A pig’s tail is an extension of its spine: a sequence of small vertebrae, surrounded by meat, and fat, and skin. The tail meat itself is not so different than the meat from, say, the shoulder. You are, however, afforded the pleasure of gnawing the meat off the bones.
The tail is a surprisingly tough muscle that needs to be simmered for a few hours to become tender. This got me thinking about the broth that would result from the cooking process. It happens that my second favourite soup of all time is ham soup. When smoked ham hock is simmered with vegetables, the resulting liquid somehow takes on the flavour of the meat without any noticeable detraction from the flavour of the hock itself. The final soup is comforting, smoky, salty, savoury, perfect for cold weather, and a great example of the ingenuity inherent in so many simple, frugal dishes. I decided I would serve the tail-broth alongside the crisp tail.
As with heads, tails usually have some whiskers that need to be shaved or singed. You can see that my tails both had a small piece of the rump still attached. That meat was later used as a garnish for the broth.
After brining, the tails were patted dry and left overnight in the fridge, uncovered, to dry out the surface. The next day they were hot-smoked, then simmered with vegetables, herbs, and, to add a little body to the finished stock, a couple of trotter bones.
Once the meat was tender, about three hours, the broth was strained and chilled so that the fat could be removed.
I pulled the chunks of rump meat from the tails, then cut the curly-queues into segments. Each tail was about nine inches long, so with six diners, everyone got a three inch piece.
The flavours were simple and direct: smoke, rosemary, and pork. A restorative broth to be sure.