Nothing like Head Cheese…Thank God.

Darleen Jarocki

Nothing like Head Cheese…Thank God.

3 mins
March 8, 2021

On the farm where dad was raised, his mom and dad had many farm animals. such as pigs, chickens, ducks and cattle. Each animal brought meat to the table, which taught him those palliative flavors and the knowledge of his mom’s recipe and preparations of making "head cheese". Now just how many of our readers can associate with this good eating? 

An Easter Tradition

As Easter was approaching, dad and mom butchered the pig to enjoy the smoked ham, lard, and bacon. They didn’t throw away any desirable meat that the pig offered to them. The pig has so many cuts of meat that none of us realized how plenty this animal brings to our table. I know, I'm going to hear a lot of Arrg! Yucky, Gross, (etc., etc.) when I am about to entail your ears with the making of "Head Cheese" Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want anything to do with the prep or the recipe or tasting of "Head Cheese" when I, too, was a youngster!

Making Head Cheese

First off, the head of the pig is completely cut off. The next thing dad did, was remove the snoot, the tongue, and the ears. He set the head of the pig in boiling water which will remove the fine hairs that are on the pig’s face. Once that is accomplished, with a bit of scraping, the head was put back into another huge pot of boiling water and simmered for 24 hours with these spices: salt, bay leaves, and pepper.

After cooking until the pig’s head is falling apart and the meat can be easily removed (don’t throw away the stock), the pigs head is cooled for several hours and removed from the broth which allowed mom to strip the meat from the pig bones. The head, along with the teeth, are then tossed aside for the farm dog to consume. 

After stripping the meat off the skull, mom would then cut the meat in ½-inch pieces.

Set the meat in a cool place while you prepare some of the broth. Measure 2 cups of apple vinegar, 2 pkg. of Knox gelatin (softened). Add these two ingredients together and stir well. Dice up one large (or two small) onion in small pieces. Add the onion to the cooled meat and stir it up. Add the cooled meat and the diced onion, ½ cup sugar, ½ cup of pickling spices, to the vinegar. Heat the meat in this brine thoroughly.

After heating, remove some of the spices. (I place my spices in a net tea bag, so I am able to remove them.) Cool the brine and the meat. Pour the brine and the meat into a loaf pan and store it in the refrigerator. This recipe will be for 3 to 4 lbs. of meat. If you have more meat, add accordingly. 

Serving Head Cheese

When you have the "head Cheese" congealed, you will be able to slice it and ENJOY! (Don’t get me wrong, it is that GOOD!) 

Serve as an appetizer with club crackers or enjoy it as is. We had many "head Cheese" sandwiches that I finally learned to enjoy! There may be a few folks that have eaten head cheese and make a claim that they'd never eat it again. there is a strong possibility that it was prepared wrong. 

Thanking the Pig

At our home, the pig brings us lard, bacon, porkchops, pork roast and many other cuts of meat too numerous to mention. My folks used the pig’s head. We never put any of the pig to waste.

When we had our big family, mom and dad did all they could to keep us supplied with meat. Even, when we would get the pig head from our neighboring farmers, it was welcomed. One can still buy pickled pigs’ feet in the grocery store. So, don’t think that you won’t eat a pig’s head! I didn’t say you’re "pig headed"!

Final Thoughts

My thoughts for today: Dear Jesus, help me to always be mindful of what You truly want me to do and help me do it with the humility that You desire.  

Stay safe and keep everyone around you safe. Have a blessed Easter season.

This article was orginally reported by
Darleen Jarocki

Darleen Jarocki is an expert gardener and cook. She is an excellent folklorist and local historian.