Hog's Head Cheese
1 pig's head, with ears and tongue
2 tablespoons salt
1 large onion
4 whole cloves
1 bunch mixed herbs
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon each sage, cloves, allspice
4 tablespoons vinegar
4 tablespoons lemon juice
Ask your butcher to scrape and clean the pig's head thoroughly, splitting it and removing the eyes and the brain. With a sharp knife, scrape the ears, peel the tongue, and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Place in a large enamel kettle, cover with cold water, add salt, cloves stuck in onion, and the bunch of herbs (tied in a muslin bag). Bring the water slowly to a boil, cover and simmer 2 or 3 hours, or until the meat is ready to fall from the bones. Let it cool in the liquid. Then removed the meat to a colander to drain. Strip it from the bones, cut the ears in slices and the tongue in small dice. Season the meat with the rest of the salt, paprika, sage, cloves and allspice. Add the vinegar and lemon juice. Mix thoroughly. Pack tightly into a large bowl, interspersing layers of meat with slices of ears and bits of tongue. Cover the bowl with waxed paper, then cover with a plate and put a heavy weight on top. Keep in the refrigerator 2 or 3 days, when the head cheese will be ready to serve. to serve, cut in thin slices and serve with Vinaigrett sauce, chili sauce or prepared mustard. Yield: 20 slices.
Still reading? My grandparents grew up in an age when recipes like Hog's Head Cheese allowed families to use, and not waste, a large portion of their food sources. My mother-in-law worked in the fields of her family's farm, collected eggs from the hen house and learned how to cut up a chicken for cooking. She remembers when they butchered hogs and made sausage. The sausage was wound around the inside of the barrel and the pig fat poured down the center, keeping the sausage cured. Families purchased only a few things they could not raise or grow on their farms: flour, sugar, salt and other spices, coffee, etc. Leftover biscuits and bread were made into puddings, cornbread into cornbread dressing, meat into soups and stews. Summer vegetables were canned and available for winter use.
I sometimes wonder if our modern quest for convenience and cheap food isn't moving us backwards instead of forward? Surely the chemicals and excessive calories that taint our food today aren't moving the human race into an age of greater health, prosperity and intellectual gains?
Our family lives in an agricultural region with a long growing season. What a shame that my grapes come from Chile and the strawberries from Florida or California (3,000 miles away). We are hoping to plant a small organic garden this spring so we can enjoy home-grown tomatoes, fresh squash and peas. No chemicals, no shipping... just some hard work. I think it will be worth it!
There will, however, be no pigs. So don't come round looking for any Hog's Head Cheese!
1 year ago