Monday, October 10, 2011

Head Cheese

Head Cheese or Sülze (German), Sulc or Huspenina (Czech) etc…

Head cheese is not a cheese at all, of course but a terrine or meat jelly/aspic. Originally it was made from whole head of pig but since average home cook can’t get his hands on whole pig’s head, pork and veal knuckles or hocks are used instead. Hmmm, veal knuckles? Nope, can’t get these in our small town either so it left me with just the pork hocks. But hey, all you need for basic head cheese is pork hocks, water, salt, carrots, onions and your favorite spices and you are making Pâté de Tête. Doesn’t it sound better than head cheese? Anyway, I remember back in 50’s when my grandmother and other village neighbors killed a pig, usually in February, head cheese and head and barley soup were first things to be made and served to all the families around. It was greasy all right, but was it ever good! The smell of cloves and allspice from these dishes stuck with me ever since and these are the spices I used for my version. As is the norm for me lately, I improvised on the fly so there isn’t really much of a recipe that I have tested but I will describe what I did from start to finish.

On a whim, I bought 2 small knuckles that were split in half and somehow I knew that I will make my first Sülze. Since I wanted the gelatin fairly clear I had to blanch the hocks. Just bring the water with hocks to rapid boil and when brown foam forms on surface dump everything in sink and rinse under hot water. Wash the pot, put the clean hocks back in pot, cover with water and bring to simmer again. Meanwhile I placed cup of water and 1/4 cup of vinegar in slow cooker and turned it on High/6 hours. I use tee egg for spices and some herbs when making a stock so this is what I used again. As I said before, cloves and allspice are the main spices. I have added crushed pepper corns, bay leaf and 6 cloves of garlic. Place the spices in slow cooker. There will be carrots, parsnip and gherkins/pickles going in after the meat is done and removed.

When the hocks start to boil, transfer to slow cooker together with the water, cover and enjoy your 6 hours of doing nothing with this meal.

When done, remove the meat, strain and degrease the stock and set aside to cool. Best way is to let it cool to room temperature and then put it in fridge overnight. Not only it will be easy to degrease but you will also see how gelatinous the stock is. This is very important. If it not firm enough you will have to add some gelatin after you boil the carrots and pickles. You have read instruction on package to see how much to use.

Now it is time to de-bone the hocks. For me, the best part of hocks is the skin: nice, soft and chewy, so I use it, of course. Make sure that all the bones are removed and then chop all the meat and skin. Put back in the pot with stock, cubed carrots and pickles (amount is up to you) and bring to boil. When carrots are soft add the gelatin mixed with water, simmer for few seconds and remove from heat. All done. Now it is time to cool it down, fill the molds or whatever you want to use and let it set. I use aluminum bread pans and they work great.

When set and cool, remove from pan, slice and serve with lightly toasted rye bread and pickles.

 2 hocks gave me 5 of these bread pans.

It looks like there is meat only at bottom but as you can see from previous pictures the meat is spread from bottom to top.


Anonymous said...

It is the first time I see head cheese this way. Quite unique. In Québec, it's known as tête fromagée.

Jerry said...

If you click on the Head Cheese link under title picture there are so many names for same thing in Wiki. For France, here is what Wiki says:
France Referred to as fromage de tête, tête pressée, tête fromagée (which translates as "cheesed head") or pâté de tête.
I'll be making it on regular basis. Slow cooker makes it so simple!!!