Head Cheese

It's food again this week! The more I cook, the more I travel, the more I learn the history and what's involved in food and tradition the more I am drawn to foods and recipes that have something from the past. I'm all about innovation and new flavors and new foods, I'm a chef after all. But there's certainly a side to me that loves the connection to the past through food. This is one such recipe.

We recently butchered one of our pigs, actually the last one of 10 pigs here on the farm. Since it was the last pig I had time to do a little bit more with parts from the pig that I usually don't because I'm usually more busy. So I decided I'd tackle head cheese.

Head cheese is a cold cut that originated in Europe. It's not a dairy cheese, I think I made that clear by my introduction, it's a terrine or meat jelly made with flesh from the head of a calf or pig, not as often used is sheep or cow. It's not as gross as it might sound, you remove the eyes, brain and usually ears. Traditionally you make a stock from the head, using white wine and herbs to pull flavor and gelatin from the skull, in my case I just put all the bones, roasted first in an outdoor wood fired oven into a large pot and made stock. After 30hrs of boiling I made the head cheese by removing the skull, pulling off the flesh and dicing it up small and putting it in a bowl to season. 
Mean while I took 5 quarts of stock and reduced down to 1 over the stove while I finished prepping ingredients for the head cheese.

1 pig head

1 roasted red pepper

1 leek

4 carrots

1 c. white wine

Salt, 2 Tbs pepper, 1 tsp smoked paprika 

Dice up the vegetables small, add to a cup of wine in a sauce pan and bring to boil, simmer covered until tender. 
Mean while in bowl with meat from the head season heavily with salt (you'll have to go by taste), because this is a condiment and served on crackers and such it can handle more salt than you'd normally think. Add pepper, smoked paprika, and mix.

Press into loaf pans/pan (I used 2 small 6"x2.5")

Pour stock that has been reduced down to 1/5th until just covering meat. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate. After chilled over night turn over onto board and serve with crackers or cheese, call also be used in cooking with rice and beans.

Head cheese is just one of the ways that humans from generations past used as much or all of the animal when it came to killing and eating meat. It shows you the respect that they had for the animal and also the need to make the most out of everything in a time when food was more scarce. I hope you enjoyed the read even if you won't make the recipe! 

I'm freezing mine for the week and will break it open at Thanksgiving and see how it turns out, I'm pretty excited!

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