Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about head cheese but were too afraid to ask
Head cheese may sound like a very disturbing concept, but in reality, it is a delicious type of pork charcuterie. Admittedly, the dish suffers a bit at the hands of its nomenclature. You can rest assured that there is no actual cheese involved. Head cheese is in fact dairy-free. There are, however, heads involved. Pig’s head to be exact, and while the notion of eating the head of a pig may be enough to turn your stomach, the fact of the matter is that there is quite a lot of scrumptious meat in the head that would be a shame to waste.
For those online culinary arts program students brave enough to push the limits of charcuterie in their own homes, head cheese may be the best place to start. It is actually surprisingly simple to make and the end product will look great as part of your next meat plate. To make head cheese, first you must procure a whole pigs head. While not typically available at your local supermarket, a good place to start looking would be at your neighborhood butcher or by calling up the nearest pig farm. Once this is procured you will need an exceedingly large pot. In this pot you will boil your pigs head for a very long time – somewhere around 6 hours – with any vegetables and seasonings you would like. Make sure the pig’s head is completely clean before you start to boil it, this includes removing any hair and dirt from the ears and snout. The tongue takes the longest to cook so once it is tender you will know the head is ready.
Once the head is done, remove it from the broth and set it aside to let cool. When its cool, remove all the meat and place it in a pan with a bit of the broth you were cooking the head in. Put it in the refrigerator to set and there you have it, fresh homemade head cheese.
Head cheese is great served next to other kinds of salami and cured meat. The head meat of a pig has some of the strongest pork flavor making for a nice appetizer. Set up a little tray with cheeses, whole seed mustard, preserves and crackers for a nice hors d’oeuvres.
There are many opportunities for intrepid chefs to experiment and personalize their own version of head cheese with unique additions of herbs and spices.