Hog’s Head Cheese and Other Cajun Delicacies

I came across an article from Atlas Obscura: Curious and Wondrous Travel Destinations that says that hog’s head cheese is becoming rare in South Louisiana. Hog’s head cheese is made from, well, the head of a hog, usually as well as other offal of a pig. There’s no actual cheese. Hog innards are boiled and chilled with vinegar in a jelly roll pan. The fat from the hog’s extras gives the concoction a gelatinous binding.

Hogshead_Nolafoodgoddess
Photo Courtesy of Altas Obscura

I have never tasted it, although my mother is partial to keeping a small loaf wrapped in butcher’s paper in the refrigerator. She eats it sliced with Saltine crackers. It’s part of my heritage that I’d just as soon forget. Hog’s head cheese made with offal (the word sounds like awful!) is not even remotely appetizing to see or imagine eating.

I grew up in bayou country where Cajun culture reigns supreme. Another product that is nearing its demise in these parts are pickled pigs lips. That’s not a joke. The lips of pigs are pickled and preserved in a red, viscous liquid resembling mercurochrome. It was a common barroom treat, or so I’ve heard. Never ate it, either. I can’t do pigs lips or feet, pickled or not.

Yet, I have eaten other foods not eaten by most Americans. I enjoyed fried frog legs as a child. My daddy sometimes went frog hunting along the bayous at night. He’d come home with a burlap sack of bullfrogs and whack off the legs. Then, my mama fried them up the following day after soaking them in buttermilk. There’s nothing quite like eating frog legs that just a day before were appendages to bellowing amphibians.

Sometimes after church, we would head towards Morgan City, Louisiana, and stop at Chester’s, a vintage diner near Morgan City. My family ate mounds of fried frog legs, fried chicken, and fried onion rings at Chester’s. And yes, frog legs do taste like chicken. Chester’s is a just a memory now, and frog legs are hard to find these days.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve eaten and loved turtle soup. Not too many people in my family like it, although my grandpa supposedly liked soup from the snapping turtles he caught in the bayou. It’s a specialty of the house in gourmet restaurants in New Orleans such as Commander’s Palace and Galatoire’s. The best turtle soup usually involves a bit of sherry to the dish. Delicious!

crawfish, corn and corona
My late father enjoying corn, crawfish and a Corona.

Then, of course, there’s crawfish. I can’t recall the first time I ate them. We grew up eating them: boiled, stewed, or in an etouffe. Good Friday in our part of the country is often celebrated with crawfish, boiled, and spread on an outside table. Friends and families are invited to eat crawfish, as well as the potatoes, corn and sausage that are added to the boiling pot.

I’m glad crawfish is still enjoyed here and now in other parts of the country, too. Personally, I don’t mind at all that hogs head cheese, fried frog legs, turtle soup, and pickled pigs lips are scarcer and scarcer in these parts. Some things are better left in the past.

Incidental note: Alligator has never been a cultural food in bayou country. It’s served now in many restaurants in these parts, but I never, ever heard of anyone eating gator when I was growing up. There are beasts. I refuse to eat them, even though they would be happy to eat me. 

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “Hog’s Head Cheese and Other Cajun Delicacies

      1. My mother was first generation Polish living in Chicago and I can remember her making head cheese in her bread loaf pan. I never ate and until your post, never realized it is literally made from the “head” of a hog! Thanks for the education and the walk down memory lane, too.

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  1. Hey Laurie! I still buy hogs head cheese and saltine crackers for my 93- year old momma. And I occasionally indulge in eating a pickled pigs lip with original Lay’s potato chips. Now that I think about eating a pigs lip, I wonder why I found it challenging to eat cow tongue on my first trip to Honduras and to the Milk Project. Maybe it was seeing the uncooked version of it first. An image still fresh in my mind all these years later along so many others wonderful memories!

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  2. Head cheese in all of its variety is just another type of pâté. Your reverie inspired me to make a Portuguese sardine pâté tonight. It may not have been pig lips, but it was good.

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    1. I think head cheese is more like an aspic than pate. However, I’ve never made pate so I leave the judgement to you as to whether head cheese is pate. Sardines, eh? You are a brave fellow.

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  3. What you eat is really a function of your taste buds and your brain, where prejudices reside.

    A friend in Mexico once invited us to dinner and she served a soup that was delicious. It wasn’t until I’d swallowed the last drop that she announced is was bone marrow soup. If she had told me that at the beginning, it might have completely changed my opinion.

    Crickets are used widely in Merida and Oaxaca, where I’ve had them ground up and added to something, like a condiment. I liked them; they were salty. Locally we went to a restaurant that offered cricket soup (“chapulines”) which came as a broth with a dozen crickets floating on top. I tried to eat a few of the critters and I found them chewy and disgusting.

    In Peru, Stew tried “chuy”, or guinea pig, which arrived squashed on the plate looking like road kill. Stew sampled it and said it wasn’t anything great, and hardly worth killing a guinea pig for the amount of meat in them.

    Maybe if I tried head cheese without knowing what it was, I might like it. But now I know. Your ruined the experience. LOL.

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  4. “What you eat is really a function of your taste buds and your brain, where prejudices reside.” I agree with your statement. Most things we eat are the result of the culture we are born into, I think. I have only had once or twice in my life found eating something hard to do because it was so far from my cultural norms. I was served a beef aspic in Russia once, which was mostly made of the cooked gelatinous fat from beef meat. It was basically chilled beef fat slices. Because of the change in time, and I hadn’t been in Russia long, I felt like it was breakfast time although it was mid afternoon.. I had a hard time finishing my portion.

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