I’m in one of those writing phases where none of my projects are even close to completion; I’d chronicle my daily routine for you, but it mostly consists of spending four hours figuring out where to locate the start of the Inquisition, or five hours tracking one of Philip IV’s currency devaluements, or three hours working out what mistakes a middle-grade writer is likely to make on a particular writing assignment.

It’s the kind of work that makes you long for a play-by-play commentary to make your days seem more eventful. Or at least theme music.

On the plus side, I have headcheese.

I should give you some background on this. When I was in my teens, we butchered our own hogs here on the farm and turned them into bacon, sausage, ham, and headcheese. What is headcheese, you might ask?

As I recall, the recipe went something like this:

Place the hog’s head into a large pot and cover it with cold water. Boil it until the meat is tender.
(I think the head might have been brined first–soaked in salt water in the fridge for a day or so).

Remove the head and set aside.

Skim the liquid and bring to a boil until reduced.

Pick meat from hog’s head and discard bones, skin, and cartilage.

Combine meat and reduced liquid with chopped onion, salt, and pepper.

Pour into loaf pans and chill.

When it was finished, you could cut it into big slices and eat it on bread. I remember this as being sort of like meat Jello, and I can’t say I loved it. However, for some reason I told my husband all about how to make head cheese on our very first date.

Which clearly enchanted him.

Anyway, I haven’t had head cheese for at least twenty years. Until last night, when I was at my favorite Williamsburg restaurant and the chef brought some out. And sent some home with me so that my husband, who’s never actually tasted headcheese, could sample it.

Either his headcheese recipe is a lot better than my grandmother’s, or my taste buds have grown up, because it was scrumptious.

I haven’t, unfortunately, convinced Pete to taste it yet. He’s still thinking about it.

Showing 8 comments
  • Heather Q.

    I’m sort of glad they didn’t have headcheese when we were in Williamsburg. I think I would have felt compelled to choke some down which would have left less for Pete.

  • Carolee LeBlanc

    My grandfather owned a slaughter house about a 10 minute walk from my home in Marysville, NB, Canada. My father was a manager of a local meat processing plant. Head cheese was a normal part of our life! 🙂

    One of my favourite times of year was the slaughter. Not that I liked all the killing…but all the excitement. Oh…and riding behind the grand work horses out to the fields on the “slop cart” to dump the drainage. Although I wasn’t allowed to see the beheading, the helpers loved to scare me my pulling the nerves and making the headless cow/pig kick!

    What fun! Can’t say that I “liked” head cheese either. But it is part of my history and childhood memories.

    Head cheese, cream peas on toast, tomatoe/macaroni casserole….hated them all as a child. Now I love two out of three. Perhaps I should try the head cheese again!


  • Di

    I’m with Pete, unless there is a very large glass of red wine waiting right next to it. Then it is a maybe.


  • Sarah

    Uh- No thank you. I’ll just have to take your word for it.

  • Janice in NJ

    Hmmm… looks like it might taste good but would surely feel bad. Probably wouldn’t attempt it.


  • Ulla Lauridsen

    Here in Denmark that is a much beloved christmas dish. Always served for lunch along with other cold cuts, and eaten with ryebread (of which we eat a lot year round) and mustard. It’s not like a ‘roast’ for ‘dinner’. It’s the oldest dish still being regularly eaten – from the middle ages. It’s called grisesylte. ‘Gris’ means ‘pig’ and ‘sylte’ means ‘preserve’. Of course back then it was made to utilize and preserve the small bits of meat – the liquid forms a layer of fat on top, and that prevents the meat under it from spoiling (for a short while). My mother in law makes her own, and of course, you can use other cuts of meat instead of the head. Personally, I like the meat to be more chunky, not so finely chopped as it is in the picture.

  • Sahamamama

    I would give it a go, but I’ll try anything.

    Does it taste at all like SPAM? (a tinned meat product)

    My father grew up in Philadelphia and his family survived on tinned corned beef, some meat-waste/corn-paste concoction called “Scrapple,” and pork roll. Has Pete had any of these culinary delights? I gag every time I smell scrapple frying up in the pan. Ick.

  • SueM

    I’ve never eaten head cheese but the picture reminds me of panhaus or scrapple both which I’ve eaten and enjoy.

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