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Head Cheese at a Glance
Central and Eastern Europe
Type of Charcuterie
Pig cheeks, snout, under lips, heart, tongue, feet, salt, pepper, garlic, onions, parsley, celery, other spices and vegetables
Headcheese, hogs head cheese, black head cheese, brawn, souse, souz, collared head, aspic, fromage de tete de porc, testa in cassetta, piftie, presskopf, sylte, sült, disznósajt, queso de Puerco, queso de cabeza, sülze, salceson czarny cwaniak, salceson bialy, salceson wiejski
Head Cheese Description
The name head cheese is often a misnomer for many. Despite being called this, there is no cheese in this charcuterie product. Rather, this is a type of jellied meat made from the head of a pig or other animals.
Like many other preserved meats, the production of head cheese goes back to earlier times. This was made around the medieval times and considered to be peasant food. Made from parts of the pig which were considered unfit for the upper class, these meats were made available to the less fortunate.
However, regardless of its origin unappealing name, this charcuterie product is enjoyed by many. Originally made only with the head of a hog, some versions of this now include the heart, tongue and trotters as well as other animal heads.
Head cheese is made by first cleaning and stewing an entire pig head until it is very tender. The meat is then removed from the bones while the water is seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, onions, celery, parsley and other spices then left to reduce. The minced meat parts are then packed into a pan or sausage casings and the reduced liquid is ladled in. Other versions of head cheese may also include blood in it.
After the head cheese has cooled it may be sliced and served. A mixture of textures can be observed throughout this charcuterie product. The reduced liquid which has firmed is gelatinous while the bits of meat are soft. Any included offal may also add to the texture.
Flavor wise, head cheese offers a variety of tastes. The meat is rich with a strong pork flavor while the offal carries a distinct taste. The aspic has a meaty flavor enhanced with spices.
Head cheese has come a long way from being peasant food. It is often served as part of a cold cut platter or as an appetizer. It is also enjoyed with bread, crackers, wine and other alcoholic beverages.
Photo Credit: bump