The Louisiana Head Cheese That's Becoming A Rarity

There are certain foods that, no matter how delicious they are, don't always appeal to the masses. This could be because of their appearance, texture, or the process by which they are made. While head cheese is a food that falls into that category, perhaps there's a possibility that it should be given a chance. 

According to Atlas Obscura, head cheese was once a constant in Louisiana's deli counters, but its popularity has taken a dive over the years. Part of that may have something to do with the process by which it's made is not the most palatable. However, you can still find it from specialty delis, or if you have the constitution for it, you can try making it yourself. The meat-based spread is described as rich, velvety, and flavorful. Real Cajun Recipes notes that it can be spread on crackers or used in sandwiches. Now let's take a closer look at head cheese.

Head Cheese's History

Louisianans are known for eating locally-sourced foods that aren't necessarily eaten elsewhere. According to Louisiana Travel, it's common to find items like alligator or frogs' legs on the menu in Louisiana restaurants. While some might be a bit squeamish to eat these dishes, they are popular in the region because many of those ingredients are native to the area and, therefore, sustainable to eat. Hog's head cheese is an outlier because it may have originally come from Europe.

The exact origins are unclear, but according to Altas Obscura, a British cookbook from the early 1700s stated that head cheese was made for British high society. Atlas Obscura notes that the recipe made its way to Louisiana through the traditions of enslaved African people who were skilled at elevating the offal and pig scraps left for them. Eventually, it became a Louisiana staple. In some cases, the dish is pickled or soused, which is why a nickname for the dish is "souse."

Making it at Home

According to Real Cajun Recipes, traditional hog's head cheese was made from the head and the feet of the pig. The collagen in a pig's foot is what gives head cheese its more gelatinous texture. However, the bulk of the meat actually comes from the hog's head itself.

In order to make it the traditional way, you have to make sure to acquire very specific cuts. First, you need a hog's head, and then you must remove the eyes, ears, and brain before cutting it into four pieces, per Real Cajun Recipes. Next, the head and foot are cooked down in liquid until the meat is fork-tender. Then the meat is deboned and placed in a food processor with chopped vegetables. Finally, the pureed mixture is chilled in a pan, giving it its signature loaf shape. Real Cajun Recipes suggests that you can spread the head cheese on crackers or use it on a po'boy sandwich.

Other Ways to Try

If you're curious to try head cheese but the idea of making it yourself sounds too extreme, there are ways to purchase it online. If you want to try an authentic recipe made with the traditional hog's head ingredients, then Cajun Grocer sells Richards Cajun Hog Head Cheese online. If you're curious but just can't get over the head part of the recipe, the Bourgeois Market sells a version of head cheese that is made from bone-in pork roast as opposed to the less desirable parts of the pig.

If you want to try Louisiana-style hog's head cheese from its home state and plan to visit the Bayou State, there are many places in New Orleans where you can try made-from-scratch head cheese. One of the more popular places is Creole Country Sausage Company. While it can be nerve-wracking, trying new foods can expose you to food cultures that you might not have been exposed to otherwise.