Head cheese is not a cheese at all, but a meat terrine made with the meat from the head of a cow, calf or pig, or, more rarely, a sheep. A terrine is a "forcemeat" loaf, which is a mixture of meat emulsified or completely blended with a fat creating a loaf, which can be sliced. A souse is a variation of head cheese which is pickled.
History of Head Cheese
Head cheese is traditionally a peasant food; the head being a portion of a pig or cow that the wealthy preferred not to eat. Head meat, however, is very rich in nutrients. Head cheese originated in the Middle Ages and is still popular throughout Europe.
How to Make Head Cheese
First, remove all the organs, such as brain, eyes, from the heat and thoroughly clean it. Next, boil the head until the meat easily separates from the bone. As the water boils off, the meat will become shiny. This is due to the high gelatin content in the head bones. Remove the meat from the water and filter it through cheesecloth until it’s clarified or clear. Recipes differ, but head cheese is often seasoned with onions, pepper, allspice, and bay leaves. Finally, press the meat into loaf pans or stuff into casing, to create a sausage.
Souse is a type of head cheese to which vinegar is added. Vinegar helps to preserve the head cheese because in inhibits bacterial growth. Traditionally, you can add pimentos or peppers to souse. Next, press the mixture into a loaf pan or stuff into a casing, just as with head cheese.
Eating and Serving Head Cheese
Head cheese and souse are typically served cold or at room temperature. If in a load form, they are sliced and served, as with cold cuts, on a sandwich. If in a casing, they can be sliced and served as an appetizer along with cheese and crackers.