Friday, May 4, 2012

Queso de Puerco...Pig's Head Cheese

sounds a lot better than the translation...HEAD CHEESE

but wait...don't go...come back...
all this talk about nose to tail eating, waste not want not, being green and can't tell me you're gonna shy away from a little head cheese.
come the adventurous foodie that you think you's delicious!

i know the picture is a little alarming...
but you DO have to get over the shock factor that it IS all ingredients from a pig's head.  part by part it can be a little daunting...maybe disturbing for first timers, but nowhere near as disturbing as  tackling the whole head.
authentic Queso de Puerco is made from the WHOLE pig's head boiled and broken down...
I COULDN'T DO IT.  i'm not there steps...besides it's a well known fact that a whole pig's head would not be allowed into this house.  i've snuck ears, tails and trotters in before, but i think the head with a face...eyes and teeth might just sign my walking papers.
SO...i had a better idea...
i simply bought all the parts.  a few ears, a couple of snouts, some trotters and a Pozole meat mixture (grab bag) which includes tongue, cheek, ears, lips, and various other bits of fatty meats that work well for this thing called head cheese.  i'll bet you didn't know that delicious authentic Pozole you love so much from your favorite Mexican restaurant actually had all those parts in it.  well, consider yourself christened.  
now come on...try the Queso de Puerco

this is nothing like the head cheese you're afraid of.  if you consider yourself an adventurous foodie this is a fabulous challenge to take "head on".
when presenting it to unsuspecting guests and those less adventurous, slip a few slices onto your next meat/charcuterie it a fancy "terrine"  or "Pate de Tete" if you have to..., but this one really is good ol' head cheese with some spicy Mexican flavors will surely be the conversation at the table.

the left overs...i'm sure there will be some...make a delicious sandwich...or sear a slice or two in a hot skillet.  it renders into crispy little unctuous fatty bits that are delicious on top of a cold crisp salad.

QUESO de PUERCO...or HEAD CHEESE with Mexican flavors

things like this always change in flavors, size and depends on what parts of the pig you can get your hands on...AND are you willing to handle the said parts?... 
this is what i started with....

2-3 full pig ears
2 full trotters, sliced in half by the butcher
2 lbs. (or a little less) of Pozole mix...various pieces of pig including tongue, cheek, ear, snout, butt.
2 pig snouts...i found cooked, roasted snouts at the hot food area in my favorite Mexican market..Northgate, Santa Ana, CA
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 big Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp cayenne, optional
8-10 peppercorns
 1 large onion, quartered
3-4 bay leaves
6 smashed garlic cloves
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt and fresh ground pepper

before you begin to cook, you need to take care of a couple things...
#1  you must look for any stray hairs that have made it past the first cut, so to speak.  check the ears, snout and trotters.  i find the easiest way is to burn them off with a lighter or even better, and more fun, use a kitchen torch...yes the one you use for creme brulee.
#2  i like to boil a big pot of water, big enough to hold everything and put all the meat in and boil the parts for about 5 minutes.  then remove, discard the water and clean the pot before using for the actual cooking.  this will take care of any lurking exterior impurities.

now...i could go on and on and get really involved with instructions, but really it "boils" down to this...

all meats, veggies, herbs and spices into a pot big enough to hold it all.  cover with water,  water should just cover meats throughout the cooking process.
bring it to a boil, then to a nice simmer.  cook until all is fork tender.  approximately 3-4 hours.

again...trying to keep it simple...
remove meat and let cool to the touch.  remove bones, large fat and any unwanted parts...NO don't toss it all...that was a joke!
strain broth through cheesecloth.  taste broth.  it should taste quite over seasoned, so add more salt and spice if necessary.
pack meats into a large loaf pan lined with Saran wrap.  i like it well packed.  pour warm broth over and weigh some sort of lid down on top so as to press everything together packed tightly.  you will be pressing out most of the liquid so do this in the sink.  the more packed it is...the less gelatinous your block of head cheese will be.
refrigerate for a few hours.  it's ready when it is solid.

slice and enjoy with pride.
now you are a true nose to tail-er
or...snout to

PS...if you truly want to attempt this and need more instruction, i would be more than happy to answer any questions.
here are a few other terrines i have posted about that pretty much use the same method.
once you have made one terrine you can make anything into a terrine.


AustenFM said...

Awesome, I usually only traverse art blogs,but I found yours because i recently got into headcheese myself these past couple of weeks(i mean, i really really like it), and decided to make a search for 'head cheese is delicious', and found you that way. Dug this post but i'm sticking around for more of your great recipes, especially your delicious looking tex-mex/south of the border recipes (lengua tacos and tamales anyone?!?!)!

Can't wait to see more of what you have to offer, keep it up!

Karen Harris said...

What an adventurous post. I might even be tempted to give it a try if I run across a snout and a kitchen torch. This so reminds me of growing up in Texas. At many bbqs there would be a cow's head on the spit for tacos. I'm a little sad that I never tried it.

Jules and Ruby said...

hi AustinFM...thanks for the comment. you made my day. i hope i can find more south of the border goodies that you'll like. i was thinkin' something Goat-ish...maybe Birria de Chivo? hope to here from you again...jules

Jules and Ruby said...

hey are too funny. don't trip over that snout. i bet the day will come again for you to try something squeamish and you'll have to give it a go...right? thanks for checking in...jules

Trevor Sis Boom said...

If there is anything I hate it is letting parts of anything go to waste! I'm game. Count me in.

Farmer Lady said...

I've made head cheese, from a complete head and it IS tasty! Best to use a lead-free bullet if you are the harvester.
I took some pictures of my last batch, but couldn't put them up on my facebook page, is I thought it would absolutely horrify people... Two pig heads sitting serenely in the roasting pot with various herbs and seasonings... blissfully smiling away.... my family is used to it. My friends, not so much. Tasty stuff!

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