Head Cheese or Lunchmeat
Start By Roasting
In the past I had just put the pig head directly in the oven as soon as I got it home, but I had watched a documentary on making head cheese and the lady there seemed positive that it had to have its ears cleaned, be drained of blood, eyeballs cut out and nose washed before it could be used. That seemed a little excessive on the cleanliness side to me, and as I had used it previously as is with no complaint, I just decided to rinse it free of blood first before putting it in the oven.
Handling a half a pig head is awkward, so to rinse it I just cut a big hole in the top of the plastic bag it came in and filled it up with water from an outside tap/spigot.. It turned out here were a couple small pinholes in the bag that I didn't know about, but they were fortuitous because they allowed the water to drain out without any further action on my part.

Pictures of the pig head and instructions on roasting it are on a previous page (about making a Pork Pie) out of it. This page will take up where making it into a head cheese (like a lunch meat -- probably most lunch meat is made with these off pieces) begins.

Conserving Energy
I cook the head by putting it in the oven, turning it on medium for a while and then turning off the oven without opening the door. That lets it use the residual heat to continue cooking. When it cools off, I open the door, take out the roast and pour off the fat. I chop it into large chunks as I go along, so it is easier to handle and release  more fat. After that, I return it to the oven to continue cooking as much as I deem suitable. When it seems it has cooked enough by roasting, I transfer it to big pot of water and simmer on the stove to finish cooking and tenderizing the meat and rendering the lard.

We Interupt Making Head Cheese For An Unexpected Challenge
Anyway, after I finished the first round of dry cooking in the oven and pulled it to cut meat and pour fat, I found a small globby meat thing attached to it and fully cooked. It was a piece of brain. I put it in a jar with some fat and put it into the freezer while I contemplate what to do with it. I have never eater brain before, but I understand the Italians have a dish made of cow brains. I think selling brain is illegal in the U.S. I don't know its legal status here in the UK, but this may be the only chance I ever have to prepare a meal with pig brains.

I looked it up and, while there are cultures that eat roast brain and think it delicous, the most common amongst western cultures is either mixed with eggs and scarmbles, chopped and added to soup or sliced, fried and tucked in a sandwich. I shall cut my 2" piece of brain and try all 3. The things I do for this website.

Trial  #1 I sliced off a few tiny pieces of the cooked brain and fried them some more in butter and lard and put them on a piece of oat cake. It was delicious. The pork brain was smooth and creamy, which was amazing because even though I had read in my research that brain is smooth creamy, I just found it very difficult to believe that it could be smooth and creamy. To be honest, though, I still feel a little squeamish just knowing that it's brain, and, of course, it would be completely useless to me as something to feed other people if they actually knew what it was. I shall have to think of ways to make stealthy pig brain.

I thought it would taste good blended but my piece is too small to work in my blender, and I don't have stick/immersion blender that would work. Next day, while cutting up an avocado, I thought the guacomole would be a perfect sauce to make with steamed pig brain. They are both smooth and creamy, and the avocado would add enough bulk for the blender . So I got out my guacamole recipe and will make a guacomole with roast pig brain for trial #2.

Trial #2
Guacamole dip

1 avocado
2 tablespoons of roast pig brain
2 tablespoons or one small, finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons or one small chopped tomato
squeezed wedge of lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon of full array salt
Put avocado, roast pig brain, half the chopped onion and half the chopped tomato into a blender and whir on high until pureed. Remove from blender and stir in the other half of chopped onion and tomato and lemon juice and salt. Serve with corn chips.
It tasted good, though I think it would taste better if I didn't know it had brain in it. I would serve it to people and not tell them it was anything other than plain guacamole, at least not while they're still eating it. It could stand to be "spiced up" more according to taste, or use your own guacamole recipe and add mashed brain to it.

Back to making the head cheese

Simmering in water
After it roasted enough that it felt cooked -- it is easier to handle when cooked -- I transferred it to a large pot, covered with water and brought it to a boil. I then let it simmer for an hour, then turned off the heat but left the cover on the pot so it could continue cooking in its own heat.

Rendering off lard

After it was cooled down enough to easily handle the pot, but before any of the fat congealed, I poured the liquid into another saucepan and let it sit overnight in a cool area. Tomorrow I will pull any lard on the top off of it and put it into a glass jar and then, depending on the thickness of the gelatin either take the meat pieces out of the pot and start cutting them up into separate pieces of skin, meat and fat if I think it the gelatin was thick enough, or pour it back into the pot repeat the "simmering in water" process.

Thickening the gelatin
I think I was a little too over-optimistic on that score, and the gelatin was still too thin after I had strained it from the pot, so I poured it back into the pot on top of the pig head and let it simmer another couple of hours. Then I turned off the heat and let it cool.

Separating cooked meat from fat and gristle
After it had cooled, I pulled out the pieces of meat chunks I had already cut out of the pot then removed by hand any other chunks still clinging to the bone. There was something that I suspect was an eyeball, and I put it aside, but I doubt if I will ever eat it.

I cut the fat off the meat pieces, cut the meat into 1" pieces and then put them through a meat grinder. Most head cheese recipes say to use the chunks of meat for your cheese and arrange them artistically in the cheese mold, but, as all the people I cook for don't chew very well, I put it through a grinder. If you're making this for someone who likes to know they're eating real pieces of meat, you can just leave the chunks as is.

Making the head cheese
This is all still the same as I had done with the pig head I used to make pork pie (see that page for pictures of the process up to this point). There  isn't much more to do after that to make head cheese; it's a lot easier than making pork pie.
? Mix the ground  meat with some salt and put it in a glass bowl.

? Pour enough gelatin over the meat to dampen, but don't saturate.
? Add any other items you may wish to include in your lunch meat/head cheese such as olive or sauerkraut.
? Cover and let sit in refrigerator overnight to set. 

? Next day, loosen the molded meat in the bowl and then turn it upside down over a plate,
Slice to serve.


I had let the gelatin set and could see it was sufficiently thick for me now, so I put it on the stove to melt it and then poured some onto the ground meat. I made another sample sized cheese with some green olives and salt. I covered both bowls and put into the fridge to set.

I tried them before putting in the fridge. The olive loaf tasted a little better than the plain loaf but they both tasted fine, although a little on the bland side. But then, this is lunchmeat and that's what lunchmeat is supposed to taste like. With cheese and tomatoes and peppers in a sandwich it would be fine.

Tomorrow I will cut the fat into pieces and put them into the oven to make cracklins and rendered lard. I still have some ground meat left. I am thinking of making a type of meat pie called a "pasty" (pronounced pass-tea) here in southern England, that is basically what might be called a meat turnover in America. Meat laid on a rolled out pie crust dough, the dough turned over the meat and crimped together and then baked. These are popular portable fast food here.


 Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
.The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating  by Fergus Henderson. A little bit too heavy with the sugar, but it helps explain the mysteries of some types of food preparation. Eliminate the sugar or substitute honey or sucanat.
Unmentionable Cuisine   by Calvin W. Schwabe

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