Saturday, June 28, 2014

Headcheese! Headcheese! Headcheese!

When I was working on my vintage recipe, a friend from 1974 helped me out a little. He agreed to help on the condition that he could pick out the topic for today's post. I pointed him toward my stacks of cookbooks and waited to see what he would pick. I expected him to choose something with an interesting picture, maybe a meatloaf covered with a gory-looking tomato sauce, so it was a bit of a shock when he grabbed The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery (1971 edition) and headed straight to the H's. I frankly thought he was illiterate, but I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised. His family kind of bullies him and makes assumptions about his mind that are belied by a certain glint in his eyes.

"Headcheese? Are you sure?" I asked. He made a little squealing sound that I took as affirmation. Here is what the encyclopedia has to say about it:

A highly seasoned jellied loaf of the contents of a calf or pig's head.... Well, at least it's made with natural aspic instead of lemon Jell-O. We will take small blessings where we can...

I'm a bit confused about the recipe, though. It seems to be missing some steps at the page break. We're supposed to set aside the brains, but it never says what to do with them. Since the head note says the recipe includes the brains, I'm pretty sure they're supposed to go in at some point. And what does it mean to say "The tongue may be done with cayenne, nutmeg, and sage"? "Done" how? And how are we supposed to mix and pack what is apparently a whole head and tongue? I imagine some de-boning and chopping would be required first. (I checked five or six times to see if I accidentally skipped a page, but I didn't.)

Looks as if I will have to see if there's a better recipe.

It took some hunting, but Ruth Berolzheimer's The American Woman's Cook Book (1942) came to the rescue:

This one is shorter and easier to follow: boil head and tongue in slightly salted water. Drain, shred, pack, weight, and chill. And in just three days, six to eight pounds of yummy, yummy headcheese.

I read this last bit to my friend and he nodded approvingly. I tried not to notice whether he was drooling just a little.

We'll see you Monday!


  1. Hi Poppy!
    I just ran and checked my edition of the Wise book and the recipe was the same as yours. I think your firend did a great thing choosing this recipe to share. I mean, come on, Head Cheese is historic and something every food blogger should be aware of, NOT

    Thanks for sharing, Poppy and Friend, "See" you Monday!

  2. Thanks for checking! It was driving me crazy that I must be missing something. Glad to know that I'm not.

    Glad to see your picnic game is going well! It's a busy month. :-)

  3. I always wondered what headcheese was. As a kid, I read about it in "Little House on the Prairie."

    1. I read that as a kid, but I forgot it mentioned headcheese! Now I finally have a word that can link thoughts of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Leatherface.