Head cheese sandwich at Mueller's Delicatessen

Head cheese is one of those food products that gets a really bad rep from its name. "Head cheese." Sounds horrifying, doesn't it? In reality, there's no cheese to be found in head cheese. It's a cold cut consisting of parts of either a pig or cow's head. Oh yes: cheek, ear, tongue (and sometimes heart, if you're really lucky) -- that sort of thing. All set in aspic (gelatin) and flavored with traditional meat spices like black peppercorn and bay leaves, head cheese is typically thinly sliced and served on rye bread. Your grandmother was probably raised on it, as it was an easy way to provide lunchmeat without using the best cuts of the animal. This way, when roast beef was simply too expensive, low wage earners could still have sandwiches at work (at <a href="http://findlocal.baltimoresun.com/listings/muellers-delicatessen-inc-parkville" >Mueller's</a>, it's still just $3.60). Yum. Following the recent resurgence of organ meat, charcuterie and sweetbreads, head cheese has begun appearing at some fancy restaurants, which should make granny smile.

( J.M. Giordano, Photo for The Baltimore Sun / April 6, 2013 )

Head cheese is one of those food products that gets a really bad rep from its name. "Head cheese." Sounds horrifying, doesn't it? In reality, there's no cheese to be found in head cheese. It's a cold cut consisting of parts of either a pig or cow's head. Oh yes: cheek, ear, tongue (and sometimes heart, if you're really lucky) -- that sort of thing. All set in aspic (gelatin) and flavored with traditional meat spices like black peppercorn and bay leaves, head cheese is typically thinly sliced and served on rye bread. Your grandmother was probably raised on it, as it was an easy way to provide lunchmeat without using the best cuts of the animal. This way, when roast beef was simply too expensive, low wage earners could still have sandwiches at work (at Mueller's, it's still just $3.60). Yum. Following the recent resurgence of organ meat, charcuterie and sweetbreads, head cheese has begun appearing at some fancy restaurants, which should make granny smile.

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