Headcheese: Selfish Indulgences

In Complete contrast to the most popular of beliefs, I have never had Headcheese containing Eyes and Brains, or cheese even… The Biggest obstacle in the production of a headcheese is simply developing your flavor profile. There are two different kinds of people in this world, Those who are familiar, realize and understand the beauty in what is being crafted; and those who base a recipe on it’s appearance and assume that you got all hyped on bath salts before turning on a pig… This Article started out as being just for me, because I wanted head cheese. It turns out, after leaking a couple of photographs and assessing the feedback… I have to let people know how delicious something like this, truly is.

Pig Headed:

It was rather unexpected, a feeling had washed over me and my senses became erratic , my sight soon tunneled, rationality completely irrelevant. I am standing at a butchers block, primal after primal, passing my blade in front of me. Whole hogs are being broken down to fit in to a bin 1/10th the size of the original beast. Chops, hocks, butts, bellies, and hams; the pig is put away in pieces. I look down at my board to see a head looking up at me. “What do you want with this” I ask the lead butcher,

He simply replies, “Bone it out and we’ll grind it…”

(Insert impromptu record scratch here…) Huh?

The Succulent Jowls, The Chubby Cheeks, Even that dainty little tongue, what about those guys?!

I wasn't having it. With all of the conviction of that annoying freckled faced kid I sat next to in high school that tried to free the frogs on dissection day… I just simply had to object. Any self respecting cook knows the feeling.

Headcheese Away!

A headcheese is rather simple, the only daunting factor is the time. In a pot, I bury the pig head with a nice amount of Mire Poix (2 onions, 3 ribs of Celery, 2 carrots). I add Fennel Scraps, Thyme, Garlic, Black pepper corns, Bay leaf, Star Anise, Parsley Stems and the rind of an orange. I top the pot with water then bring the pot to a boil. When I see the pot boil I cut the heat down to a gentle simmer, turn the fan on my hood to low for ventilation and go to sleep.

I awake eight hours later, fully rested, to the

wafting scent of success

. The aroma of herb & spice greet me in every room of the house. In the kitchen, I check the tenderness of the pork by tugging at the lower jaw.

As I reach for the bone, with barely a brush, the skull crumbles into the pan; She's ready. I fish the head out of the pot and place it on a cutting board assuring that all pieces are accounted for, I strain the stock into another pot. I add Mustard seed, another round of pepper corn and garlic, and reduce the stock by ¾ths. What this is doing is concentrating that Collagen that was steeped out of the pig bones and creating a product that will “set” the head cheese on it's own as opposed to using gelatin (In my opinion, it is the only way to make headcheese).

I then gently pull all of the pieces of whole flesh from the pigs head, trying to keep them in tact, this will added vastly to the presentation. I lay out sheets of plastic wrap. Arrange the pieces in a log shape on one side of the wrap. I seasoned the Flesh with a dash of salt then the Stock, knowing that this would be the last time that I could season the Headcheese before consumption, Be careful not to over season!!!) Pour a good amount of that reduced stock (with some of the fat) over the meat.

I shaped the head cheese into a cylinder. I hung the roll in my refrigerator for a week, and on the seventh day, there was much satisfaction.

Pork Headcheese, Stone Ground Mustard, Fig & Port Jam, Pistachio, Pickled Shallots, Garlic Crisps, Olive oil, and Herbs

Next time, it will be a Lamb Headcheese.