Don’t make the mistake of thinking pigs produce only chops, bacon and ham. You can also make hog head cheese. When raising pigs for meat, you’ll get many other products you might not consider purchasing at the meat counter. Ignoring or wasting them increases the price of your homegrown pork, and deprives you of some homestead treats and experiences you get from raising hogs for meat.
Thrifty rural residents are renowned for using “everything but the squeal” on a pig. Meat scraps are routinely used for sausage. Lard becomes soap, and the best of it, the leaf lard, is used in cooking. Some homestead bakers will use nothing else, especially for pies.
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The tail, with a bit of skin and fat attached, is kept on the stove as an easy way to grease pans. Smoked pork hocks and pickled pigs feet are delicacies.
But what can be done with the head?
At least one Countryside and Small Stock Journal reader skins it, simmers it and uses the meat in tamales. The other popular usage is in a hog head cheese.
Here is a hog head cheese recipe from Kathy and Bob Kellogg, authors of Raising Pigs Successfully.
Split the head into halves with a meat saw. Remove the eyes and clean the ears and nostrils. Rub the head halves with coarse salt and pack loosely into a large kettle. Leave for two days in a cool place or refrigerate.
Wash the salted head in cold water and return to the kettle. Add the tongue, heart and some lean trimmings if desired. Cover the meat with water and simmer until well done and the meat will separate easily from the bones (about three hours).
Remove the meat from the broth. Remove all the meat from the bones and cut it up finely. Discard the bones. Return the meat to the broth in the pan. Add seasonings as desired and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, skimming off as much fat as possible and stirring occasionally.
Pour into loaf pans or molds and chill. Head cheese can be eaten cold as sandwich meat or fried like scrapple.
Don’t forget the tongue!
Try this recipe from Raising the Homestead Hog.
Place a tongue, two medium-sized onions, a carrot, several ribs of celery and some parsley in a kettle. Barely
cover with boiling water and add a teaspoon of salt and eight peppercorns. Simmer until tender (about three hours). Drain the tongue, skin it, and serve. This is good with a mustard or horseradish sauce.
Or, if you take the recipe a step further and slice it and bake it in a sauce, your family won’t even know what they’re eating. For this sauce, melt 2-1/2 tablespoons of butter. In it, brown 2 slices of onion, a chopped green pepper, and a sliced garlic clove. Stir in 2 teaspoons of salt, 2-1/2 cups of tomatoes, 1/2 bay leaf, 8 peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon paprika and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. (You can also add chopped olives or mushrooms, slivered almonds, or just about anything from the homestead garden.)
Place the drained, sliced tongue in a casserole, pour the sauce over it, and bake at 375ºF for a half hour. Taste this just once, and if you don’t already appreciate such meats, you’ll experience an awakening.
Originally published in the May/June 1999 issue of Countryside & Small Stock Journal.