It’s Not Weird–It’s Oldschool. OK?

20 Oct

Headcheese. (n) a gelatinous mass of meat from an animal’s head suspended in reduced stock.  see: delicious, underrated, and also sketchy.

I love heacheese.  Why?  Because I made it one time (last year, if you saw the post), and it was excellent.  Not because I ate the headcheese at the deli counter (that clear, awkward mystery meat).  No–that stuff made me quiver with fear as a wee tot.  But I decided, given the components of head cheese, I could make a tasty one.  So last year, I bought a head from my favorite pork vendor–the Piggery in Trumansburg, NY.  And I set out on a journey to make headcheese.  It was successful, although awkward (people in my dorm were less than down with my strange, witch-like ritual).

This year, I couldn’t help but take another stab at headcheese.  When I contacted the Piggery to ask for another head, of course they remembered me from last year–I was the crazy girl who ordered a head, who made chocolate chip cookies with their bacon in them, and all that good stuff.  They were glad to ply my addiction to sketchiness by providing me another head!

Just a few days later, at work, things were chaotic and not the epitome of fun.  I was talking to a recently hired freshman about how shitty the day was going, and the conclusion of our conversation was that we needed a visit from the gin fairy after work.  After thinking things through, though, I realized I had a pig head to take care of.  But hey!  This freshman was a foodie–he could help me with the headcheese while we drank gin together.  Excellent!

browning mire poix can be fun

And the fun began…we started by taking all the meat off the head–rather than simmer the meat for hours in water, I wanted to make a stock to braise it in first.  So we saved the skull (eek!) and made stock with it.  Trying to break down the skull was a fun challenge; after hacking at the jaw hinge a few times with my meat cleaver, we were approached by a resident advisor.  Was everything OK?

ahh! pig head!

Yes, everything was spectacular, we replied, grinning with suspiciously bloody hands.  Making headcheese is a gruesome task.  But the rewards are worth it.

Making the stock was a great time, and the next day, after it simmered overnight, I strained it and then braised all the pork in it (tongue, cheek, etc.)  After removing the meat, I reduced the stock about 4X, and then poured it into tupperware containers with the meat.  The result was marvelous, and I was a happy camper.


1 pig head

4 carrots

1 bunch celery

3 or 4 medium onions

salt and pepper



Take all the meat off the head and break skull from jaw.  Season the skull and roast it for 25 minutes at 400 F.  Meanwhile, sweat vegetables in a large stockpot with some vegetable oil until soft and lightly browned.  When the skull is finished roasting, deglaze the vegetables with wine, add the skull and then fill the pot with water (about 4 gallons of total volume in the pot).  Add parsley.  Simmer overnight.

The next day, strain the stock.  Cut the head meat into 1.5X2 inch pieces, season, and brown it on all sides.  Place browned meat in a pot or saucepan, and add enough stock to come almost all the way up the sides of the meat.  Braise until meet is very tender, about 3-5 hours.

Remove the meat from the stock and boil the stock until only enough remains to pour into a container with the meat.  Meanwhile, pull the meat into small pieces and place in tupperware or a pate mold.  Pour stock over through a strainer, and cover before putting the headcheese in the fridge to set.  Chill until gelatinized.  Enjoy!


2 Responses to “It’s Not Weird–It’s Oldschool. OK?”

  1. holly October 20, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    Shaina, this is your funnest post yet!

    • Laura October 21, 2010 at 1:07 am #

      You are one crazy shit! You make it seem so easy,,,but you know it is so awesome!

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