anyway, back to headcheese. while it is possible to create a 'modernized' headcheese from more desirable cuts of meat (think pork butts and pigs feet) the hubby and i recently butchered a pig for a friend and were able to obtain the head cheeses name sake. a fresh, whole pig's head.
when cleaning a pigs head, it is important to remove the eyes and the brain. to do this, i first skinned the head. as the animal we butchers was not boiled and scraped, i also removed the ears, but if cleaned,the ears are a desirable producer of the collagen that holds the slicing meat together once finished
once skinned, our idea was to split the head down the center, from the nose to the back of the neck, due ta an incredibly sturdy skull and a dull electric blade, this proved difficult. to compensate we 'scalped' the head, removing the rounded cap off the top of the skull. this enabled us to remove the surprisingly small (think tennis ball sized) brain. the eyes were simple with a bit of digging and cutting.
once cooled i took a large pyrex bowl and placed a strainer in it, i dumped the majority of the liquid through and then began picking the head for meat. suprisinly, there is alot of REALLY delishous meat here. yes, you need to sort through the meat, but there are large portions off the tenderest pulled pork i have ever handled. the slow cooking completely breaks down any toughness this meat had before and turns it into quite the treat
two organs i was rather happy to add to the mix and create diversity in the head cheese was the Tongue and the heart. as you know i am quite fond of the deep texture of heart meat and save the hearts from my deer, chickens, and recently ducks. pork is no differant. when we pulled the innards from the pig on saturday, my first action was to rescue the heart from the pile, rinse it and store it in a plastic bag. while cleaning the head i set to saute' a pot of celery, onions and cubed heart pieces. clean the pig heart follows the same basics that i give in the link below for cleaning deer heart
anyway i currently have a cows tongue in my freezer and have done some research on how to cook them. apparently the slow boil is the best way to bring forward a desirable texture and meaty taste in an animals tongue. in fact the meat is regarded highly for its ability to be sliced thin and used as a sandwich meat.
IMPORTANT: when cleaning the tongue, it is very to be sure to peel every bit of the skin from the meat. while the tongue is a very savory flavor, the skin has a bitter and unpleasant taste to it, this makes it key to boil and strip of the top layer.
the tongue was peeled and cubed and added with the pulled pork in a large bowl. one pigs head produced somewhere between 2 1/2 to 3 lbs of meat! the skull and scrap i tossed. only keep the nicest meat for the head cheese and pick through to get it, discarding anything that is gritty or excessively fatty.
at this point i added the boiled down cooking liquid to the chopped and shredded meat, mixed well and packed into a square Pyrex dish. on top of this i took a gallon sized bag of water and, after encasing it in another gallon sized bag, laid it on top of the head cheese to weight it down and fill any space there might be when i added the lid to the dish.
on Christmas day, i took the container from the fridge, removed the lid and the bags of water, used a butter knife to loosen around the edges of the meat, placed a cutting board on top of the container and flipped the whole thing upside down. with a couple gentle taps, the meat jelly freed itself from the bottom of the glass container and landed on the cutting board in one piece.
the fact that the broth gelled completely and held everything together in a solid piece reaffirms that enough collagen was derived from boiling the head and there was no need to add artificial gelatin or pigs feet to the boiling pot.
once on the cutting board, i split the head cheese lengthwise into four even logs. this meat is, again, very very rich and even half of one of these logs would be enough to accommodate a cheese and crackers platter. once in logs, use a sharp knife to slice of squares and place on saltines. enjoy.
One Whole Pigs Head (skinned, with ears, eyes and brain removed)
2 cups iodized salt (for soaking)
5 bay leaves
2 - 3 cups onion, celery garlic scraps (like that saved for making vegtiable broth)
2 tble black pepper
1 tble red pepper
2 tble onion salt
1 tble celery seed
1 tble garlic powder
1 tble parsley
any other spices that agree with your personal pallet are fine
2 tble apple cider vinagar
cubed and cleaned pork heart
(the liver may also be used if desired)
skin the head removing the ears and eyes. cap the skull of the pig and remove the brain. soak pigs head, completely submerged in salted water, changing water occasionally, until the water remains clear and free of blood.
place head in large pot of clean water, completely submerged, with spices, vegetable scraps and vinegar. boil 6 hours covered, until half the water is gone.
remove lid and boiled 2 hours longer until only 2 inches of liquid remain. the meat should be falling from the bones and fully cooked. strain the contents of the pot, reserving the liquid, and let the meat cool until easily handled.
set a sauce pot on the stove and begin to saute onions and celery in oil until softened, add the cubed pieces of the heart until cooked through. add this to the meat you have taken from the head.
pick the head clean of meat, only reserving meat that looks tasty
when you reach the tongue. place on a cutting board and make a light cut along the center to break the skin. some of the skin should already be peeling of from the long boiling process. use the cut you made as a start to fully peel the skin from the tongue and reveal the deep brown flesh. cube this flesh and add it to the bowl with the heart, pull meat from the head and the broth from the pan.
get a loaf pan, a small square Pyrex container or whatever vessel you want your head cheese to take the shape of.
mix the bowl of meat and broth well and pour into the container
take a gallon sized bag and fill with water so that it will press down on top of the head cheese and compact the mixture to the shape of the container. place this bag inside another bag, to prevent any leaking and place on top of tinfoil on top of the head cheese before sealing the container.
place container in refrigerator and chill for at least one day, until all of the broth has solidified. turn out cheese on a cutting board and slice into desired serving portions. slice thin and serve on saltines