Yield: 1 entire halved pork head and tongue will make a large 9inch bread pan filled with headcheese. Depending on the size of your pot, you can also make a smaller version with one head. For a half batch, use the same proportions and recipe, althouhg you may not need all of the brine.
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Keyword: Fromage de Tete, Headcheese
4oz(10tsp) pink salt(prague powder, not Himalayan pink salt)
1pig's headhalved, brains removed and saved for another purpose (like ravioli)
1pork trotter, halved (optional) This will give the stock extra gelatin, but is optional.
2cupseach chopped carrotsleeks, and celery
3cupsdry white wine
For the bouquet garni
10sprigs of thyme
1bunch of parsley
3fresh bay leaves
1tbspyellow mustard seed
Bring the ingredients for the brine to a boil, then allow it to cool. Place the halved head, tongue, and trotter if using In a large container (consider a Rubbermaid tub or something similar) and cover with the brine, making sure they're completely covered. If you don't have a large fridge, consider doing this in the winter so you can keep it cold outside--the salt will prevent it from freezing.
After 24 hours, remove the head and tongue from the brine and put into a large stock pot with the bouquet and remaining headcheese ingredients. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cook covered for 3-4 hours, or until the jaw wiggles easily from the skull. Using tongs or a large skimming tool like a metal strainer, remove the pork and allow to cool just enough so that you can handle it.
Picking the meat from the head
Peel and diced the tongue into 1/2 in cubes.
Working carefully to avoid bone fragments, remove the meat from the head and shanks discarding connective tissue, skin, fat, bone, cartilage, or anything that doesn't look delicious or feels like it would be awkward in your mouth--you want meat, and only the meat. Chop the meat roughly, mix with the tongue, and reserve in a covered container. Don't miss the ocular meat behind the eyes as it's some of the best.
Reduce the liquid
While you're picking the meat from the head, strain the braising liquid, then return it to a simmer on the stove in a wide pot. Reduce the liquid by half.
Test the gel of the braising liquid by spooning some onto a plate and refrigerating it. The liquid should gel easily when it cools. If it doesn't, reduce the liquid in 1/4 increments, continuing to test until it gels and sets nicely. Contrary to popular opinion, it is possible to over-reduce the braising liquid, which will give your headcheese the texture of a super ball. It should be solid, and able to be cut with a knife, but not so hard that it's rock-like, or rubbery. It should be pleasant tasting.
Chill and Form
Line a terrine mold or bread pan with plastic wrap so that there is enough plastic hanging over the edges to cover the terrine completely when the pan is filled. Mix the diced, braised meat in a bowl, then pack it into the pan or mold. Pour the reserved braising liquid over the top, then wait for it to settle completely, tap the pan on a cutting board or another hard surface to help the liquid distribute throughout the terrine.
Afterwords, fold the plastic back over the mold, then cut a piece of cardboard to fit on the pan. Weight the terrine over night with a heavy object, making sure the weight it evenly distributed, and placing the entire pan on a cookie sheet in order to catch any drips of gelatinized stock.
Serving and Unmolding
The next day, un-mold the headcheese remove the plastic, and slice 1/2 in thick with a long, sharp knife to serve. The headcheese will keep for a week.
Since it will be hard to find suckling pig heads, or find time to devote to making a headcheese that only yields a 1lb terrine, I'm scaling this recipe to work for a whole pig's head, but it would work fine for smaller animals too like a lamb or goat's head, which both make great headcheese too. Your headcheese will be amazing on a plate with pickles, mustard preserves and wine, as the main component of a sandwich, or for the ambitious: diced, breaded and deep fried.