Homemade Head Cheese Recipe

in Foodies Bee Hive3 months ago

For my recipe today I will be making Head Cheese, which for those of you who do not know, is not actually a cheese but can be made using a head.

Hmm, a head you say? Interesting. Tell me more.

I didn't use a head in my recipe. But you can use a head, if you want to use a head. Am I saying the word head too much?

What is head cheese?


Head cheese is a traditional European dish that is basically meat from the head of a pig or calf that is suspended is aspic, a savory gelatin made from boiling gelatinous meat. It can be found all across Europe and each region seems to have its own version on how to make it. They do generally tend to agree though that its best served cold or at room temperature. You can think of it as a sort of semi-solid cold soup or better yet, a meat jello!

Mmmmm meat jello.

Traditionally the dish is made from boiling the head of a pig or calf, or an enemy on rare occasions...

(pause for laughter)

because that part of the animal happens to contain a lot of gelatin.

Thankfully though, you can also make head cheese using pigs feet or pork hocks. I happened to use the latter. You really just need a cut of meat that has a lot of gelatin in it, though you may have to add some store bought gelatin to make sure that it sets. This is what I did and this is what most recipes online suggest as well.

At this point, if you're like my wife, you may be asking yourself,

"Why oh why would you, or anyone for that matter, want to make such a thing?"

Well for starters it's delicious. It's meaty and garlicky and salty and melt in your mouth goodness.

Meat - Good ✅

Garlic - Good ✅

Jello - Gooooood ✅

For me as well I had tried it a few times when I was younger. My step dad was Ukrainian and used to make it once in a while. I never really liked it back then but figured I'd give it a try as an adult to see if the taste has grown on me. Turns out it has!

Another reason for me to make it is that I like to cook weird and interesting things. I also like a challenge and I like things that are traditional.

Head Cheese is kind of a perfect combination of all of those things.

Weird? - Check ✅

Traditional? - Check ✅

Challenging? - Half check ☑

For me it was a bit of an experiment as well and I like cooking experiments. And in this case, it was an experiment that worked out, so now I will share it with you. Let's begin.



Note: Like most of my recipes, the ingredients are not exact they are just approximations. Please use your discretion and your own taste preferences as your guide.

• Prep time: 10 minutes
• Cook time: 3 - 5 hours
• Set time: Overnight (5 - 8 hours approximately)

1 large pork hock (the one I used was the front knuckle I believe). You can also use pigs feet or half a pigs head if you're brave enough. Basically you just need a cut of meat that contains a lot of natural gelatin in it.

1-2 Carrots
1-2 Celery
1 Onion
6 Garlic cloves (the more the better)

2 gelatin sheets or powdered equivalent.

Herbs: Bay leaves and thyme (you could use rosemary as well I think).

Spices: Most recipes online just call for pickling spices. I didn't have that so I made my own spice mixture using, salt, pepper, nutmeg, coriander, cumin seeds, ginger, and cloves (7-8). I didn't measure I just eye balled everything. There was maybe a tablespoon or so of mixed spices.

I added half a boullion cube late in the process for some added flavor as well.



First put the ham hock, pigs feet or head into a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a rolling simmer. Cook for an hour or so.


You don't have to add vegetables but I did to give the broth more flavor. It's a good way to use up any older veg as well.

Rough chop the vegetables and add them to the pot along with the herbs and spices. Cook for another 2-4 hours until the liquid is reduced and the meat is fall off the bone tender.

Keep an eye on the water level, making sure that it doesn't reduce too much. I cooked it with the lid both on and off at times in order to control the evaporation process. Add more water if needed.


When it seems about done. Strain the meat and the vegetables.


I did a secondary strain in a smaller seive as well to get rid of herbs and the smaller bits.


Separate the meat from the fat and skin and the vegetables and set it aside. Some recipes said that you can add the skin to the finished product but I personally found the skin to be quite gross looking, so there was no way I was adding it in.

The meat will likely be stringy like pulled pork. I recommend chopping it into smaller pieces to make it easier to cut when the dish is complete.


Add the meat back to the pot and allow it to simmer for 15 - 20 minutes. I chopped up some fresh garlic and added that in as well for some extra flavor (this worked out really well. The finished product was nice and garlicky, which I like). I also added half a boullion cube, a bit of nutmeg and some additional salt to really punch up the flavor.

I read online that the flavors in the finished product tend to get a bit muted once it gelifies so they suggested that you make the broth extra flavorful, almost to the point of being over seasoned so that it taste right once complete. I didn't go too far with it but I definitely made sure that the broth was good and strong.


While the broth is doing its final simmer, dissolve two sheets of gelatin in water.

Add them to the mixture after the simmer when the broth is cooked a bit but still quite warm so that they fully dissolve. Boiling gelatin can break it down and make it more difficult to set.


Pour the mixture into a casserole dish or bread tray and let it cool.


Put it in the fridge over night or for 5 hours or so (I'm guessing here) to allow the gelatin to set.


The next day, if the gelatin set properly you will have head cheese! Scrape off any excess fat from the surface or leave it on if you like.


Cut it into squares and serve cold as an appetizer.

It goes good with celery and I personally like to add vinegar to mine when I eat it. I used red wine vinegar but white vinegar works as well.


Try it plain and with vinegar and see what you like better.

Anyway, the experiment was a success because it turned out really good. It's meaty and garlicky and super flavorful and delicious. The gelatin is fully set but also melts in your mouth; its not rubbery at all which I was a bit worried about.


Me: Honey the head cheese turned out amazing. Do you want to try it?

Wife: Get that thing away from me. There's no way I'm eating your meat jello.

Well, that's my wife for you. You can't please everyone.

If you liked this recipe then stay tuned for next week, when I make delicious Toe Jam!

I kid, I kid. Toe jam! Now that's ridiculous....
Or is it? 🤔

Anyway let me know your thoughts in the comments. Have you had head cheese before? Do you have any tips for me on how to improve the recipe for next time? There will be a next time.

That's it for now. Thanks for reading.


Hahaha the enemy part was funny lol. I live in Romania and we have a similar almost identical dish. We call it racituri aka coldies smth like that. It is eaten in winter holidays usually and people put a lot of garlic into it. I disliked the jello texture since I was a kid so I passed.

I'm glad someone got the humor. It was cheesy joke lol 😆
Yeah I could see the texture being an issue for people. My wife wouldn't even try it.

More jelly for you lol

Lol, this is horrifying and strangely alluring!! I mean I would try it but I might have to be blindfolded! :OD

It's definitly worth trying. It's just semi-solid soup lol

Squidgy soup! If its tasty its a winner. As long as the texture was nice and firmish!

You could adjust the firmishness of it with added gelatin sheets but that may take more experimentation. I read that some people will test a small amount by putting a few spoonfuls into a jar and putting it in the fridge. I believe a small amount will jellify fairly quickly. I'm not an expert on it though. This was only my first time making it. You also don't want it to firm though it could be really rubbery haha. Finding the right balance is the challenge.

Thats what you do with jam to test the firmness!

I am intrigued but I don't know if I am intrigued enough to go for it! :OD

Well if you do decide to give it a try, let me know how it turns out.

I have lost my head for this recipe :)) Looks fantastic, it is similar to something my parents used to prepare many years ago, but I think it was more a basic thing... Your dish looks fantastic, I almost bit the screen ;)

Yeah I'm pretty sure it is common in a lot of different cultures with some variations.

Thanks for the comment 😊

Am I saying the word head too much?

Haha that's my type of humour right there, I would even dare to say you are completely copying my brilliant humour you thief! 😂

Traditionally the dish is made from boiling the head of a pig or calf, or an enemy on rare occasions...
(pause for laughter)

hahah ok that was a good one too.

There's no way I'm eating your meat jello.

Hahaha there's another joke hidden in this one!!!

when I make delicious Toe Jam!

Hahahah stop it!

We have something in France, that you might have tried, "oeuf en gelée" and as you asked a song request for your stupid Canadian singer, I am now requesting my egg, or le paté en croute

I think you just proved once more you got the skills for whatever!! Even toe jam!!

Haha I'm glad you got the humor. Some of it was pretty cheesy, there were some N. American pop cultural references in there as well but I didn't expect anyone to catch them. Easter eggs I suppose 😆


I have seen ouef en gelée. I could give that a try. Paté en Croute looks super interesring. I would love to make that one but it looks like it's above my skill level. I could maybe do it if I got my wife to make the dough or pastry crust. She's the baker in the house. We will see though you never know.

Man I'll be so happy, then don't forget to send it in a letter at this address:

Lmao 🤣

This looks very delicious. Once in Poland, I ate something very similar to this and it was stunningly good. I can imagine that it was tasty and with a nice texture. I liked this post very much, very classy, with good pictures, and the presentation of the dish.

Thanks, I'm glad you liked the post. Thats awesome that you got to try it in Poland!

looks like a really healthy dish, and head cheese always goes ;)

This is well detailed we won’t find it hard making something like this

That good to hear. If you do try to make it let me know what you think of it.

Nunca había escuchado de ese plato es curioso, tu forma de presentarlo me gustó y tu esposa vio la preparación y huyo a tiempo jajaja, buen blog.

I'm glad you enjoyed it!

fantastic recipe, thanks

You're welcome!