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Boar's Head

Meat and Meat Dishes

'Bringing in the Boar's Head' for a Christmas feast. Engraving, English, 1871 (Colorized)

Mrs Beeton tells us about the importance of the roasted Boar's Head..
"IMPORTANCE OF THE BOAR'S HEAD, &c. - The boar's head, in ancient times, formed the most important dish on the table, and was invariably the first placed on the board upon Christmas-day, being preceded by a body of servitors, a flourish of trumpets, and other marks of distinction and reverence, and carried into the hall by the individual of next rank to the lord of the feast. At some of our colleges and inns of court, the serving of the boar's head on a silver platter on Christmas-day is a custom still followed; and till very lately, a bore's head was competed for at Christmas time by the young men of a rural parish in Essex. Indeed, so highly was the grizzly boar's head regarded in former times, that it passed into a cognizance of some of the noblest families in the realm: thus it was not only the crest of the Nevills and Warwicks, with their collateral houses, but it was the cognizance of Richard III., that -

"Wretched, bloody, and usurping boar,
That spoil'd your summer fields and fruitful vines,
Swills your warm blood like wash, and makes his trough
In your embowell'd bosoms," -

and whose nature it was supposed to typify; and was universally used as a sign to taverns. The Boar's Head in Eastcheap, which, till within the last twenty-five years still stood in all its primitive quaintness, though removed to make way for the London-bridge approaches, will live vividly in the mind of every reader of Shakspeare, as the resort of the prince of Wales, Poins, and his companions, and the residence of Falstaff and his coney-catching knaves, Bardolph, Pistol, and Nym; and whose sign was a boar's head, carved in stone over the door, and a smaller one in wood on each side of the doorway."

The Boar's Head is paraded in to the feast
Image: Unknown

Original Receipt in 'The Country Housewife and Lady's Director' by Prof. R Bradley, 1728 (Bradley 1728)

To dress a Hog's Head, in imitation of the Jole of a wild Boar.

Take a Hog's Head and burn it well all over upon a clear Fire, till all the Hair is burnt to the Skin; then take a piece of Brick, and rub the Head all over as hard as possible, to grind off the Stumps of the Bristles, and finish the whole with your Knife, and then clean the Head very well; when this is done, you must take out all the Bones, opening the Head in the under Part, and beginning with the under Jaw-Bones and the Muzzle; then cleave the Head, leaving only the Skin over the Skull to hold it together: take out the Tongue and the Brains. When thus you have taken away all the Bones, stab the Flesh with the Point of your Knife in many places on the inside, without wounding the Skin, and put Salt into every Incision, then join the Head together, and tie it well together with Packthread, and then wrapping it up in a Napkin, put it in a Kettle, with a large Quantity of Water, a large Bunch of all kinds of sweet Herbs, a little Coriander and Anise-Seeds, two or three Bay Leaves, some Cloves, and two or three Nutmegs cut in pieces, and some Salt, if you think there is any wanting; add likewise two or three large Onions and a Sprig or two of Rosemary. When this has boiled half enough, pour in a Bottle of Wine, and let it boil three or four Hours longer till 'tis tender; for it will not be so under seven or eight Hours boiling, if the Hog be large; and if it is a Boar's Head, that has been put up for Brawn, it will take more time to boil. Being boiled enough, let it cool in the Liquor, and then take it out and untie it, and lay it in a Dish to be carry'd cold to the Table, either whole or in Slices. If you will, you may salt it three or four days before you boil it.

Original Receipt from 'A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes' by Charles Elmé Francatelli (Francatelli 1846)

103. boar's HEAD SAUCE.

Grate a stick of horse-radish, and place it in a basin with four ounces of red currant-jelly, a spoonful of mixed mustard, the grated rind of an orange and lemon, together with the juice of both; two ounces of pounded sugar, a tablespoonful of French vinegar, and two tablespoonsful of salad-oil; mix these ingredients thoroughly together, and serve.


Pare the rind off two Seville oranges, free from any of the white pith, cut it into fine shreds, parboil this, and drain it on a sieve; then put it into a small stewpan containing the juice of the two oranges, together with one pound of red currant jelly, half a pint of port wine, and half a teaspoonful of cinnamon powder; simmer the whole together in a stewpan, and serve when cold.

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