Monday, November 19, 2007

Head cheese

It’s amazing the parallels that existed in country living “back then”. I remember that everybody thought that beef tongue and mustard made the best sandwich ever. I was raised on what my family grew on the ranch, beef, lamb, pork, and what came out of the garden. We supplemented what we didn’t grow on the ranch with abolone, clams, mussels, surf-fish, venison and salmon. It seemed like the food was abundant if you planned well. One of my favorite foods was pickled mussels. I still make those from time to time.

One of the things that I ate as a child, and thought nothing of it, was head cheese. After the pig was butchered, the head was scalded and scraped clean with a dull knife, and then it was sawed down the middle longwise. The brains were scooped out and saved because my grandfather liked pig brains and scrambled eggs, but the brains were no good for head cheese. Then the head was cleaned again to get all the bone dust from the saw off it, then it was cleaned again.

The process usually involved all the women of the family, because the whole family either lived on the ranch or close by. I remember Gramma and Mom talking about how the head just had to be real clean, how they just about couldn’t eat the lady that lived down the roads head cheese, because they could tell it just was not clean enough. They always talked about how they liked to take the eyes out because a person could always tell an eyeball in the cheese, and they didn’t like that for some reason. After they were satisfied that the head was clean, they would place it in a big kettle and boil it for hours and hours. When the meat all fell off the skull, it was ready to clean again. The stuff that came off the skull was sliced and diced into about one-half inch pieces. Then it was put back in the pot and boiled onr more time. This time they put salt and pepper, a few bay leaves, and some sage, and some something else. Mace? Allspice? I forget. It was boiled to get the gelatin out of the ears, lips, skin and snout, so it would set up firmly when it cooled. Then it was poured into regular glass bread loaf pans to set and jell. Then there was much discussion about whether or not to put cracked pepper on the top of the loaf. The men in the family liked the cheese with cracked pepper on top. But the women didn’t so it usually went without.

I still like head cheese, but I have to personally know who made it before I’ll eat it.

I’d tell you how to make chicken foot soup, but it’s too late in the day.


Estelle Fennell said...

id test......

Carol said...

I am Estelle's first blogger view!


I really enjoy reading South Fork Ernie's stories.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Hi Carol, how did you find us? We are still practicing and obviously we have a ways to go. Thanks for commenting. Do you have any suggestions for us?

Carol said...

Hi Ernie!

Anonymous sent me the link to your blog. Also, try googling your name. It will find you on Blogger.

We also have a link from our blog to your blog.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for bringing back memories of making head cheese years ago. I love the stuff and also agree that it is best made by the people planning to eat it. However, I must say that the batch made by a former boss of mine who included chunks of pork loin in his was very, very good.

Mike Buettner said...

Head cheese! Oh my god.

Growing up in northern Wisconsin (Shawano) of German / Polish and Scandinavian decent I so remember these wonderfully repulsive foods.

Pepper please.

I still get bootleg cheese from back there. Corner cheese factories operating behind closed doors cuz they can't meet gov't code.

I was just reminiscing about homemade smoked sausage. Hmmm... fry it up with some eggs.

I grew up on the second floor of my grandparents farm house. The farm was mostly gone by the time I remember. We still had pigs and chickens and a huge vegetable garden that we sold from at a roadside stand. Life was good?

Mike Buettner said...

Plus pickled Northern Pike and smoked bullheads. Along with some fresh cheese curds and you were livin'.

I grew up on the real bratwurst. Nothing now compares.. even back there really.

mike Buettner said...

Not to sound confused in my posts but I do know head cheese from dairy cheese... just off on atangent.