, and apple stuffed into its mouth. Today's tradition of serving ham for Christmas dinner may be derived from serving boar's head or roasted boar joints for Christmas dinner.
To make Sham Brawn. TAKE the belly piece, and head of a young pork, rub it well with salt-petre, let it lie three or four days, wash it clean; boil the head, and take off all the meat, and cut it in pieces , have four neat's feet boiled tender, take out the bones, and cut it in thin slices, and mix it with the head, and lay it in the belly-piece, and roll it up tight, and bind it round with sheet-tin, and boil it four hours; take it up, and set it on one end, put a trencher on it within the tin, and a large weight upon that, and let it stand all night; in the morning take it out, and bind it with a fillet; put it in spring-water and salt, and it will be fit for use.
When you use it, cut it in slices life brawn. Garnish with parsley. Observe to change the pickle every four or five days, and it will keep a long time.~~From Hannah Glasse
Read more about the traditional Christmas feast here.
Hale, Mrs. Sarah J. Morton M'michael And Louis A. Godey. Lady's Book, Philadelphia: Louis A. Godey, Publishers' Hall, Dec. 1860.
Glasse, Hannah. The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. (1784) London: Rundell, Eliza. A New System of Domestic Cookery. (1814)
If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy: