What is Head Cheese?

Find out the facts behind this culinary curiosity

(Photo Modified: Flickr/stu_spivak)

Before we start talking about what head cheese is, clear your mind. Whatever you’re thinking it is, we promise that it isn’t that. However, if you are going by the actual name, it is more telling than you’d think. After all head cheese is made from real heads.

Relax, we just mean the heads of pigs. While there is no cheese actually involved in the making of head cheese, this head loaf closely resembled what pâté looks like minus the gelatin.

You begin by boiling a full pig’s head (tongue and all) in a pot full of seasoning, herbs, and vegetables for up to a good six hours. When the tongue is fork-tender, you then strain the head, pluck off the meat, and then chop and stuff it into sausage casings. You don’t need gelatin since the pork bones cook down into collagen that binds the meat once chilled. 

Head cheese is prepared differently around the world. The Germans include pickles, vinegar, and the occasional beef tongue for extra flavoring. In southern Louisiana, those who make head cheese (also known as sous) add hot sauce and vinegar for flavor. Even the Pennsylvania Dutch have their own twist, adding other animal parts like beef tongue and pigs foot for variety. 

Once completed, head cheese looks no less appetizing (and no less strange) than a bologna, blood sausage, salami or pâté!

Want to attempt to make it at home? Check out this no-fail Hog’s Head Recipe!

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