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Pigs' Head


Daniel
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Pepin in the 'Art of Cooking' has two procedures on how to deal with a pig's head to make head cheese. I have used the recipes/procedures and they work very well.-Dick

I was going to use the recipe in "The Whole Beast" -- any idea how it compares (I don't have "Art" -- that needs to be remedied, but not by Saturday!!). I've also got Wolfert's "Cooking of Southwest France" -- I wonder if there is anything in there.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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So I drove out to Kristdala Farm just east of Oklahoma City on Saturday to pick up five pigs' heads. I got there about an hour after the slaughter, tossed the pig heads on ice in a giant rubbermaid bin in the back of my car, and took them back home, where I filled the bin with water to help with the heat transfer, trying to get the heads chilled down quickly, since they had already been sitting out for a while:

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When I was done taking the jowl meat off, I put them back into the water to continue chilling down before I froze them: they were still quite heavy at this point.

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As I mentioned above, the farmer was just going to discard the heads, so not only did I get the head from my pig, but I got it from the other four he slaughtered that morning as well:

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I don't know what I was expecting, but I was a bit surprised how little you could tell what animal they came from: they had been skinned as part of the slaughter I guess, so no ears, no snout, not really any definable features that made you think "pig." It was a bit disturbing to have the eyes present, however:

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You can see how thick the layer of fat was that got removed during the skinning process by looking at the bit that is left on the lower jaw. Because the heads are normally just discarded, no special precaution is taken to leave fat, meat, or anything intact, so the five heads had widely varying amounts of jaw meat left on them. I guess that's what I get for free! The original plan had been to do something different with each head, but because I had no idea what I was doing, and what I really wanted was jowl to make guanciale, I decided to try taking the jowls off all of them, and then use the leftovers for head cheese and the like. I was a bit disappointed by the lack of ears, but I guess I'm glad that, for my first time with heads, they didn't look too much like pigs! Gotta ease into this sort of thing...

Next up I had a go at taking the meat off the jowls. Two problems with this: 1) I have never seen a proper pork jowl before, so I have no idea what I am supposed to end up with, and 2) each of these heads seemed to have a different amount of meat and fat in the jowl area, due to the skin being removed, probably quite quickly. So, anyway, here is the procedure I followed (photos courtesy of my wife, who, despite being generally unwilling to even watch me bone out a chicken, volunteered for the task).

This is a view from the back of the head: my first step was to try to feel around a little and figure out where the jaw bones were:

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Once I identified the main jawbone, I started carefully cutting up against it, trying to get under the nugget of meat that was directly against the bone:

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When that was free, I found the upper jaw bone and started cutting along it:

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Here you can see the piece almost separated:

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Here is a front view of the upside-down head after I have removed the first side and started making my first cut on the other side: hopefully this gives a better idea of where I was making those cuts.

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Once separated I put the jowl into a bowl of ice water:

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Here is one of the larger jowl pieces that I managed to recover:

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Next up... guanciale!

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Chris...I bow before thee. You are a brave (and crazy) dude. FIVE pigs heads?? Wow. I'm truly impressed.

And you thought you wouldn't find any food in K.C. :laugh:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

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Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Cool pics!!

With the rest of the head meat, you could make jitrnice (is that spelled correctly? we always call it "eat-yer-knees-ah" in my family), the Czech head sausage with barley. Sooooo yummy. I've always wanted to learn how to make it, but until then I get it from Junior's outside of Houston.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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Chris, to quote your American compatriots - "that rocks!", though i'm really surprised how your heads are pre-skinned. What is with that, why would the abattoir do that? Looks like they just slashed it off!! What kind of pigs were they with black snouts?

I love pork, you really appreciate the whole beast once you've had to stick a thumb in an eye socket for leverage.

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Chris, to quote your American compatriots - "that rocks!", though i'm really surprised how your heads are pre-skinned.  What is with that, why would the abattoir do that?  Looks like they just slashed it off!!  What kind of pigs were they with black snouts?

I love pork, you really appreciate the whole beast once you've had to stick a thumb in an eye socket for leverage.

The hogs were a Duroc/Hampshire 50/50 mix. I'm not sure why the processor removes the skin on the head, though my best guess is that the skinned the whole animal before loading it into the cooler: the whole slaughter was done at the farm, and then the carcass shipped back to the abattoir. Maybe they didn't want pig fur all over everything: I can attest that it manages to go everywhere!

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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It's very likely the the whole hog was skinned out.

You can either skin or scald and scape a hog. Lacking a scalding kettle large enough for a whole hog it is much easier to skin. You loose the skin and a bit of fat if you choose to skin.

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Gross. eeww .. yuck.

I had (read: couldn't bring myself to throwing away a perfectly good pig head) to make head cheese a couple times - eww gross ick.

The neighbors loved it.

Basically my recipe was boil the shit out of a couple pigs heads (Poor Pinky and Rosie freshly slaughtered in the front yard ) with as many spices/herbs ... carrots, onions, garlic, salt.... the whole nine yards

after you have boiled the crap out of it (fyi about 4 hours and your whole house willl stink like pigs head so you may want to do it outside) , strain and pick all the meat off the head - it will fall off, chop into little cubes, add some olives, orange peel , and pistachios if you want.

Take your pile of chopped up snout, ears, and all the rest (make sure it is still hot) and plop it in a special casing that is about 5 inches in diameter -- once full hang it for the night ... some goop will come out but most of it stays in. In the morning

it is ready - you just have to wash the excess goop off the casing and slice.

Nasty stuff but as I said, my neighbors LOVED it and my kids didn't think it was all that bad either.

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I can't tell from many of these descriptions how much prep has to be done to the head: some recipes indicate that you have to remove the eyes and brain (man, just typing that makes me quake in fear at the thought...) while others say nothing at all. What's the deal on those "extra bits." And, since my hogs' heads were skinned, am I going to have enough gelatin to set the headcheese? Should I add extra?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I just threw the whole head (2) in the pot .

Like I said it grossed me out - the less I had to deal with it the better.

Having said that - the other time I made it, a dear friend pulled out the brains (I wasn't paying attention so I don't know how it was done but I think they basically whacked the head in half and scooped them out... to be later fried and I swear on the head of my mother that by gosh they tasted just like fried clam bellies.

I imagine that with you will have plenty of gelatin goop thanks to the snout and ears so it shouldn't be a problem.

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