A few weeks ago my father-in-law, Bryan, asked if I would make head cheese for him because he would have the head from a pig he was buying from a friend. Being the good boy and having a penchant for the stuff, I agreed. Later that week, Bryan called me all atwitter asking if I would meet him in Alexandria so he could drop-off the pig heads with me. I said heads, what do you mean heads? I thought you bought one pig? He began to hem and haw a bit and relayed to me that when he told the boys that his son-in-law was making head cheese the boys all chipped in their pork melons so I could make cheese for them as well! Again, not wanting to be a heel, I said I would come to his house and make the head cheese, in his heated garage.
Track forward a few weeks and I show up in Hawley and open the garage door and there they are, eight very large, very hairy, very dirty, very pig heads. Now, I assumed these heads would be in the state in which I normally receive them: nice and pink with a smile on their face and not a hair to be found. It didn’t occur to me that they were shot out at Leroy’s place and they probably didn’t scald, clean, or shave these buggers!
Time to learn how to scald and shave a pig. No, it’s not the start or the punch line to a joke. Really, to scald a pig head, heat a large pot of water to 151 degrees -- no more or you will set the hairs in the skin and never get them out. Once your water is 151 degrees put your scrubbed and cleaned head in the water and submerge for 6 minutes no more, no less. If you can’t tell, I learned a lesson or two on the first cabezas. Now pull the head from the pot and with a sharp knife start scraping against the grain of the hair, not a lot of fun and very messy. To help you visualize, think of scaling a fish, using that motion worked nicely. De-hairing a pig is strenuous work and your arms will feel like Popeye’s afterwards.
After five hours of scalding, shaving, and cleaning, the heads were finally in the pot. I used propane fueled turkey fryers with 16 quart stock pots. I simmered the heads with bouquet garni, mirepoix and pickling spice for eight hours. I cut off the ears and simmered them at higher temperature for ten hours. The rest of the method is the same as in my July post