Sound too gross?
If you are a meat eater, you should have a basic understanding of the whole animal: what it eats, natural grazing habits, nourishing as well as nasty bits etc. to be confident that what you are eating is healthy. There are too many of us who will go to the grocery store (or even the farm after processing) and pick up a piece of meat that resembles nothing of the original animal. It’s easier on us to mentally ‘check out’ and not recognize this chunk of meat as something that once lived and breathed and roamed. Right?
Yes, deep down we know where it came from, but we are all too happy to distance ourselves mentally from the reality that Wilber the pig is now on our dinner table.
Why Push the Boundaries of ‘Acceptable’ Modern Eating?
This is why I do it:
- Awareness that this was a living creature. When I see parts like a ‘head’ it helps remind me that I want to buy from a producer I know took care of the animal in it’s lifetime.
- Enables my future ability to sustain myself if I needed to raise my own meat for food. If I can’t look at an animal as food but only as a pet or something cute, it will be extremely difficult at slaughter time if I need to raise my own food someday.
- Utilizing the whole animal respects the life given to nourish me. Most try not to eat the ‘yucky’ parts of the animal. These parts go to other places like dog and cat food and even non-edible products like glue instead of human consumption.
- Some of these icky parts are actually the most nourishing parts of the animal! The head in particular has the brain, tongue, and bones which are extremely nutrient dense besides the meat protein and fatty jowls that most people might consider edible.
- Inexpensive form of nourishment. Those of you into frugality will love the fact that these unappetizing parts of animals are actually the cheapest because not many people are willing to eat them anymore.
I received 4 heads for $20. That’s right, loooozahs! I spent $20 for meat that will last me for at least 16 meals (One head lasted me for 4 meals for two. Do the math). It would have been free except I did offer to pay my friend something for the processing. She wouldn’t take any more for it, but she was glad that the heads were actually going to be used for a change. I received another single head at my co-op for about $10 on discount. It usually runs about $20 just so you know what the real cost might be (which I think is actually too pricey). But even at that price for one head you are likely to get 2 meals for a family of 4.
Ingredients for Head Cheese
You will need a 5 gallon pot for this recipe!
1 pastured pig head, should be mostly thawed (skin optional, brain preferable!)
2-3 cloves garlic
6 T Celtic or Himalayan sea salt (reduce to 5 if not using apples)
3-4 T rosemary
2 T sage (I used ground)
4-5 bay leaves
1 apple (Granny Smith), cored, sliced into wedges
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
filtered water to cover (once the head is in the 5 gallon pot should be filled with water)
1) Dissolve the 5-6 tablespoons of salt in about 2 cups of water.
2) Place pig head in the pot and pour dissolved salt over the pig head. Allow to soak for an hour or so. This is a form of marination that will help reduce some anti-nutrients in the pork.
3) After soaking in salt, add the spices and herbs of rosemary, bay leaves, sage, and garlic.
4) Fill pot with water, ideally to cover but as you can see part of the snout was sticking out of mine. That’s ok.
5) Add the whole apples and the apple cider vinegar to the water and allow to set for about 30 minutes.
6) After 30 minutes of soaking in vinegar, water and spices, turn on heat to high and allow to boil. (see video) By the way, that foam at the top is not scum to be scraped, it’s actually my sage that was ground and rose to the top. It was there even before the boil.
7) Once at a boil, turn down to medium and simmer for about 3 hours.
8) After 3 – 4 hours of simmering, take pig head out of water and allow to cool. (Keep the water for the broth). Larger heads will take longer as well as heads that are still mostly frozen. My first head took 3 hours. The second closer to 4 hours as it was larger and slightly more frozen than the first. Meat should fall off the head. If it is not easy to remove, keep simmering because the deeper meat parts are likely still pink and not cooked through. When in doubt cook longer!
9) Once cooled, start pulling the meat off the head and place in a large dish to be refrigerated. (The bowl will need to be bigger than the amount of meat you get from the head because we are adding the gelatinous stock to the meat later.
10) Place the head, bones, etc back into the pot and continue to simmer for several more hours. (6- 24) The longer the better as this will pull more minerals and nutrients from the bones into the broth.
11) Once you have cooked the broth, strain and just cover the refrigerated meat from earlier and allow to cool. Once cooled this become the head cheese. Store the remaining broth to be used for other pork dishes. Please note that this broth is salty. Any dish that I added it to later did not need any additional salt, but never seemed overly salty. You can temper saltiness by adding sweetener or even a vinegar.
Often head cheese can be ground up and stuffed into casings and made into sausages. But because I have difficulty finding good casings (my farmers use them to make their own sausages), I just cook it up with some veggies and rice and call it a dinner. This is a really flexible and unbelievably tasty meal prep that you can have on hand for several meals.
- very little hands on
- low cost
- low prep
Real Food doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. It just takes a little bit of advance prep and you have several meals ready to go in minutes.
Yea? or Nay?
Recipes I Varied Using the Head Cheese