Friday, April 22, 2011

Everybody into the pot ...

Well, the laptop expired but some of the photos made it (barely and with hours of work but made it nevertheless so very grateful for at least a few) and I am thankfully able to share them with you.  Hang on to your hats and stomachs (see disclaimer in previous post) dear readers and join me for a step by step guide to making head cheese sausage. Here we go.

A little history. Head cheese is an old timer (middle ages'ish) that is savoured all across the world (well, except maybe North America but for sure everywhere else) . In Romania, we used to have a version of it called Piftie every Easter and on Christmas. My dad made it. I used to look forward to it all year while some of my other family members regarded me with jaws dropped when contemplating what I was about to eat. I love the nasty bits. Best parts.

Okay, time to dish.

Chad's Stupendous Head Cheese

Step 1. Find the person who will share the wisdom, the heart and technique of the art of butchering, curing, stuffing, smoking and drying.

Check. The king of pig ...

Step 2. Find the person who can make it possible to get a whole pig's head in Montreal. It was hard. The king of pig did it.

Check. The butcher of pig ...

Step 3. Say thank you to the pig who gave his (or her) life so you can have something beautiful and yummy.
Check. Thank you pig...

Step 4. Ask the butcher of pig for feet to go in the giant stockpot. They are primarily responsible for that awesome gelatinous texture.

Check. Feet ...

Step 5. Make sure you have a giant stockpot.

Check. Giant stock pot ... I'll explain the paint cans later ...

Step 6. Put everybody in the pot, cover with water, add seasoning and aromatics (see below for what some of ours were), heave ho onto the stove and simmer "until the jaw drops off" (about 4 hours).

Check. Everybody into the pot ...
 Step 7. At the half point, get some paint cans and then stand on some paint cans so you can reach inside the pot, check in, give a stir and see what's going on.

Check. Paint cans ...

Check. Stand on them, see what's up ...

Check. All is well ...
  Step 8. This step is an all in one shot deal because this is where we had to stop and continue with the sausage. Chad and Leslie finished it after we left and we enjoyed it all together a few days later. Okay, imagination time. Once the jaw has fallen off, take all the meat out of the pot and place it into, you guessed it, a giant tray, wait for everything to cool, pick the meat, cartilage and ears out and shred (by hand) and cut (with a knife)  into head cheese'ish pieces until it is a big pile of awesome. In the meantime strain your boiling liquid, check for seasoning and adjust if needed and set aside to cool. Once meat is ready and liquid is cool, pick out the mold of your choice, place meat inside about three quarters of the way through, cover with cooking liquid and refrigerate it until, mhhmm, it's awesome. Then, slice and serve cool with some spicy Dijon mustard and super crunchy cornichons and pickled onions.  Heaven.

Check. A big pile of awesome ...

You know, after giving it some thought I am going to write another post for the Cotechino and Italian sausage. This will be way too long if I continue. What I will aim for is another post tomorrow for all of you eager sausage makers who want to make a last minute Easter bid to impress your friends with your stupendous sausage making skills. Ahem.

**For spices and aromatics we used the following: Salt, pepper, vinegar (a healthy amount), whole onions, whole garlic gloves, bay leaves, thyme, cloves and juniper berries.**


  1. Yummy. Pig looks alive!

  2. "until the jaw drops off"
    gross but too funny, you are a superstar of the yummy grotesque recipes. Hope you have some leftover a bit?

  3. Cool. Not sure if that's a good thing ...

  4. @ CEE - Yes I thought so too. Grotesque, noooo...just ...different ...shall we say. I do, I'll bring you some if you like it.

  5. Do you keep the brain in?

  6. Wow, adventurous. Between Anthony Bourdain and posts like this, it is becoming more and more difficult to stick to being a vegetarian. I'm not sure if I find head cheese an appetizing idea yet, but it sure is fascinating.

  7. Yes, if it is a whole head and the skull is intact you keep the brain and everything except the eyes in.

  8. @ Katie - Thanks, it was really fun and pretty fascinating. It's one of the reasons I wanted to do it. I love the idea of cooking things that people don't really make anymore. It connects me to people, history and humanity somehow. I love to eat animal free as well and in fact it is most of what I do eat as well. That said when I go meat, I go big ;).