pork party (and head cheese)

head cheese with pickled vegetables

It was inevitable, really. How could we not?

Yesterday, we had a pork party.

Many of our friends gathered on the green grass in the backyard, under the cherry tree, or on the deck with drinks in hand. We were full of happy chatter, shared news, and funny stories. We watched the mass of small kids attack the tree swing and the strawberry patch with equal fervor. The first hour of the party was like a summer idyll.

And then we couldn’t wait any longer. We moved inside toward the table full of food. Platters full of appetizing pork dishes.

There was a collective sigh of happiness when the plates were first filled.

We’ll be telling you about these dishes for days, with recipes and links to websites where you can find more tempting pork recipes.

But for now, we’ll share some of what landed on our table:

grilled pork skewers with ginger, soy, and garlic

roasted pork loin with braised savoy cabbage

Cuban roast pork with black beans and lemony oregano sauce

pâté made with pork, duck, and rabbit

potato salad with bacon

Cuban pulled pork for sandwiches

melon with ham and hazelnuts

homemade pastrami

water chestnuts wrapped in bacon

brown-sugar caramels with bacon

And even more! (There may have been some non-pork dishes in the mix, including the salad that the six-year-old made with foods she foraged from our garden.)

The photo you see above is the head cheese. The dish for which Danny worked all weekend, breaking down the pig head, brining the meat, simmering stock, rendering fat, making aspic, and putting it all together. We’ll be telling you about each step of the way, with recipes, in the coming days. For this dish, he lined a jello mold from the 1950s with fresh swiss chard, jumbled the meat in, and carefully poured in the gelatinous stock. He let it set overnight, then unmolded it. Voila! The color you see on top is pickled vegetables (purple potatoes, Walla Walla onions, carrots, and cabbage), which we have been making for weeks.

It all came together beautifully.

And the head cheese? Well, I can tell you this. That is the worst-named dish in history. As our friend Tita said, she thought it would be something like haggis, made with bits that no one wants to eat. Instead, it’s meaty, with a delicious richness of densely packed meats and fat, with the stock that was patiently simmered for nearly 24 hours. I’d never tasted anything so purely made of love.

If you want to make one, we’ll show you how, soon.

And what would you bring to a pork party?

4 thoughts on “pork party (and head cheese)

  1. I know! It’s funny that just the NAME ‘head cheese’ makes me queasy and not even be able to see the dish without squinting. I am so glad that you talked about how delicious it is, so I will do some “aversion therapy” and keep looking at the photo as if it was the yummy food that it actually is, and maybe I can at least stop squinching up my eyes!

    Usually I can smell your photographs.

  2. So, head cheese is not made with brain matter? That’s what’s put me off in the past (plus I’m not keen on jellies/aspics from a texture perspective). I look forward to seeing the recipes, esp. for the Cuban roast pork. Now if I could just find some pork I’d be willing to eat. Oh, wait, if I’m in Seattle soon, you can tell me :)

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