Pic2: whole pork head
Ask your butcher to butterfly or cut the head in two.
It cooks a lot quicker that way. A piglet’s head can be served whole.
Clean and rinse thoroughly.
If cut, remove the brain and reserve.
The brain pan is extremely hard and difficult to open even when cooked. I had to use a hammer to break it open.
- Bake in the oven for 4 hours at 250 ºF.
- Braise in table oven / crock pot until tender.
- Do a combination of both.
Pic5: pulled meat for refrying for tacos
Pic6: rendering fat
Pic7: frying the brain — 2018-12-01
Carefully disassemble the head.
- Separate meat, skin and fat as much as possible.
The neck and cheek muscles are the biggest and not nearly as fatty as the rest.
For tacos, refry the pulled meat until dark brown.
Pan-fry the brain.
Render the fat for later use. (Pic6)
Head cheese is a popular recipe made with pig’s head meat.
The ears can be roasted, braised, boiled or pickled.
A pig’s head can also be boiled (soup) or stewed. (Pic11)
b. whole pig's head - 2019 edition
Yes, they had them again in 2019, and I used the opportunity to give it another try. This time, I took 3 days to cook the head and the results were much better.
Most of this was pure experimentation. I did not look up or follow any recipe, just improvised to see what I could do with this.
This one had a lot more meat to start with compared to last year's head, and the mash I got from boiling down the head more than doubled that.
This is probably the longest I have ever worked on a recipe: five full days from start to finish. And all I have to show for it is 4 little ramekins with pork headcheese. But they are SO GOOD.
When mixed with lard, the roasted mash reminds me of duck rillettes; very similar in texture, but the flavor is all different of course. And now I would have to wait a week to try this? I don't think so.
The pictures tell the story.
Day 1: 2019-11-12
- It could have tolerated another hour or so, because I still had some difficulty getting the muscles off the skull when I deboned the head. After a rough defleshing of the pig's head, I had 2 separate containers: about 2 quarts of really nice meat and a whole bunch of all the rest.
- Unlike the one last year, this one had huge jowls, quite a bit of muscle meat there. That nice muscle meat and tongue went in the refrigerator. Not sure what we'll do with it exactly, but it will be pork for dinner tomorrow.
- Everything else went in the table oven to simmer further.
Day 2: 2019-11-13
- About 10 AM, I cracked open the skull to remove the brain. (Pic2) That is deliciously creamy with some salt.
- Adding water to yesterday's mash and simmering all day in the table oven.
- About 4:30 PM, I discarded the bones, separated the liquid and solids.
- The liquids were refrigerated to separate fat from gelatin.
I added more water to the solids, boiled for another hour and then refrigerated overnight.
Day 3: 2019-11-14 - chicharrones
- I removed the skin pieces from the big pot and carefully scraped the fat off.
I donated these skin pieces to a friend who was going to make
chicharrones by deep-frying them. Marielos and I don't really like those.
Day 3: 2019-11-14 - lard
- Overnight refrigeration separated gelatin from fat.
While I was waiting for the mash to bake, I removed the pork fat and added salt to make lard.
This is not the clean hydrogenated and nearly-tasteless stuff they sell in the stores.
This is home-made lard and it has a very strong pork smell and taste. You can spread this on bread and eat it without adding anything else.
Day 3: 2019-11-14 - headcheese
- This mash of undetermined stuff (Pic10) is what was left over after I drained the liquid. It had little structure and tasted rather bland.
This is literally everything of the head, minus the skull, visible muscle meat and skin.
I considered discarding it, but that looked like a big waste, even if the dog would be very happy with it.
- I baked the stuff in the oven @ 350 ºF.
I'm glad I didn't throw it away, because this turned out to be the bulk of the final harvest.
After 2 hrs. of baking, the mash had turned dark brown and guess what: it tasted pretty good too by now.
- The good stuff from day 1 (muscle meat and tongue) was all stiff from refrigeration by now. It looked a bit like head cheese already, but that was pure fat in between those pieces. I chopped and mixed half of the good stuff with the baked mash. The rest went back in the refrigerator and will be refried for tacos or other.
- I mixed the pork gelatin and some lard with the head meat mash and divided that over 4 ramekins to be baked 30 minutes at 350 ºF.
- After initial cooling, I poured melted lard on top to seal the ramekins, to protect the content from spoilage. After I took this picture, I covered up the dish with cling-wrap to stop it from smelling up the refrigerator. The pork smell was quite strong.
Day 5: 2019-11-16 - pork rillettes
- Of course I wasn't willing to wait a week to try it out.
- Barely 2 days later, I opened one of the ramekins. I mixed the headcheese with the lard and served myself some crackers with pork rillettes.
Not bad, not bad at all. I think this would be very good stuffing for a meat pie.
- UPDATE 2020-03-11 while editing this page:
I had made several sets of pictures of pork rillettes sandwiches, but those were lost in the computer crash.
Pic8: Asian market
Pic10: piglet's head
Pic11: revolcado = stew/soup
Pic12: head cheese
Pic13: head meat tacos