Headcheese! But Where’s The Cheese?

I love going through my pictures in iPhoto because I always pass by a set of pictures that I have originally wanted to share but just completely forgot or just never got around to do. Now that I have this blog, I actually have a way to post these things that I was so excited to share!

So this post is about a project that I was kind of hesitant of taking on, but at the same time was REAL excited to try. Headcheese! So I talked about it with my sous chef, Allyss, and that same day she talked to our head chef, Joey, and by the end of that week, there was a giant pig head on my station for me to play with.

My two friends!

I have been interested in making headcheese for a while. I read about the many different variations there were for making headcheese and I thought that making a terrine out of it would be the easiest way for my first couple of times. I figured that it’s a good way to learn about the pig face since I would have to remove every piece of meat off of that giant pig skull. And boy did I learn a lot! I was flabbergasted by all of the different pieces of meat that come off the face. From the cheek, to the ears, to the meat around the snout, to the tongue, I was just amazed! There were so many different textures from the different parts of the face from the way that the pig would utilize its muscles when it was still alive. And all of it was so tasty!

So I started with brining these bad boys for a good week to help with the texture and flavor of the meat. After the brining stage, I put the pig heads into a large stock pot and then cover with water and bring to a boil. When it reaches a boil, I discard the the liquid just to get rid of any impurities. I then add pork stock, 2 pig trotters (to help make the stock more gelatinous), and mirepoix and then let the heads simmer for a good 3-4 hours, until the meat is tender.

I then remove the head from the pots and let it cool down enough to be able to touch.At the same time, I strain the stock and then reduced it more than half of its original volume until its really gelatinous and rich. This will be the binder for the pressed terrine.

I then start to remove the layer of skin, discarding all the inedible pieces. I then carefully start to remove the meat from the skull in large pieces so we can cut them down into nice chunks. I reserve all the fat that surrounds the pork cheek as a garnish for the terrine and keep it separate from all of the meat.. I think my favorite pieces of meat have got to be the dark meat that surrounds the eye area and the succulent, juice meat of the pork cheek. I also pull out the pork tongue, remove the layer of skin and save it for the terrine. I save both ears and check if they are done enough because they sometimes take longer to cook than the rest of the face.  All that should be on the skull is….. the skull itself!

The pigs sticking out their tongue. =P

I then line a terrine mold with plastic wrap. I chop up the pieces of meat and fat into small cubes. It’s ok if there are some irregular cubes because it will help with the look of the terrine and make it look a little more rustic. It will also give your terrine some great textures. In a bowl, I combine 3:1 meat:fat and make sure the seasoning is on point.

Pig Face Mis en place.

Bowl of face!

I then start filling the terrine mold and add some stock every time I add meat, making sure that their is liquid throughout the terrine to hold it together. When the mold is all the way full, I wrap it up tightly with the overhang of the plastic wrap, then transfer it to the fridge and put some weights on top to compress it and making the terrine set tightly.

Terrine building!

The next day, I reveal the terrine and slice it open showing the almost mosaic looking terrine that is studded with all the different pieces of the pig face!

The finished headcheese!

Another mold of headcheese.

These are the type of projects I love doing. I love learning about the anatomy of animals and starting with the head was a good start!

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