Monday, February 23, 2009

The Tale of the Fire-Breathing Boar - Part 1

... or, at least his head. Body to come later.

Let's start here. An entrement. To sum up the translation, in case you don't want to muddle through the link, You take hogs/boars heads and prop their mouths open with sticks, boil them, paint their foreheads with the arms of the lord the animal is being presented to, re-attach to the body on the spit, let brown a bit, insert candle with cotton soaked in alcohol and camphor, light it, and send it out.

Awesome! I have been wanting to do this, and now with the go ahead to have it presented at my next feast, I set out to experiment.

I went a bit out of order on the steps and actually experimented with the fire before painting and baking him (I really just wanted to play with fire!).

So, we begin with the head, purchased at Jungle Jim's:

First things first, I set to singing off the hair.

Look at the teeth!... they were actually just broken and dirty. The instructions say to clean the front teeth for presentation... my hog head was missing most of his front teeth.

I tried to pull his jaw open to get the sticks in, but he was still partially frozen, so I tried to defrost him a bit...

... this ended up not working out so well, so I eventually just stuck him in the sink with the faucet running on him.

Once defrosted (mostly, I was getting impatient and it is just a test run), he was pretty squishy to the touch. I then put him in my giant pot of hot water to cook.

Mr Pig after his bath:

His skin darkened up quite a bit and became much more firm and rubbery. His fatty fleshy parts (all the meat and such inside) were enlarged and spongy. Areas that had been cut when he was butchered also stretched when he cooked.

Since the back of his head had enlarged and "split apart" more, and he looked like a huge fat pig head, I decided to try to sew him back together a bit, just to tighten him up. I used a regular needle and thread (I was hoping to use button thread, but I am apparently out). I also sewed his ears back on to his head, since they were only sort of hanging off his forehead.

Next I set about propping his mouth open. I couldn't do this before he was cooked, since he was still kind of solid. I had a time of prying his mouth apart, but it worked out, and I was able to use short Popsicle sticks to hold it open.

So the stitches eventually ripped out of the back of his head and i was forced to more drastic measures... I needed something larger to hold the flesh together, so I went in search of my bamboo skewers, they, however, apparently ran off with the button thread, so I broke down and used an old pencil and duct tape as end caps.

It worked like a charm!

Pig head, mouth propped open, and side flesh pulled back, where it belongs:


I jumped the gun a bit and decided to play with fire before painting and baking the head.

General mess of stuff I used to experiment with to produce flames: Tea lights, cotton balls, 151 Vodka. For the camphor the only ways I could find it conveniently is in two forms: it is used in in Campho-Phenique (about 9% camphor mixed with phenol), which is a liquid anti-burn topical serum. The other place I found it was in Mentholatum® Ointment (about 10% camphor, mixed with menthol) which is supposed to be for dry skin, but i found it with the Vicks Vapor Rub.

After playing a bit with both of them I have decided that the effects are pretty much the same. The ointment seemed to last longer, and the serum gave off more popping noise.

I soaked the cotton balls in the vodka, and then put a bit of the camphor on, put it in the mouth and lit it. It burned for a good few minutes, with just one cotton ball. Over the next few weeks I am going to work on seeing if I can manage to wick the cotton into a small reservoir of the vodka to keep it fueling for a while.

Check out the awesomeness (some of the pictures are a bit dim, I apologize):

Painting the forehead:

As directed, I used mashed parsley and egg whites for the green, and ground saffron with egg yolk for red. The saffron would work beautifully for red, had I felt like dedicating my entire stash to the cause, but since I didn't I used a drop of red coloring. Please note, I was just checking on how the color would turn out in this experiment. I applied the color with my finger, attempting to make it vaguely look like the Midrealm Arms.

After baking for half an hour: The color is solid on the forehead of the pig.

Since the head is supposed to be attached to the body I am going to create a body for the pig, using pastry. I am going to experiment with making a form for it (paper mache and clay have been suggested) and lay the pastry over the top. The body is going to be a bit undersized, as I need it to fit into an oven to bake.

I will also mostly likely decorate the entire thing with banners, etc, for the presentation. I am also considering sewing the back before cooking it, to see if that makes a difference. This will depend, of course, on if the next one is as cut up as this one was.

Part 2: The creation of the body, coming soon.

The End...

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