I love making meat and game terrines at Christmas. Taking precious bits of less popular cuts of meat, combining them with freshly ground spices, garlic, spirits, fruits, nuts and wrapping it all up in pork back fat is fascinating to me! I love the idea of creating something deliciously sinful out of such passed over ingredients.
Being married to the grandson of a British butcher, has given me carte blanche in the kitchen. I love it! There is no cut of meat that Ralph is not willing to try. Ralph’s father does a wicked ‘pressed tongue’ during the holidays that leaves all of his family clambering to get to the buffet table.
Pressed tongue was introduced to me as ‘spiced beef’, during my first Christmas with the Hooton family. On Boxing Day evening, Ralph’s mom would fill her dining room table with cold salads, hot casseroles, homemade bread and pickles along with a huge platter of baked ham and “spiced beef’.
Back then, I was a little overwhelmed with the enthusiasm of Ralph’s brothers and nephews when they were getting ready to eat. Let’s just say, ‘women and children did not come first’, when it came to Nanny Hooton’s cooking.
I stood back and watched, with great interest, as the boys built beautiful sandwiches with Maxine’s [Ralph's mom] homemade white bread, slices of baked ham and ‘spiced beef’ then topping it with Reg’s [Ralph's dad] fiery hot mustard.
I couldn’t wait to try Reg’s famous Christmas specialty. While I was savouring my first bite, I realized that all eyes were on me. As I looked around the room, I saw that everybody had stopped eating and that they were smiling at me. As I swallowed, Ralph quietly said, ‘the spiced beef is made from cow’s tongue. I wasn’t sure that you would have tried it, if you had known’.
There are defining moments in your life. Moments when you do not get a do – over. The truth was – my sandwich was delicious. The fact that it was filled with a cow’s tongue… With all of my new family waiting, I looked Ralph’s dad square in the eyes and said, “I can’t wait for you to teach me how to make this – it’s fantastic!” And so began my journey of experimenting with lesser known cuts of meat.
Christmas Pork Terrine with Pistachios and Dried Cranberries
3/4 lb pork fat, sliced thin
1 cup red onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon juniper berries
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
pinch of cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
1 lb ground fatty pork shoulder
1/4 lb ground fatty veal (preferably veal breast)
1/2 lb baked ham (1/2-inch slice), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 lb baked ham, coarsely ground
3 bacon slices, coarsely ground
1/2 cup freshly shelled pistachios
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Using a mortar and pestle, grind juniper berries with coarse salt and black peppercorns.
Cook onion in butter in a heavy skillet over medium - low heat, stirring frequently, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, ground juniper, salt and peppercorns and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Transfer to a large bowl and stir in nutmeg and cloves. Allow mixture to cool completely.
Whisk cream with eggs until well combined, then add to cooled onion mixture.
Add ground meats and mix well with your hands. Stir in ham cubes, pistachios and cranberries
Line bottom and long sides of terrine mold crosswise with pork fat slices, arranging them close together. I made two different terrines. The above photo shows my terrine mold lined with bacon rather than the plain pork fat. The bacon will produce a smokey flavour.
Fill terrine evenly with ground-meat mixture, rapping terrine on counter to compact it.
Cover top of terrine with pork fat slices to cover completely. Cover terrine with plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours to marinate meats.
The pork fat shown above will completely melt during the baking process. It will then solidify during the chilling process to act as a natural wrap. It is then scraped away before serving.
Preheat oven 325*F
Place oven rack in middle position
Discard plastic wrap and cover terrine tightly with a double layer of foil.
Bake terrine in a water bath 1 3/4 to 2 hours. Remove foil and let terrine stand in mold on a cooling rack for 30 minutes.
Put a piece of parchment over top of terrine, then place on top of parchment another same-size terrine mold. Fill empty mold with 3 lbs of weight to compress cooked terrine. Chill terrine in pan with weights at least 24 hours to allow flavors to develop.
Run a knife around inside edge of terrine and let stand in mold in a pan with 1 inch of hot water (to loosen bottom) 2 minutes.
Tip terrine mold to drain excess liquid. Place a cutting board over terrine, invert terrine onto cutting board and gently wipe outside of terrine with a paper towel. Let terrine stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving, then transfer to a platter if desired and cut, as needed, into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
The terrine should keep up to 2 weeks as long as it is well wrapped.
Thanks for reading