Saturday, May 7, 2011

Head Cheese

I've had head cheese several times recently. The first time that I can recall was when I got several very thin slices at Gazzolo's, I was just getting my feet wet on the whole organ meat thing, and tentatively tasted it. It wasn't bad. The next time was at Ford's Filling Station when we had the whole pig dinner. I had mentally progressed quite a bit into the organ meat thing and was actually looking forward to it. I was actually disappointed that the slice was so thin, particularly when Andrew Zimmern on his Los Angeles episode of Bizzare Food went to the same place and got a thick slice of it. So when I went to George's German Delicatessen in Calimesa recently and noticed the head cheese, I was primed. I asked for a thick slice of the head cheese, about 1/4 inch thick, 
so that I could really get the essence of it. 
At the same time I ordered a thick slice of jalapeno Havarti cheese which I intended to eat in combination with it. 
Head cheese is a meat jelly made from meat of the head of a pig, cow or sheep, including the brain, eyes, and ears, and sometimes the tongue, heart and feet. A natural gelatin in the skull helps provide the binder and aspic (meat stock) may be added to provide additional binder. Head cheese is usually eaten at room temperature as a luncheon meat. I found that my combination of head cheese and Havarti jalapeno cheese was dominated by the Havarti. 
So I ate part of the head cheese on its own. It is very mild and has a pleasant texture (unless, of course, you are fixating on what is contained in the bite) and will be overpowered by anything too spicy. I suppose that is why it would work well with a traditional European sandwich which might be just a slice of bread, butter and head cheese. I am at the point where I have been able to move beyond the mental issues of eating head cheese and focus on its use as one of many alternatives when visiting a deli counter. For me, it does not hold a lot of appeal beyond its novelty factor. There are just too many other alternatives that I like more.   

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