Hog Head Cheese

Let’s be honest. The name doesn’t really do this dish any justice. It doesn’t even very appetizing (at least not to me). I get visions of British chef Heston Blumenthol laughing maniacally with liquid nitrogen, goggles, and a plate of his latest creation. Hog Head Cheese Medieval Style 😂

Don’t let the name fool you though. Hog head cheese is no cheese at all. Matter of fact there’s no dairy in it what so ever. In it’s most basic elements hog head cheese is simply select cuts of pork braised in a flavorful stock till the meat is extremely tender. Then that meat is placed into a mold and filled with a collagen rich stock to firm up over night. Think of it as a terrine of sorts. See, that doesn’t sound so bad…..

Here’s the kicker. The “select cuts of pork” are generally the face, the skin, and especially those tasty pig feet. These cuts are very high in collagen which is natural gelatin. This gelatin encases the meat once cooled leaving us with a unique and very tasty pork aspic.

If you are a “from the rooter to the tooter” kind of cook then this dish is right up your alley and sourcing these ingredients will be quite easy, but if you are a little on the uneasy side about cooking pig face, tongue, ears, snouts, cheeks, and feet (or if you have no idea where to get these parts) don’t fret because I will share with you a secret recipe so that you can cook your very own hogs head cheese (sans hog head). See below.

One last thing I want to mention. Unless you raise pigs, know someone who raises pigs, or live close to a true butcher’s shop, acquiring a pig head (bone in) is going to be quite challenging and will usually make a whole lot of head cheese. So, in the recipes below I’ve written out instructions for a more manageable quantity with substitutions in case you can’t find a hog head. If you want to adjust the quantities just type in the “servings” box how much you want to make in grams. 454 grams = 1 pound 😁.

Preparing the Meat

There are several basic elements to making Hog Head Cheese. The first is the preparation of the meat. If you plan on making traditional head cheese you’ll need collagen rich cuts. At least 25% of your recipe needs to be skin. This can come from the face, the pigs feet, or you can simply ask your butcher to save you the skin from the next pig he/she slaughters. The rest of the recipe will consist of various cuts of meat. Traditional head cheese will use pig tongue, jowl, cheek, even the meat from the hock or trotter. These cuts are very flavorful and become very tender when braised for several hours. Pork shoulder and pork belly are good (albeit less flavorful) substitutions.

To Cure or not To Cure

Should you cure your meat prior to cooking it? Well, I can’t answer that for you, but I can tell you that curing your meat for making hog head cheese isn’t necessary, so if you want to omit this optional step go right ahead.

The reason I like to cure my meat before cooking it is because it preserves the color (leaving you with vibrant reds and pinks in your meat), it enhances the flavor (imparting a delicious hammy element to your head cheese), and extends the shelf life of your head cheese (keeping it fresher tasting for longer). So with that being said if you want to cure your meat, simply mix Insta Cure #1 (see recipe below) with the rest of your spices and add it to the meat. Place it in a vacuum sealed bag and keep it in the refrigerator for 3 days. Voila!! It’s that easy.

Preparing the Stock

The second most important element to a good head cheese is the stock. You’ll want to jam as much flavor into this stock as possible so don’t be afraid to add some vegetables. Celery, onion, leeks, garlic, fresh parsley, and thyme all make great stock additions. Adding tomatoes and lemon juice brings a nice acidity to your stock that helps pull more collagen out of the skin and also helps break down connective tissue. This will all help in the production of a nice gelatin (which is exactly wat we want).

I like to wrap all of my vegetable in a cheese cloth to keep them together during the cooking process. It also makes the process go by much faster and it’s a lot cleaner in the end.

Just to Clarify

Once your meat has fully cooked and it fall apart tender you’ll have to make a very important decision. Should you clarify the stock? Clarifying the stock is not necessary so don’t feel obligated, but it does enhance the flavor by adding richness and removes all of the impurities which results in a cleaner crystal clear aspic which makes for a more attractive hog head cheese. In my opinion it’s worth the additional 35 – 40 minutes that it takes since I’m generally waiting for the meat to cool anyway.

The Secret to the “Headless” head cheese

If you want to make “headless” hog head cheese, I’ve got you covered. The secret is flavorless gelatin. I’ll be sure to make a recipe just for you below but all you have to do is add your flavorless gelatin to the broth then pour it in a mold over your tender meat. Allow it to set up over night and voila!! No one would be the wiser😁

Regardless of how you make this extremely versatile recipe have fun preparing it and enjoy your creation with friends and family (or by yourself as a midnight snack 😀)

Enjoy the video and the recipe. If you have any questions feel free to ask away. If you make this at home I’d love to hear about how it came out!!

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Hog Head Cheese

A tasty pork aspic
Prep Time3 d
Cook Time6 hrs
resting time1 d
Total Time4 d 6 hrs
How much do you want to make? 1500 g

Ingredients

  • 450 g pork head meat (cheek, jowl, tongue) cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 100 g boneless skinless pork shoulder cut into 1inch cubes
  • 50 g pork back fat cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 525 g pig foot cut into slices – see video
  • 375 g pork skin (from anywhere on the pig is fine)
  • 25.5 g Kosher Salt
  • 3.75 g Insta Cure #1
  • 4.5 g Black Pepper
  • 5.25 g Garlic Powder
  • 3.75 g Onion Powder
  • .75 g Chili flakes
  • 3 g fresh thyme
  • .75 g bay leaf

For the Stock

  • 10 cups water enough to cover the meat and vegetables
  • 1 medium onion rough chopped
  • 1 medium tomato rough chopped
  • 3 sticks celery rough chopped
  • 1 large carrot rough chopped
  • 1 each garlic bulb smashed
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley rough chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme rough chopped
  • 1 tbsp peppercorn coarsely ground
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • salt to taste be sparing as the pork is already seasoned
  • 8 large egg whites optional if you want to clarify this stock

Optional Ingredient

  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar added to the meat just before place them in a placing it in the mold

Instructions

Prepare the Meat

  • WEIGH ALL YOUR MEAT, FAT, SKIN, AND PIG FOOT IN GRAMS. ENTER THAT NUMBER IN THE SERVINGS BOX TO CALCULATE YOUR SEASONINGS AND CURE MIX PROPERLY. DON'T WORRY IF YOU HAVE A LITTLE MORE OR LESS OF A SPECIFIC MEAT. WHAT'S IMPORTANT IS THE WEIGHT OF THE SKIN
  • Begin by combining all of your seasonings/spices into a cup and mixing well. Set to the side
  • Cut the meat into 1 inch cubes. Slice your pig foot in half separating the hock from the trotter (this allows it to cure faster)
  • Add all of the spices/cure to the meat and skin and mix well. Place in a vacuum bag and remove all the air. You can also use a zip lock bag. Place into your refrigerator for 3 days, turning and massaging the bag daily. If you pig foot is not sliced through out allow the meat to remain the fridge for 7 – 10 days.
  • Once the meat has been cured remove it from the fridge and set to the side. Wrap the pig foot in cheese cloth. This will keep you from having to search for lots of little bones later

Prepare the Stock

  • Rough chop all of your vegetables and place them in a cheese cloth bundle along with the pepper corns.
  • In a stock pot add the water. Then add your bag of vegetables, the cured pork meat, skin, fat, pig feet. Finally add the lemon juice.
  • Turn the fire on a medium heat and slowly bring to a simmer.
  • Cover and simmer for 4-5 hours or until the meat is fall apart tender.
  • Once the meat has finished cooking remove the bag of vegetables and strain the meat through a sieve reserving the stock. Place your meat to the side to cool
  • (OPTIONAL STEP) Once the meat cools separate the meat from the skin and grind the skin through a fine plate on your grinder. Gently mix the skin back in with the meat.

Clarifying the stock

  • Measure out how much stock you plan on clarifying. You will be adding 1 egg white for every quart of stock you want to clarify. Whisk the egg whites in a bowl and set to the side.
  • Remove all of your stock vegetables from the bag and finely chop them up. Add these vegetables to your egg white mixture and mix well to combine
  • If your stock is hot you’ll want to temper the egg mixture by adding a cup of hot stock to the egg mixture and gently mix it in. Once your egg mixture is tempered you can add it to your stock pot and turn the heat on a medium low. Stirring occasionally.
  • After 15 minutes you’ll notice a layer or raft of vegetables a start to float to the top and as soon as you see that starting to form stop mixing. This will begin the process of filtering your stock.
  • After your raft has fully developed gently open a hole in the center with a ladle large enough to dip your ladle in. As you continue to gently simmer you'll notice that your stock will start to become crystal clear. At this point slowly ladle out the clear stock and run it through several layers of cheese cloth. Once all of the stock has been removed taste and adjust for seasonings. Be sparing as your pork is already seasoned and it's very easy to over season.
  • To test and see if your stock has enough gelatin place a few tablespoons into a small ramekin and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. If it sets up the way you like it you are good to go. If it's pretty soft you can reduce your stock a little by continuing to cook it. Re-test till you get the consistency you want.

Assemble the Head Cheese

  • I like to add a little vinegar to my meat before molding it up as this cuts through the rich fatty pork. You can also season to taste. A little chopped fresh parsley and chili flakes will give your head cheese a nice flavor and color. Be gentle when mixing as your meat will be very tender..
  • Place a layer of clarified stock in your mold. Let it set up in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Add a layer of meat loosely the cover with stock. Repeat this process till your mold is completely full.
  • Refrigerate overnight. Enjoy the next day over crackers, with grits, on a pizza, as an open face sandwich…… You get the idea

NOTES

  • This recipe is very customizable. If you don't have any back fat then just add pork meat in it's place. You can also substitute the head meat for pork belly.
  • If you want to omit the pig foot simply add that amount in pork meat. Pork shoulder works well
  • If you don't plan on curing the meat you can omit the cure and season how ever you like
  • If you don't plan on clarifying the stock you can omit that step and just add your cooled broth to the meat once it's been molded
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“Headless” Head Cheese

A tasty version of the classic head cheese without the head
Prep Time3 d
Cook Time5 hrs
resting time1 d
How much do you want to make? 1000 g

Ingredients

For the Stock

  • 8 cups water enough to cover the meat
  • 1 medium onion rough chopped
  • 1 medium tomato rough chopped
  • 3 sticks celery rough chopped
  • 1 large carrot rough chopped
  • 1 each garlic bulb smashed
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley rough chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme rough chopped
  • 1 tbsp peppercorn coarsely ground
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 10 tsp non flavored gelatin (4 packs)
  • salt to taste
  • 8 large egg whites (optional if you want to clarify this stock)

Optional Ingredient

  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar added to the meat just before place them in a placing it in the mold

Instructions

Prepare the meat

  • Begin by combining all of your seasonings/spices into a cup and mixing well. Set to the side
  • Cut your pork belly and pork shoulder into 1 inch cubes.
  • Add all of the spices/cure to the meat and mix well. Place in a vacuum bag and remove all the air. You can also use a zip lock bag. Place into your refrigerator for 3 days, turning and massaging the bag daily.

Prepare the stock

  • Rough chop all of your vegetables and place them in a cheese cloth bundle along with the pepper corns.
  • In a stock pot add what the recipe calls for in cold water. Next add the gelatin and stir to combine. Once dissolved add your bag of vegetables, the cured pork shoulder cubes, and the cured pork belly cubes. Finally add the lemon juice.
  • Turn the fire on a medium heat and slowly bring to a simmer.
  • Cover and simmer for 4-5 hours or until the meat is fall apart tender.
  • Once the meat has finished cooking remove the bag of vegetables and strain the meat through a sieve reserving the stock. Place your meat to the side to cool

Clarifying the stock

  • Measure out how much stock you plan on clarifying. You will be adding 1 egg white for every quart of stock you want to clarify. Whisk the egg whites in a bowl and set to the side.
  • Remove all of your stock vegetables from the bag and finely chop them up. Add these vegetables to your egg white mixture and mix well to combine
  • If your stock is hot you'll want to temper the egg mixture by adding a cup of hot stock to the egg mixture and gently mix it in. Once your egg mixture is tempered you can add it to your stock pot and turn the heat on a medium low. Stirring occasionally.
  • After 15 minutes you'll notice a layer or raft of vegetables a start to float to the top and as soon as you see that starting to form stop mixing. This will begin the process of filtering your stock.
  • After your raft has fully developed gently open a hole in the center with a ladle large enough to dip your ladle in. As you continue to gently simmer you'll notice that your stock will start to become crystal clear. At this point slowly ladle out the clear stock and run it through several layers of cheese cloth. Once all of the stock has been removed taste and adjust for seasonings.
  • To test and see if your stock has enough gelatin place a few tablespoons into a small ramekin and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. If it sets up the way you like it you are good to go. If it's pretty soft you can add more gelatin according to the package instructions. Re-test till you get the consistency you want.

Assemble the "Headless" head Cheese

  • I like to add a little vinegar to my meat before molding it up as this cuts through the rich fatty pork. You can also season to taste. A little chopped fresh parsley and chili flakes will give your head cheese a nice flavor and color. Be gentle when mixing as your meat will be very tender..
  • Place a layer of clarified stock in your mold. Let it set up in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Add a layer of meat loosely the cover with stock. Repeat this process till your mold is completely full.
  • Refrigerate overnight. Enjoy the next day over crackers, with grits, on a pizza, as an open face sandwich…… You get the idea

NOTES

  • This recipe is very customizable. If you don't have any back fat then just add pork meat in it's place. You can also substitute the head meat for pork belly.
  • If you want to omit the pig foot simply add that amount in pork meat. Pork shoulder works well.
  • If you don't plan on curing the meat you can omit the cure and season how ever you like.
  • If you don't plan on clarifying the stock you can omit that step and just add your cooled broth to the meat once it's been molded.

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7 thoughts on “Hog Head Cheese

  1. Amy
    Amy

    How long does it keep… can it be frozen?

    1. Eric
      Eric

      If you follow my recipe and cure the meat first, it can last a week in the refrigerator. It can be frozen.

  2. Nancy Ewing-Hayes
    Nancy Ewing-Hayes

    Do you rinse the cure off the meat before cooking?

    1. Eric
      Eric

      I didn’t, but you can if you want to…

  3. Nancy Ewing-Hayes
    Nancy Ewing-Hayes

    5 stars
    I really have to try this method of making head cheese. I’ve made souse using pig parts, but never really knew what gave the head cheese the pinkish color.

    1. Eric
      Eric

      It’s an cool optional step that enhances the color and the flavor a bit

  4. kelly
    kelly

    Eric-
    I process my own pork and had leftover bones, trimmings and skin Used this process to make an excellent version of “head cheese”. Added veggies for color, and it gave it some additional flavorful aspects as well. My Mother used to make it that way. Delicious.
    As you said, you do not need a hogs head to make this
    great work!

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