Before we answer the question of “What Does Head Cheese Taste Like?”, we need to get something out of the way – and you may want to sit down for this. Head cheese is not cheese. In fact, there is absolutely nothing dairy about head cheese.
Now we have gotten that mind-blowing fact out of the way, we can get on with discussing exactly what head cheese is, and what it tastes like. Head cheese is actually a European delicacy that has been around for decades.
It has the oddest texture, yet the flavors are delicious. So, with all of this in mind, let’s take a look at what head cheese tastes like, and what it is.
What Is Head Cheese?
Head cheese is a sliced meaty dish made from pork. The meat is left to soak and cook which in turn changes the texture to jelly. It can then be served as a standalone food item, or put into a sandwich.
For this reason, it is often eaten cold so should be put in the refrigerator to avoid it going bad. Originally it was made using the head of a pig, but this was in the middle ages in Europe.
While people do still use head pork, many different variations of head cheese have been created since.
Is Head Cheese Made Out Of Cheese?
As we stated previously, there is nothing cheesy or dairy-like about head cheese. Traditionally head cheese was made by chopping and boiling the head of a pig which would turn into a jelly-like loaf.
It was also often made with added extras such as the pig’s heart, tongue, and feet. Sounds appetizing, right? Fortunately, the recipe has changed a lot these days.
While it still does not include cheese, it does not have to be made with the head of a pig. Though, you can most certainly do that if you want. Another option is pork belly which tastes just as delicious.
Why Does The Head Cheese Meat Turn To Jelly?
When we say jelly, it is not the same texture as Jell-O. However, the meat itself does become jellied. It has a bounce to it that regular meat does not.
The reason this happens is that the collagen within the meat becomes gelatin when it is cooked over a long period of time. The high protein content helps the meat to bind together which then gives it a jelly appearance.
This gives the final look of the meat a gray color. Due to it not being very appealing, food coloring is often used to change the appearance of the meat to something more appetizing.
When other areas of the animal are added, for example, the feet, heart, and tongue, it can give the meat extra texture. However, due to this type of meat being extra tender, it can also be used as a delicious spread.
Where Did Head Cheese Get Its Name?
Head cheese is a term that is commonly used in North America for this dish. One of the main reasons for this is that it sounds a lot more appealing than calling it what it really is: a pig’s head.
However, it obviously does cause some confusion, as people tend to think that cheese is involved in this dish. However, you now know that it most certainly is not!
In Southern America, it is known as ‘souse’, but with its different name also comes different ingredients. Sometimes veggies and pickles are used.
What Does Head Cheese Taste Like?
Because of how long it takes to make head cheese – after all, the meat needs to turn into soft gelatin – it helps to release all of those delicious flavors. It has an incredibly meaty flavor that is very tasty.
The tender meat tastes similar to bacon, which is not surprising seeing as it is a pig. Even though it does taste like pork, the flavor can be changed due to what ingredients have been added. For example, Southern head cheese is usually full of pickled veggies and the like.
This may add a tangy vinegar-like taste to it. A good thing about adding picked seasoning to the head cheese is that it may help to preserve it. The herbs that were used during the cooking process may also give it additional flavorings.
Sometimes a whole plethora of seasonings and spices are used to enhance the pork flavor. It may even mask it somewhat too to avoid it tasting similar to bacon. This means that the head cheese might be peppery or spicy, or may even be a little tangy or sour.
Even the added meat may change the overall flavor profile of the head cheese. Even so, if you are eating the traditional head cheese, then you can expect it to pack a punch with lots of porky bacon flavors.
How Do You Serve Head Cheese?
The best way to serve head cheese is at room temperature, or cold. It is not something that is generally eaten warm. For this reason, it can be served sliced on top of bread, or if it is soft enough, you can spread it.
It is also nicely dipped into sauces or paired with a main meal. Give it a try and see what food tastes delicious with head cheese.
What Things Taste Good With Head Cheese?
Head cheese is a type of food that can be served with many things, especially savory food. For example, it tastes delightful with fried noodles, cooked potatoes, and roasted veggies. It also pairs well with salads.
For example, the saltiness of the pork matches the sweetness of tomatoes, but also beets and olives. However, if you are looking for a traditional way of eating head cheese, then pair it with bread. A nice crusty slice will do the trick.
The mild flavor of bread will bring out the richness of the meat, helping to complement it very well. Even so, why not try it with a variety of different dishes? You might find that head cheese tastes amazing with something unexpected!
Does Head Cheese Go Bad?
Unfortunately, head cheese does not keep for long. This is the exact same for if you buy head cheese from the grocery store, or make it yourself. It must be kept in the refrigerator.
If you leave it out at room temperature for more than two hours, then you have risked it becoming contaminated with bacteria. This will make it unsafe to eat.
For this reason, if you are serving head cheese you will want to make sure that you eat it within two hours, which we are sure is very possible! Once you open the head cheese packaging, then you can expect it to last for a week at most.
If you have not opened the head cheese packaging and it is sealed correctly, then it can last up to 4 weeks – but again, it needs to be refrigerated. You can freeze head cheese if you need it to last longer. When thawing it, always put it in the refrigerator.
How Can You Tell Head Cheese Has Gone Bad?
Whether it has been a week or not, it is always best to double-check an opened head cheese packet. The last thing you will want to do is eat meat that has gone bad. If you notice a bad smell, it looks a different color, or there is mold, then throw it out.
It should look and taste exactly the same as it did when you ate it before. If you decide to eat head cheese that smells and looks iffy, then you are risking suffering from food poisoning.
Just like with any meat that has gone bad, it can cause you to have painful stomach cramps, vomiting, a fever, and so on. While it can feel terrible for anyone when it comes to food poisoning, for those who are vulnerable, food poisoning can be dangerous.
For this reason, ensure that the head cheese is still fine to eat. If you are unsure, it is much safer to bin it!
Is Head Cheese Something People Still Enjoy?
Yes, head cheese is still eaten today despite originating from the middle ages in Europe. It is often served either as an appetizer or as part of a main dish. In Latin America, many people enjoy eating head cheese. It more often than not is included as part of their main meal.
For example, sesos con salsa and chorizo con cabeza. Even people in Asia enjoy eating head cheese, however, it is known as white pudding or jelly meat, rather than head cheese.
Is Head Cheese Healthy?
As with any dish, when it comes to how healthy it is to eat, it all depends on the ingredients used. Head cheese tends to be made using lean cuts of meat – for example, the head of a pig. This means that it is full of protein and has low amounts of saturated fat.
If the head cheese includes spices and herbs, then it may have antioxidant benefits from them. Just like with other meaty foods, eating it in moderate amounts can help to keep your diet healthy and balanced. This means avoiding eating it excessively.
Surprisingly, head cheese does not include any dairy at all. It is a nicer way of saying that it includes head meat from something like a pig or a hog. It tastes similar to bacon and has a jelly-like texture. It is delicious too, so give it a try!