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Smokehowze's Cajun "Hog Head" Cheese


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For anyone growing up in south Louisiana a real treat was a good Cajun “hog head cheese” eaten on saltine crackers with an original Barq’s root beer or one of the Barq’s crème sodas or better yet a real beer.  Over the years I believe the quality of the mass produced commercial head cheeses has significantly changed and the product you buy in the stores is not what it once was nor is it as good.


Before you turn away, if look at the ingredients in this recipe, you will see this is just a version of a terrine and has all the normal items you would usually enjoy combined in a different way.  If you add vinegar to the final result and/or also use tongue meat you can shift this towards “souse” enjoyed in other parts of the US.


I have looked at a number of recipes for making Cajun “hog head cheese”  - particularly those for making this in the home kitchen skipping the complexity of actually using a hog head.   After many tries at these recipes hoping to replicate my memories of a really good head cheese like what I grew up eating in south Louisiana, I finally followed my own instincts on the ingredient quantities, and I offer this recipe – which to me hits the mark.


It has a nice balance of flavors, is seasoned but not too spicy hot, the color and texture are what a good Cajun head cheese should be and it is easy to make.  It’s just good eatin.  I guar-ran-darn-tee!


Variations: This basic recipe should also work well with chicken.  Just boil a whole chicken in place of the pork and go from there.  Similarly it should work with a chuck roast for a beef version. You may wish to adjust the seasonings types and/or quantities to better match with a chicken or beef.



The Recipe                                                  


This recipe is based on about 2 pounds of the pork meat net weight after boiling the meat.



·         Approximately 2.5 – 3.5 pounds pork butt or shoulder (with bone – boneless is OK too)

·         2-3 pork trotters -  aka pork feet (optional but helps with the gelatin component and the richness)

·          Enough water to just cover the meat

·         1 large onion, quartered

·         2 sticks celery, diced

·         4 cloves garlic

·         1 or 2 bay leaves

·         ½ teaspoon dried thyme

·         ½ teaspoon salt


Note:  I normalized this to 2 lbs of the meat net weight after cooking, The meat plus the other ingredients and the stock will make approximately 4 lbs of final “head cheese”.  This fits nicely in an approximately 8 x 11 inch (¼ sheet pan size) disposable aluminum pan.  The thickness of the cheese will be about 1 ½ inches.  If you have more than 2 lbs of meat net – adjust ingredients proportionately.


Cut pork shoulder into manageable smaller pieces and place in a large stockpot along with enough water to just cover the meat.  Add onion, celery, garlic and bay leaves.  Bring to a rolling boil, reduced to simmer and cook until the meat falls from the bone, approximately 1 to 2 hours. Remove meat and set aside.  


Strain mixture, reserving stock and discarding vegetables.


OPTIONAL & RECOMMENED:  Cool stock, refrigerate overnight and remove the congealed fat layer.


Return stock to pot, bring to a rolling boil and reduce to at least 5 cups for use in Step 2. More if you have greater than 2 lbs net of meat.


Once meat is cooled, remove and discard bones and grind or chop it finely.   Use caution if using food processor to avoid turning the meat into paste. You want a finely shredded pork result.  I genrally just hand chop it.


Optional Addition to Step 1:

For extra flavor and to utilize a natural gelatin component in the final product – cook a couple or three cleaned and split pork trotters (feet) just covered with very lightly salted water till meat is tender and falling off the bones. About 1 - 2 hours.   Remove bones and meat. Let cool, strip meat and add to the cooked chopped meat component in Step 1.  Discard bones.


Reserve and cool this stock and skim the fat.  Use this stock as part of the liquid to cook the pork butt in Step 1.   Or cook in parallel with the pork butt and add stocks together later.  This will require more reduction time on the stock as the quantity of liquid will be somewhat greater. The reason for cooking separate is it makes it easier to separate meat and bone of the just the trotters than if all the meats were cooked together.




For 2 pounds of the pork meat weight after boiling:

Prepare gelatin sufficient for 4 cups liquid (e.g. 2 packages Knox unflavored gelatin) according to package directions using 4 cups of cooled (no more than lukewarm) stock.  Set aside for 5 minutes after mixing.  Reserve the remaining cup for later use.


Heat the stock/gelatin mixture (but do not boil) and add the following and cook for no more than 5 minutes to activate gelatin and to soften the veggies.

·         1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped parsley

·         1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped red bell peppers

·         1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped green onions (using whites and green portions)

·         5 toes garlic minced

·         Splash of Worcestershire sauce


Note:  You want the chopped items to be a medium chop.  Too fine and they get lost in the final meat cheese.  Too coarse and they are too pronounced. You are looking for a texture where a bite of the meat cheese gives the full range of the ingredients and flavors.



In a large bowl sufficiently sized for the meat (plus the 4 cups of liquid to be added later), add the following dry seasonings to the meat prepared in Step 1 and mix gently but completely:

·         1 Tablespoon onion powder

·         2 Tablespoons paprika

·         2 Tablespoons red pepper flakes

·         1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper

·         2 teaspoons salt

·         1 teaspoon black pepper



To the meat mixture in the large bowl, add the 4 cups of the stock, vegetable & gelatin mixture prepared in Step 2. Mix gently.  If mixture needs a bit more stock add some of the reserved stock.


Ladle the wet mixture into two or three 4” x 8” loaf pans and allow to cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate overnight to set the gelatin.




Slice into 1/4 to 3/8 in thick strips and serve on saltine crackers.  A drop or two of Tabasco sauce can be added for extra zing. Also makes a great sandwich with some thin sliced onion.


More Pictures:


Ready for the Fridge




After Chilling and Setting Up





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Smoke that looks great. Had a co-worker years ago whose husband made both hogs head and chicken cheese that were great. Your s looks to be equally that good. Nice work my man!!!


I do also like chicken cheese.   My grandmothers chicken cheese was the best.  I need to make a batch -- have not had any in a while.   

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  • 4 months later...
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  • 6 months later...
On 4/20/2021 at 11:36 AM, Mississippi granny said:

I’m looking for a recipe that uses shrimp, crab and crawfish instead of any pork. Have any of you made it like that?

You looking for something like this:


Seafood Sausage
Recipe from: Gulfcoast Fisherman

Given the many kinds of splendid sausage along the Gulf Coast, it should be no surprise that sausage and seafood recipes abound. It's a bit of a surprise that seafood sausage isn't a bit more popular. Granted, that seafood sausage requires close attention to see your ingredients don't get too hot, but a single session can produce enough sausage for three or four months, about the limit of time you can expect to keep fine ground seafood. Other possibilities worth considering are soups and rice dishes that combine seafood and sausage in interesting ways. Among other advantages, the recipes that follow improve on reheating and solve the problem of mixed groups of carnivores and "piscavores."

Fish and seafood sausages do offer other advantages besides delicate taste and, if you can avoid adding cream — as we can't — lower calories. Given a light hand with the seasonings so you don't hide the taste of your fish, shrimp or scallops, and ensuring that your mixing bowl and ingredients stay cold so cream and such are absorbed, you can't miss. You can, as usual substitute the catch of the day and whatever shellfish, save oysters, for those that follow. 1 ½ pound fish, boned and skinned
2 egg whites, chilled
1 ½ cup heavy cream, chilled
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground white or green pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons fresh or 2 teaspoons dry, of your favorite of tarragon,
chervil, lemon grass or rosemary
½ cup parsley, chopped
¼ cup mushrooms
1 cup scallops in ¼ inch cubes
1 cup shrimp, crab or lobster cut into ¼ inch pieces.
3 teaspoons minced green onion
Put food processor blade and its bowl and another 4 quart bowl — we use metal or glass — into the fridge for a half hour. Cut one pound of fish into one inch cubes and freeze for 15 minutes. Cut one half pound of fish into ¼ inch cubes and refrigerate.
Grind large fish chunks in the processor until smooth. Add egg whites until blended. Add cream bit by bit and dump in and stir seasonings. Move ground fish into your cold bowl and stir in the salmon chunks, mushrooms, scallops and shellfish. Add other seasonings. At this point you can poach a dime-size ball of the stuffing in hot water, move the rest to the fridge. Taste test seasonings. You might like to add a little Pernod, sherry, white wine or even a dash of Lee & Perrins.
You can stuff the sausage into casings or poach it in liquid — we put the sausage into plastic bags and poach it in simmering water so it stays together. It's your choice. Cooking time only runs from 15 to 20 minutes. You can tell as the fish changes color when it's done. We like these in breakfast sausage-size casings as hor d'ouvres. Their only drawback, besides the fact guests eat them so fast, is they don't freeze well. Given the rate they are usually eaten, that's seldom a problem.

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This brings back memories.  Whether it’s the same/similar recipe or not, I am not sure.  

My dad couldn’t wait to get up on Saturday mornings and drive 50 minutes to the Mennonite Farmers Market to get “Head Cheese”.  It was made in loaf pans and sold by the slice.  He would come home with his treats of a slice of that, some (snotty) Cook’s Carroway Seed Cheese, a dozen Black Label beer and then later that night watch the Leafs lose. I can’t watch hockey to this day because of that routine.  

As I think about it, I am not sure if he never offered to share the head cheese with his 5&8 year old sons or whether the name put us off eating it.  Your recipe sounds really good though.

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