Pork Recipes

Head Cheese

No, there’s no dairy in it! Head cheese is one of my family’s favorite dishes. It’s not nearly as strange as it sounds, and it’s a delicacy because the pig only has one head with which to make this tasty dish! It’s much like a thick pork soup that you can spread on crackers. It makes the most of meat that is otherwise difficult to use, thus helping to make the most of the animal!

Historic note: food was often referred to as a cheese in the past when it was formed in a dish. In other cultures it may be called “brawn”, “souse”, “testa”, or “pig’s head terraine”.


1 pig head, split in half by your butcher

1 bay leaf

4 whole cloves

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons sea salt, divided

fresh ground pepper

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 large carrot, grated finely

1 bunch parsley, chopped well

3-6 scallions, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon celery seed

Place split whole pig head in very large pot. I use a Hamilton Beach 22-quart Roaster Oven.

Add: bay leaf, whole cloves, crushed garlic, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 10 twists of fresh ground pepper, and cider vinegar.

Cover pig head with water. I find I get best results leaving about ½ inch of the head out of the water so there is less water in the pot and broth gels better. The exposed meat will still cook. Set to 250 degrees or set pot on stove top to a very low simmer. Simmer 24-36 hours.

(Safety note: this makes a very heavy pot, I find it easier to fill the pot with the pot on the counter, using the sink sprayer so I don’t have to lift it out of the sink.)

Once simmering is complete, cool to a comfortable touch, but do not refrigerate until cold or broth will set making work difficult. Remove head from pot. I lift the head out on the rack that comes with my roaster oven. I find it tidiest to set in a clean sink for the next step, so I don’t end up with a puddle of broth on the counter dripping onto the floor.

Separate out all meat bits adding them to a large bowl. Discard bones and excess fat. If the tongue was in the head, remove the outer skin from the tongue discarding skin and adding meat to bowl. Refrigerate meat and broth in separate containers.

After broth has complete chilled and hopefully set to a gel, remove from refrigerator, and scrape fat off the top of broth. Re-warm broth just until it is liquid.

Chop meat finely and put in mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients; don’t forget your remaining teaspoon of salt. All ingredients can be adjusted to taste.

Add broth to mix, 1 cup at a time, stirring between cups. Broth should be added until it begins to not completely absorb into the mix, pooling instead of incorporating. Stir all ingredients well. Put mixture into the container you want to serve in, smooth over and refrigerate. Remaining broth can be bottled and used for other recipes; it is very rich.

To serve: Once head cheese has set in 8 to 12 hours and is firm and can be spread, serve with your favorite crackers or slices of toasted baguette bread, slices of cheese, spicy mustard, and slices of tomato. I think this is a popular food among little boys because it’s fun to construct your own dinner right at the table!