How to Make Head Cheese
One of the glorious foods that many people find unfamiliar and at the same time unusual is the head cheese. While its name implies that it is a food made out of a cheese, it is actually a food that is made from the meat of an animal which in most cases is made from pork. Although many people would think this recipe only requires the meaty parts of an animal, it can also be prepared using the less meaty parts of the animal such as the head itself. Also through this recipe, the head of the animal is cooked in the best and most delicious way possible.
Head cheese is a popular dish in many European as well as Asian countries and is usually served during feasts or special occasions. Using the head to make a dish is actually one of the greatest kitchen challenges ever and only a few recipes could actually work with this ingredient as mentioned in the Owen Simple Healthy Blog. However for this article, we will discuss all the things you need to know about head cheese and how you can actually go about making one.
History of head cheese
The head cheese recipe first started in Europe which of course did not originate from experimenting on cheese but instead on meat from the head of a calf, sheep, pig or any animal meat that is good for human consumption. Fortunately, other parts of the head such as the eyes, ears, brain, and tongue are not included in this recipe. However, others have tried having the heart as well as the tongue with their recipe. Together with the meat, head cheese is flavored with allspice, salt, a bit of vinegar, pepper, onion, and bay leaf to enhance its meaty aroma. Unlike other foodstuffs, head cheeses are served cold or at room temperature in order to maintain its texture and fresh taste.
As for its name, the ‘cheese’ was an old term for ‘form’ or ‘mold’ which means to shape or to create into form. In modern application, a meatloaf would be considered also as a head cheese considering that it is also molded into form and is made from meat.
When it comes to the taste, it will be like the usual taste that we get out of a ham however since the meat used is from the head, the meat is leaner and with lesser fat content. It has a succulent meat flavor that doesn’t leave out a fatty texture and taste to the tongue. This food is best enjoyed with crusty bread with horseradish on the side. This is also commonly enjoyed by Europeans when accompanied by beverages such as wine and beer.
How to make head cheese
Now comes the fun part. While others love their head cheese purely made out of meat, others also add vegetables on their versions in order to make it healthier and for the recipe to have certain tastes that people would want to have in their meat dish. But for this article, we’ll talk about the classic way of preparing a head cheese.
First of course is to find the best ingredients to use for our recipe. In this case is the head of a pig. When looking for the ideal pig head to use for your head cheese, choose only those that are fresh and have the right weight to serve a specific number. Don’t go for pig heads that have been prepared or slaughtered for more than 2 weeks as those already have a fading freshness out of their taste. Make sure that you estimate as well the weight or how large the head should be in order to serve certain number of people. Remember that you will be focused in taking only the meat parts of the head so make sure to consider a bigger option if you’re looking to serve to more people.
Once you have chosen the right size and weight of the pig, you can now clean the pig thoroughly from its mouth, snout, ears and skin. After cleaning, you can now put the head of the pig over a big container in order to brine with salt, vinegar, lime, pepper, allspice, onion, and other ingredients according to taste.. This process would take around two to three days in order of the flavor to fully seep through the meat for more flavor.
After brining, the head is then transferred to a huge pot for cooking. If you want more spices, you can add rosemary as well as parsley and chili paste for a stronger taste. After all ingredients have been placed in the pot, add clean water until the head is completely submerged. White wine can also be added when looking for a bitter yet sweet taste out of a meat recipe. Simmer and let it sit for at least 6 hours until the meat is soft and almost falling off the bone.
When the meat is ready, strain the head from the pot and separate the meat from the bones. As mentioned earlier, you can either use only the meat from the head but you can also include other tender parts such as the tongue and the ears. Season the meat parts and line them up for the ‘forming’ or molding through a loaf pan.
Place a plastic wrap over the loaf pan before placing the seasoned meat ingredients in order to allow for easy removal once the meat has set in the mold. As you place the meat in the mold, make sure to fill all spaces to avoid air holes after it has been refrigerated. A small amount of stock can also be placed in the mold or pan for added taste. After which, refrigerate the molded meat for at least 12 hours and serve. When cold, there are ways on how to cut frozen meat. While others prefer it cold, others can also serve it warm by frying or medium baking through a countertop oven.