Head cheese

Head cheese (AmE) or brawn (BrE) is in fact not a cheese, but meat slices in aspic, with onion, black pepper, allspice, bayleaf, salt and or vinegar, from the head of a calf or pig (sometimes a sheep or cow). It may also include meat from the feet, tongue and heart. It is usually eaten cold or at room temperature as a luncheon meat. It is sometimes also known as souse meat, particularly if pickled with vinegar.

Historically meat jellies were made of the cleaned (all organs removed) head of the animal, which was simmered to produce stock. When cooled, stock made from meat congeals because of the natural gelatin found in the meat. The aspic may need additional gelatin in order to set properly.


Various versions exist around the world:


South Africa: Head cheese is known as brawn.


China: In certain part of China 'yaorou' (肴肉) is eaten. It is made by boning and pickling pig trotters with brine and alum. The meat is then rolled and pressed and eaten cold. In Northeastern China, a jellied pork skin dish is often made and served with a spicy soy sauce and vinegar mixture with crushed garlic and red chili powder. Korea: In Korean cuisine, a similar dish is referred to as pyeonyuk (편육) made by pressing meat, usually from the head of the pig. It is eaten as anju (dishes associated with alcoholic beverages) or used for janchi (잔치, literally feast or banquet).Vietnam: In Vietnam around Tết, giò thủ is made in celebration for the New Year. It is a traditional snack made of fresh bacon, pig’s ears, garlic, scallions, onions, black fungus, fish sauce and cracked black pepper. Traditionally, giò thủ (pork head meat pie) is wrapped in banana leaves and compressed in a wooden mold until the gelatin in the pig’s ears causes it to stick together.


United Kingdom: In England, head sausage is referred to as brawn or, (in Norfolk), pork cheese; in Scotland, head cheese is known as potted heid (potted head of a cow, pig or sheep; the similar potted haugh/hough made from the shin of the animal).Brabant : In Brabantic it is called zult and is made with blood, red and sweet. Pig's foot provides the gelatin and a little vinegar is added to the head cheese.Czech Republic: In Czech Republic, the huspenina or in German sulc is made from pig's heads or legs. Other ingredients are onion, pepper, newspice, bayleaf, vinegar, salt, carrot, parsley, celery and eggsDenmark, Norway and Sweden: Sylte or Sylta, a pork head cheese seasoned with allspice, bay leaves, and thyme, is part of the traditional Christmas smorgasbord, served on rugbrød with strong mustard and pickled beetroots. Sylte is often prepared from other pork cuts than the head, especially the leaner versions.Estonia: Sült, similar to the German or Croatian dish (the name is a loan as well), but usually less seasoned and made from higher quality meat. Sometimes carrots or greenstuff are added. Traditional Christmas meal.France: Referred to as fromage de tête, tête fromagée (which translates as "cheesed head") or pâté de tête. Germany: In Germany head cheese is known as Sülze or Presskopf. The German Sülze can have a tangy flavor due to the addition of pickles or vinegar. It usually takes the form of a rectangular loaf, which is then sliced into portions. There is a white coloured variety and two different red ones, with blood, one made with beef tongue (Zungenwurst), the other without. Sulcze was already mentioned in 1410 and in 1430 in old documents of the Counts of Katzenelnbogen.;Spain: This cold cut is known as cabeza de jabali, literally 'boar's head'.Italy: In Genoa a similar cold cut goes by the moniker testa in cassetta, literally 'head in a box', but it is possible to find it throughout the entire central and northern Italy, where it is called "coppa di testa" or simply "coppa" or "formaggio di testa"(literally:head cheese) in some northern regions. In central Italy (Lazio, Umbria)it is common to put orange peel pieces in it, or to eat it in a salad made of Head Cheese, oranges and black olives.Hungary: A variant of head cheese is disznósajt (so called "pig cheese"), made of mixed meat slices (especially from the head of the pig), spices, paprika, and pieces of bacon cooked in spicy stock. The chopped meat is stuffed inside the pig's stomach, similar to Scottish haggis. Usually it is smoked like the sausages or the ham. Lithuania: Koseliena, usually made with pig's feet.Poland: In Poland, head cheese is referred to as salceson, a name possibly derived from saucisson, the French word for a type of sausage. There are several varieties of salceson which depend on the ingredients: Black Salceson which contains blood, White Salceson made with a mixture of seasoned meats without blood, and Ozorkowy (Tongue) Salceson where the major meat component is tongue.Limburg : In Limburgisch it is called hoofdkaas, meaning head cheese, and is eaten on bread or with Limburgisch sausage as a starter. There's a red, sweet variety and a slightly Sour, grey variety. The red one can be compared to Brabantic zult. Sülze and Presskopf are also found in Limburg though the Sülze is less sour whereas the Presskopf often contains black pepper and is eaten on wholewheat bread.Romania: There are two versions of it: The first is called "toba" (same word as for "drum"), which looks like huge sausage, 4 inch diameter. The other form is "piftie" in which the contents are poured into a bowl which is then refrigerated. Not necessarily made of head meat, but also from different kinds of meat, boiled with garlic and bayleaves. More popularly called "haladetz".Serbia and Croatia: This cut is generally known as hladetina, and is commonly produced after the traditional slaughter of pigs. A strongly seasoned version of this cut is called tlačenica or švargla (the latter being a loan-word from German). The name švargl is used for a variant where the chopped parts are stuffed inside the pig's stomach, similar to Scottish haggis.Ukraine: In Ukraine, head cheese is popular food. Head cheese is served for festive occasions such as Christmas. Head cheese is also popular in the Jewish community.Turkey: Kelle Söğüş is a variation of head cheese made from boiled head of spring lamb, usually served with black pepper and cumin. A thick soup made of the same with addition of vinegar and garlic is also quite popular as a late midnight dish in order to avoid hangovers.

Latin America

Mexico: Head cheese is popular and often eaten on Tostadas or accompanied by Nopales. In Mexico it is referred to as Queso de Puerco (Pig cheese).Brazil: Head cheese is very popular among the gaucho population and is commonly known as Queijo de Porco (Pig Cheese). This cheese is also very popular in Peru and Costa Rica, where it is known as Queso de Chancho. In the rest of Latin America it is usually referred to as Queso de Cabeza.

North America

Newfoundland, Canada: Throughout Newfoundland, brawn is typically made from wild game such as moose and caribou.Pennsylvania, United States: In the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, head cheese is called souse. Pennsylvania Germans usually prepare it from the meat of pig's feet or tongue and it is pickled with sausage.Louisiana, United States: The highly seasoned Hog's Head Cheese is very popular as a cold cut or appetizer. A pig's foot provides the gelatin that sets the cheese, and vinegar is typically added to give a sour taste. Due to the French heritage of the state, this European descended delight is widely eaten by many Louisianaians. It is something of a staple of cajun food, and may also be known as souse meat or simply souse.


Australia: Since 1987, a unique Australian version of head cheese has been made in the regional centre of Dimboola. Made from the heads of kangaroos, sheep, and occasionally wombats, it is served chilled with mint sauce and a glass of alicante.

Notes and references

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