Monday, October 10, 2011

Head Cheese

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

Head cheeseis not a cheese at all, of course but a terrine or meat jelly/aspic. Originallyit was made from whole head of pig but since average home cook can’t get hishands 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 leftme with just the pork hocks. But hey, all you need for basic head cheese ispork hocks, water, salt, carrots, onions and your favorite spices and you aremaking Pâté de Tête. Doesn’tit sound better than head cheese? Anyway, I remember back in 50’s when mygrandmother and other village neighbors killed a pig, usually in February, headcheese and head and barley soup were first things to be made and served to allthe families around. It was greasy all right, but was it ever good! The smellof cloves and allspice from these dishes stuck with me ever since and these arethe spices I used for my version. As is the norm for me lately, I improvised onthe fly so there isn’t really much of a recipe that I have tested but I willdescribe what I did from start to finish.

On a whim, I bought 2 small knuckles that were split in halfand 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 onsurface dump everything in sink and rinse under hot water. Wash the pot, putthe 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 andturned it on High/6 hours. I use tee egg for spices and some herbs when makinga stock so this is what I used again. As I said before, cloves and allspice arethe main spices. I have added crushed pepper corns, bay leaf and 6 cloves ofgarlic. Place the spices in slow cooker. There will be carrots, parsnip andgherkins/pickles going in after the meat is done and removed.

When the hocksstart to boil, transfer to slow cooker together with the water, cover and enjoyyour 6 hours of doing nothing with this meal.

When done, removethe meat, strain and degrease the stock and set aside to cool. Best way is tolet it cool to room temperature and then put it in fridge overnight. Not onlyit 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 gelatinafter you boil the carrots and pickles. You have read instruction on package tosee how much to use.

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

When set andcool, remove from pan, slice and serve with lightly toasted rye bread andpickles.

 2 hocks gave me 5 of these bread pans.

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


Sébastien 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!!!