Few meats demonstrate the ingenuity of the world's cooks as thoroughly as pork. Every part of a hog is not only edible but downright delicious when prepared correctly. One of the most extreme examples of this devotion to frugality is headcheese, made from the hog's head, feet and other trimmings. Even the most willing and adventurous diners are sometimes stumped by headcheese's oddness, and don't know how to approach it. It's simplest to think of it as an exotic form of cold cuts and treat it accordingly.
If you've ever made pulled pork in a slow cooker, you'll have seen how the broth at the bottom gels when it's cooled. Headcheese is simply slow-cooked pork bits -- like your pulled pork -- pressed into a tasty loaf held together by that same natural gelatin. Cube it and spear it with toothpicks as part of a cold cuts platter, served with crackers or small pieces of artisanal bread, or slice it as a sandwich meat. It's very rich, so it's often served with tart pickles or sharp-tasting condiments. Souse, a variation on headcheese, includes vinegar in the basic recipe.
Headcheese is typically served cold, so its gelatin doesn't melt, but that's not mandatory. Headcheese that's lightly warmed in the microwave makes a fine substitute for carnitas in a taco or wrap, or a memorably different omelet when paired with fine herbs. For an unusual but striking meal, place a slice of headcheese atop your bowl of risotto and garnish it with chopped parsley and lemon zest. The headcheese melts into your risotto, enriching it with rich pork flavor.
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