30 June, 2015
Food for ThoughtComments : 2 Posted in : food, food history, foodie, funny, head cheese, humor, story, Uncategorized on by : Jeanette Schramm
Also known as “brawn” or, when pickled in vinegar, “souse,” head cheese is one of those food words that, as a kid, triggered strange thoughts of a skull full of Swiss cheese or some weird biology experiment. But what really is head cheese? And, for goodness sake, why does it exist?!
Head cheese, as you can see in the picture above, isn’t actually cheese. It’s something called a terrine, which is a meat jelly. In this case, it’s usually one made of the flesh from the head of a calf or a pig, but flesh from the head of a cow or a sheep can be used, as well.
Also, as you can see above, the flesh is set in a gelatin made from the meat stock, called aspic. The meats used in the head cheese can vary, though they typically exclude the brain, eyes, and ears of the animal. However, the tongue, feet, and/or heart might be included in the mix.
As if cranial meat products weren’t tantalizing enough on their own, head cheese is often spiced with some combination of onion, black pepper, allspice, bay leaf, salt, and/or vinegar. And, like some zombie salami, it’s served cold. How refreshing.
Now that we have the ingredients sealed away in a hazard-tape-wrapped box in the far corners of our minds, let’s move on to the important question: Why does this exist??
As it turns out, the practice of making head cheese dates back to medieval times, where meat jellies were prepared as food for peasants. They would boil the cleaned head flesh to make a stock, which would then congeal to form a jelly.
The term “head cheese” is a strictly American term. In Great Britain and Australia, the food is called “brawn.” In Scotland, the term “potted heid” is favored over “brawn.” As I mentioned earlier, pickled head cheese is called “souse,” though use of that term is largely restricted to North America and western India. Based on the list on Wikipedia, every country seems to have their own name for the stuff.
I’ll leave you with a particularly odd image of veal tongue head cheese. Also, if anyone reading this has actually tried head cheese before or knows where to get some so I can try it and write about it, let us know, in the comments!