Nose-to-tail eating is great in theory, but this last experiment put that theory to the test. It was a massive FAIL. Massive. I wrote this post a few weeks ago and lost it, but I think I need to record the horror so that I'm not ever tempted to repeat the mistakes of the past, so here is try number two.
I had put off the effort for quite some time, but there was no forgetting about the pig head halves floating around in my freezer. They are large and oddly shaped, and many times flew out of the freezer when I was digging around for pork bones or the odd lamb chop. I don't have a dog large enough to justify feeding it a pig head, and I knew it. This had to be done.
Try not to cry. This is disturbing.
Lesson Number 1: Pig heads are huge.
A pig head is not proportionate to the body. They are massive. So even sawn in half and frozen, defrosting them is a horror. I couldn't take off the wrapping because there was no way I was going to tip my family off to what I was doing. And yes, it did make me feel a little queasy every time I saw it on the counter.
Lesson Number 2: Heads of all kinds contain unsavory bits like eyeballs and brains and tongues, and worse, teeth.
While there is some information on how to make head cheese out there, it does not constitute a wealth of information. I read one account where the blogger found that the butcher had already neatly hacked up the head into two inch pieces. This was not the case with my pig heads. So picking them up and fitting them into the pot was quite a chore, particularly since I was unable/unwilling to touch them. However, I performed a miracle and the pig head halves, the trotters (eek! an ugly euphemism for feet!), and the heart made it into the pot with sage, peppercorns, and onion. I'm pretty sure I did most of this with my head turned away. (Closing my eyes would have been cowardly.)
I put the lid on, since this was a sight I could live without. I couldn't remove eyeballs or brains without touching it, and the cookbook I referenced made no mention of removing unmentionables, so it all had to stay in. I hoped it would be like marrow, just fatty goodness that melted in and provides rich buttery flavor.
And I might have been onto something. As the defrosted horror show finally came to a simmer (with the lid still on of course), it smelled amazing. Rich. Piggy. The kind of thing you would really want to slice and gobble up on a cracker.
I remembered our next door neighbor from the house I grew up in, Mrs. Holmes, and the amazing head cheese she would bring over in old margarine tubs. My whole family would sit down together with a knife and a box of saltines and devour it the same day. Good stuff. Well, I was beginning to suspect that my head cheese would be even better.
Lesson Number 3: Pigs grow hair, and unless properly dealt with this results in a 5 o'clock shadow you don't want to mess with.
The time came to strain the awful mess, and oh no. No. No. I picked my way through a jawbone, intact teeth, and the remains of a hard palate. The tongue. My stomach did little flips and I was forced to breath through my mouth so there would be no association between the yuck and the good smells. I might even have broken into a light sweat, but I was determined. I had come to far to turn back. I was going to strain this mess, pick out the meat, and cook down the broth.
But I hadn't counted on the snout. Nothing I had read prepared me for that sight. It just lay there, deflated and hairy. I tried to think of how I could remove the hairs, but all the Nair in the world wouldn't help me now and I had to accept defeat.
I tossed it all to the chickens. They'll eat anything. Good riddance.
So if you are a fan of horror, you're welcome!!
I love trying new foods, cooking, and gardening. I hope to share these experiences on this site. Thanks for taking a look!