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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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