Russian pork cheeks

Or rather, pork cheeks in Russian beer. Or to be precise, in English ale meant for the Russians. More precise still - in American beer based on an English style ale, meant for the Russians. Okay, if I'm totally honest, in Dutch home-brewed beer inspired by an American beer in the style of an English beer meant for Russia.

Still with me? So, pork cheeks. You can get them at a quality butcher or, better yet, a pig farm with own butchery. For pork cheeks in particular you need happy pigs, after all, the cheeks do all smiling. Ask the butcher to remove the membranes or do it yourself.

Pigs cheeks are quite fat, but also gelatinous, making them even more succulent whilst remaining in one piece. After a long period of simmering they are soft and tender. The simmering can be done in any liquid, wine or stock, but beer is especially good. Don't use overly bitter beers (a risk when using this beer style). Heavy, sweet Belgian style Double, Triple and Quadruple beers are a safe bet, and so is a milder porter or stout. Sour ales with or without fruit also work very well. A Russian Imperial Stout adds a more robust flavour and some bitterness, which turned out great.

Pigs Cheeks with stoemp

  • 8 pigs cheeks (they shrink significantly)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 branch of rosemary
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • pepper
  • salt
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • butter or lard
  • 250ml beer (heavy, dark beer; a Russian Imperial Stout, for example)
  • beef stock

Fry the pork cheeks in a little butter (as I was also crisping up some bacon I used lard) until nicely browned. Put all the vegetables and fry until the onions are translucent and begin to color. Deglaze with the beer and add the remaining ingredients. Add as much beef stock as needed to almost cover the cheeks. Let the cheeks simmer for as long as you have patience for it, but at least for two  hours.  

Gently take out the cheeks out and herbs. If you like you can blend the sauce, but don't overdo this. Thicken the sauce with a little cornstarch dissolved in cold water and put the cheeks back in. Serve with a hearty potato and vegetable mash (Belgian "Stoemp" for example) and a good beer, like the beer that you used when cooking.

This post orginally appeared in Dutch on Mout en Peper

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