It’s Headcheese. Yes, Headcheese.

Due to the graphic nature of this blogpost, Mother Goose would suggest that you send the kiddos out to play at this time. If you, yourself, are squeamish at the sight of piggy parts, please take the advice of Mother Goose and send yourself out to play.

It’s a pork product with a public relations problem. We sure do get excited at the smell of bacon frying — who doesn’t relish the prospect of a honey-baked ham in the oven? Mmmm… a rack of ribs on the BBQ slathered in sauce. And WOW hotdogs! But somehow at the Pork Product-Naming Convention, Headcheese got the short end of the stick. We squirm at the thought of Headcheese. Why is that? The two words, head and cheese, just don’t belong together, do they?

Possibly the problem lies in the question “What is it made from?” Is it really the head of a little porker? Has it really got some kind of cheese in it? What kind of cheese would it be? Semi-soft, firm or extra sharp? And do they really use brains in the processing? Is there “mystery” meat in Headcheese?

Mother Goose will attempt to answer your questions about Headcheese.

In days gone by when folks made more of their own food, it was an autumn tradition to harvest your crops and slaughter your fattened hog. Our parents and grandparents knew the importance of planning for the long cold winters by preparing food in advance and storing it. They followed the example of the lowly ant — work first and then play, don’t fiddle the day away, waste not want not, and all of that.

My brother, Dana, favors the “old ways”, and I love him for that. This past August, he purchased a local hog and treated us all to a Great Pig Roast in honor of his 50th birthday and the 25th Anniversary of the marriage to his blushing bride, Linda. He saved the head of the piggy in his freezer. And there it waited. Until yesterday.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Lynch

Besides a piggy head, Headcheese requires a large pot of boiling water, some chopped onion, and some helpers with a good sense of humor. My never, ever squeamish sister, Bunn, was happy to help with the creation of Headcheese, and I give her the credits for all of these amazing pictures.

As you can see the piggy is very clean. I don’t know if they gave him a bath before his photo shoot, but he seems quite hygienic for a little piggy. Even his ears are bright and shiny! Mother Goose is a stickler for hygiene, so this is a very impressive part of the process.

One of the next steps in making Headcheese is to prepare the head for the soup pot. I was told that after splitting the cranium, the brains were removed to a separate dish. And I’m not at all sure what Dana did with them, they were not added to the Headcheese at any point in the process. Good news, right? And you will notice in the following photography that there are only three little trotter hocks. That remains a mystery today, but I’m guessing that their young pup Harley might have run off with one of the feet and buried it in the sand hill out back.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Lynch

So, basically, just simmer these parts for a few hours! How simple is that! I tell you, friends, the old timers knew the best ways. There was no monosodium glutamate added to this, no artificial colors or flavors from the chemist’s laboratory, nothing added that you can’t pronounce or your kids can’t spell. I really like that idea! Mother Goose is all in favor of natural and organic whenever possible. By the way, there is no cheese in Headcheese either!

And when the parts are all tender, and the house is smelling wonderful, just remove the pork from the pot of water. One word of warning here: my brother said that one of the piggy teeth jumped out of the pot at some point when he was flipping the meat. Mother Goose advises you to be very careful — pig teeth are VERY sharp. Caution is to be advised at all times when preparing Headcheese.

Finally, after removing the pork from the greasy and oniony boiling water, carry it outside to your picnic table and start chopping and sorting. Slicing and dicing. Try to find all of the choice pork meat and skim away as much of the fat as possible. This is what makes Headcheese one of the healthiest lunchmeats you’d ever put on your homemade bread. It’s a terribly messy job, and I admire anyone who actually does this! But it’s all good.

An average-sized piggy head should make about two loaf pans of Headcheese. Lining the pans makes for much easier clean up afterwards!

Final step: chill. The Headcheese even has its own curing ingredient. It’s the naturally formed gelatin found within the bones of the animal and it’s all good for firming up the pork product called Headcheese, making it slice-able and easily eaten in a sandwich or served with crackers when your good friends and family show up unexpectedly.

Believe me, Mother Goose is very sorry she lives 600 miles away from her family. I would definitely show up unexpectedly today to enjoy some of my family’s Headcheese. Yes, it’s Headcheese!

Just a little postscript here: my brother is such a multi-tasker. Whilst the pork was cooking, he added siding to their chicken coop and also worked on the brakelines of sister Bunn’s truck. And they also made horseradish! And Mother Goose will tell you that story tomorrow.

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