Last Updated on 6 months by Tim
First of all, Merry Christmas to all my loyal followers who are reading this post on its day of publishing. Of course, I have a little present for you. In today’s post, I’m going to show you how to make your own pork head cheese. Yummy!
I know, gelatinized sausages might’ve fallen a bit out of fashion but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re addictively delicious. There’s hardly any dish that has a better texture and mouthfeel than a properly prepared head cheese.
And as you might already know from reading my blog, people from the south of Germany are generally very fond of gelatinous food. Sour tripe is another one of these gelatinous delights the Swabian cuisine has to offer. If you’ve eaten and loved sour tripe you will love head cheese as well.
The cuts of meat that go into head cheese
A strong and flavorful pork broth is the basis of all head cheese preparations. To cook it you will need to use parts of the pig that contain a lot of gelatin so that your head cheese will properly gelatinize once cooled.
The parts of the pig most commonly used to make head cheese are the head, knuckle, and foot. I omitted the foot in my recipe, as it doesn’t have any meat on it and its sole use is to extract some extra gelatin into the broth. It’s usually enough to only use the pig head and knuckle which both contain plenty of gelatin.
Other optional additions to head cheese include the pig’s heart and belly. The heart is very lean meat and one of the most flavorful cuts of pork. The belly, on the other hand, offers some extra fat and skin along with a little bit of lean meat.
How to cook an aromatic pork broth
The pork needs to be poached in the broth until it is fall-off-the-bone tender. In a traditional stockpot, that means 2-3 hours of gentle simmering. A pressure cooker will get this job done in 60 minutes on the high-pressure setting.
To make the broth even more aromatic a bunch of soup vegetables and spices are added to the poaching liquid. My recipe uses juniper berries, allspice berries, and black peppercorns. As herbal aromatics, I use thyme, parsley, and bay leaf.
After all your meat is tender, take it out of the pot and let it cool down while reducing the broth by 2/3. You want a superstrong and concentrated broth as it will lose a lot of its fragrance once cooled and gelatinized.
It is therefore super important that you season the broth very generously with salt, sugar, and vinegar. Add a little more than you are comfortable with. Once the broth tastes overseasoned, you’ve probably got it right. Always remember that the flavor will be dulled once gelatinized.
How to check if your broth contains enough gelatin
It’s wise to always check if your broth gelatinizes properly before adding the meat back in. Simply transfer a tablespoon of your broth to a small coffee plate and chill in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. If the broth doesn’t gelatinize to your liking, add in more gelatine according to the package instructions of your product. I like to use gelatine sheets which need to be soaked in cold water for 10 minutes before adding them to the hot broth.
Expect for the bones, every edible part of the pig should make it into your headcheese. So when cutting the pork into bite-size pieces don’t remove any of the skin or fat. It’s perfectly edible and super delicious. The pigskin is without a doubt my favorite part of the headcheese.
How to enjoy head cheese the German way
You must remain patient and give your head cheese enough time to cool down and gelatinize in the fridge. So always prepare it in advance and give it at least 4-5 hours to set.
Head cheese should always be served fridge cold, sliced into serving-size pieces. It’s delicious on a piece of sourdough bread but serving it with warm pan-fried potatoes takes head cheese to the next level.
So, that’s it with recipes for this year. I’ll be back in January 2020 with many more German recipes. Until then: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my dear followers. Stay healthy and keep cooking German food. There is much more to come!