I roasted a pig recently. From the very beginning of my planning for this year, I had my sights set on the eyeball for an article. You won’t find them on the menu anyplace I know of so I didn’t want to miss my chance. I was thinking about other items as well: tongue, ear, tail etc. but the eyeball was the prize. Of course to get to the prize I had to roast a pig and drink beer for 8 hours, but sometimes you have to suffer to make things worthwhile. There is a ton of delicious meat to be had on the head of pig. The cheeks in particular are rich, juicy and fatty with the perfect ratio of crispy skin to wonderful roasted pig. You can slow-braise pork cheeks and get great results in many dishes, but roasted and sliced on the spot is a thing of beauty.
As delicious as it is, I’m not here to talk about the wonder of roasted pork; I’m here to talk about the nastier bits. Once I served the crowd the meat that everyone enjoys, I went back to my carving table and set to work with a very sharp, thin-bladed knife to retrieve “My Precious”. My first cut removed way too much of the surrounding tissue and very tough muscle for me to eat, so I had to trim it down.
To the delight of no one, the easiest way to get to the eye itself was to push it through from the back after cutting the surrounding skin. Once it was free of its muscly outer coating it looked much more appetizing.
OK so that’s a lie, it looked like an eyeball. Which is to say, blech. However, fueled by beer and a crowd watching me, I moved along with my adventure in whole hog cooking and eating.
Now that I was done showboating for the crowd it was time to actually eat this thing I had worked so hard to extract. I could not wait to pop this tough little sack of gelatinous goo in my mouth. Also a lie. Without further delay I tossed it in whole and took a big bite. I was tempted to just swallow it whole but it was pretty large and the idea of someone having to Heimlich an entire eyeball from my esophagus was not one that I wanted to imprint upon my otherwise very good day.
It did not have a pleasant texture; it was simultaneously tough on the outside and very soft on the inside. Pretty much what you would expect for an eyeball. But after a bite or two, I really tried to focus on the flavor rather than the texture and it didn’t taste bad at all. It was quite juicy and tasted like pork, albeit with a lovely hint of cornea. Still, it was a chore to choke it down and it took longer to swallow than I really cared for.
Truly it was much more of an issue with texture than flavor. If you have ever eaten a really tough, stringy piece of meat that took to lot to chew and you really didn’t want to swallow it, then you have experienced a pig eyeball. Overall, I would say it is in the “so you don’t have to” camp. For party entertainment, when you have a whole pig available, I’d say go for it but don’t expect some kind of culinary delight.