Before I moved to Matagorda County, I was not aware of the local Czech population. Now, many of my friends have a D, J, K, and Z in their name somewhere. You better not call a pig-in-a-blanket a kolache, and their sausage rocks. The Czech Mafia, as I call the locals, do not give away their recipes. After a little investigation, I got a few key ingredients and fused it with Hank Shaw’s French version of head cheese.
You might remember my son and I tag teaming a big old boar, but it was August in Texas. Hot. We skinned him and got him on ice as fast as we could. I didn’t save the cabeza, which I now regret. But in October, I shot a pig right before church and I did save the head. Only problem was he was a bit of a noggin shot.
So last Saturday I dug the skinned head from the freezer and made this Czech head cheese. This is different than the bland stuff you sometimes see at the grocery store. Sweet spices and hints of bread are offset by the fresh onion. The result is a meat jelly miracle. Dude if you are into making Alpha Male Food™ — this is it from start to finish. Regardless of meat source, the first step is always, “Cut the head off of your pig/stag/bull/enemy/bear/goat.” Lastly, wash it down with Ale.
Here’s what to do between the decapitation and downing it with beer:
- The head of a wild boar
- A handful of fresh lavender
- A handful of rosemary
- 6 bay leaves
- 2 white onions rough chopped
- 1 white onion finely chopped
- 2 cups chopped parsley
- 8 whole cloves
- 8 whole allspice
- 6 tsp of grated nutmeg
- 1 TBS white pepper
- 1 TBS black pepper
- 3 cups of chopped celery
- 2 cups of chopped carrot
- 32 ounces of Shiner Bock or other equally fine Czech beer
- 1 cup of red wine vinegar
- 2 gelatin packets
- Place the head in your biggest pot, and cover with water. Add lavender, bay leaves, rosemary, black pepper, rough chopped onions, carrots and celery. Keep at a simmer and scoop off the dark brown scum that forms at the top. This is also a good way to clean your skulls for a European mount. Be sure to never let it boil, because you will cook the fat into the bone leaving it stained.
- After 4 hours, add half the red wine vinegar.
- At 6 hours, check to see if the meat is separating from the bone. If so, set out to cool and begin to pull the meat off the bone. This is where I realized a shot to the dome makes head cheese a bit more complicated. I had to pick out some small bone fragments and the skull lost its structure. I couldn’t quite tell brain from meat. Didn’t matter. I just cut up everything soft into tiny bits. You have to skin the tongue, before cutting it up. Dice the ligaments, cartilage and other little bits leaving nothing larger than a quarter. I voted to not include the eyes.
- Put all the chopped meat into a bowl and toss with the rest of the spices.
- Strain a quart of the stock, combine it with the beer and boil it down to half the original amount. I add just a few drops of olive oil to keep the beer from foaming over.
- Then add the meat to this liquid. Salt to taste, making it a little saltier than you prefer. This way, when it’s cold this will make it just right.
- Simmer for another 15 minutes to half an hour. Mix in gelatin packets.
- In a saran wrap lined mold, layer meat, parsley and onion. Don’t pack it down, you want a little space for the gelatin to do its magic.
- Pour in liquid mixture just covering the surface of the meat.
- Refrigerate. After it sets up, enjoy with crackers, beer and mustard. This makes an awesome sandwich and goes great with pickled onions, peppers and okra.
Do you get rid of the heads on your pigs and deer? After making this, I totally encourage you to keep your head at all times…