Pork Head Cheese
Pork, Swabian

Pork Head Cheese (‘Schweinekopfsülze’)

15 comments

Last Updated on 8 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.

Pig Head and Knuckle

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.

Simmering the broth for head cheese

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.

Pork Bones

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

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!

15 Comments

  1. Your recipe sounds very familiar. My mother made excellent head cheese. and homemade kraut in an old crock with a plate weighed down with a brick. My mom had this large wooden like mandolin to cut her cabbage,. I believe it was my great grandma’s as was the crock. But this is about head cheese or souse. There’s quite a lot of meat in the snout. and ears have a very sweet white meat . We butchered our hogs in late November,. That was a family effort. Cleaning intestines to stuff with sausage and cook the head complete with tongue ears and snout the whole head. My great Uncle said we used everything but the squeal.

    • That sounds great! I love eating the whole pig as well. It’s not just the muscle meat that tastes great. I have a recipe scheduled for sour pig kidneys in a few weeks. I’m sure you’re familiar with this dish as well. It’s very popular in Southern Germany.

  2. Hi, or Guten Tag, maybe you are also familiar with beef tongue. That also takes a long time to make, but the result is very good.

    • Yes, beef tongue with madeira sauce is my grandma’s favorite dish. We usually make it in our pressure cooker at home to cut down on the cooking time. I will post a recipe for it on the blog the next time i get to make it! It has been almost a year now that I’ve eaten beef tongue the last time.

  3. Georgette

    Hi Tim! Hope you can help me out. I found a recipe of my grandmother’s titled Gola Rah or German Head Cheese. Have you heard of the recipe referred to as Gola Rah or Gala Rah? It is somewhat similar to your recipe. Hers does not include the veggies and spices like yours but it does include S&P & onions.

    • Thanks for your comment, Georgette. Unfortunately, I don’t know Gola Rah. I’ve never heard that word before. There are many different kinds of head cheese. Some are left to gelatinize on a serving plate. These are called “Tellersülze”. Recipes for head cheese can be very easily altered to taste. There are no hard rules, so I think you can give your grandma’s recipe a try. I’m sure it’s delicious as well!

  4. Pingback: Braised Green Beans ('Grünes Bohnengemüse') - My German Table

  5. Steven Royal

    When making head cheese do you use the brain and any other glandular part of the head?

    • No, I only use the skin, cheeks, nose, and ears for pork head cheese. However, you can use the brain or any other kind of organ meat you like. I just don’t use pig brain because it is hard to source in Germany nowadays. Ever since the BSE crisis, the European Union has been campaigning against the consumption of brains.

      It’s a pity that it is so hard to find brains nowadays. Pork brain soup used to be served at Swabian weddings. If you can source pig brain, i think it would be a great addition because it adds a nice richness and creaminess to the head cheese.

  6. Steven Royal

    Thank you for getting back to me. This will be my first time making head cheese. I’m not sure how it will turn out. I smoked a half pig head deboned the meat. Due to an emergency I had to freeze the meat. I have a couple quarts of reduced unstraind broth from another recipe I had done. I’ll just have to hope for the best.

    • Oh I’m sure it will be fine. Head cheese is a very forgiving dish. People her put all kinds of stuff into it, often also veggies or pickles. As long as the broth tastes good and intense, it’s going to turn out delicious!

  7. My father used to love this!!

  8. My dad used to make head cheese. He used half vinegar and half meat water. He boiled that for 5 minutes and then poured it over the chopped cooked meat that was put in a Lasagna pan. It always jellied. My brother just made it and it didn’t jell. Only thing he can think of is that he cooled the meat pieces too long. Any thoughts?

    • If it hasn’t jelled, then there was probably not enough gelatine in the meat broth. Not all meat has the same amount and sometimes an extra pig foot or powdered gelatin/ gelatin sheets are needed. If you add extra gelatin powder or sheets, then you shouldn’t boil the broth anymore as the store-bought gelatin will lose some of its thickening power otherwise.

      Maybe the broth in your recipe wasn’t reduced enough. After boiling the meat, the broth needs to be cooked down a lot to concentrate the gelatin.

      Cooling usually doesn’t have an effect on the gelling capacity of the head cheese. Just make sure to not freeze it.

      Overall, i wouldn’t worry too much if it didn’t jell. You can always gently reheat the head cheese and add some powdered gelatin or gelatin sheets. I have to do that sometimes too. Not all meat jells the same. If you want to be on the safe side, you can add a pork trotter or chicken feet the next time you make the broth. The feet of animals have the most gelatin.

      I hope that helps and that your brother is successful with jelling the head cheese.

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