Making Head Cheese, Part I

Last week, at the end of class my chef asked if I had ever made head cheese. My answer, umm…no. What is head cheese you ask? Well its not a cheese. Its a meat jelly made with pieces from the head of a cow or pig in aspic. Different flavors such as onion, black pepper, allspice, bay leaf, salt, and vinegar are added. It is eaten like a cold lunch meat or sausage.

So when I walked into class last night, my chef greats me with his typical wide eyed expression excitedly telling me my head was waiting for me in the meat reach-in. His instructions for the night, told in an oddly calm manner, are to remove the eyes, use a cleaver to split the head down the middle, scoop out the brains, and then set up the head in stock pot with mirepoix to cook all night long.

Simple enough…I tried to be brave and cut out one of the eyes myself and take a few hacks at the head with the cleaver. Even scooped out the brains and picked out the shards of skull.

Once the head went into the stock pot, all was good again in the world. Just like making regular stock. Tonight…we’re gonna pick the meat off the skull and set it in the meat jelly. Not sure if I’m excited…or terrified.

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