I've never eaten it, but I once saw a headcheese at a party, sitting on a large platter in the centre of a table. I had no idea what it was that I was looking at. It appeared to be multi-coloured wads of some sort of meat, bound together and suspended in gelatine. But it had a thing sticking out from one side. When I leaned over for a closer look, I realized the thing was actually a tooth, fully intact.

I asked the host what this dish was and how it was made. Boil half a pig’s head, (everything included), four pig’s feet, onions, and some spices for two hours, remove bones (and teeth) place in a mould and that's headcheese! Yum.

I pointed out as discreetly as I could that this headcheese still had its teeth and it was whisked away to the kitchen for repair.

It is also known as zure zult.

Head cheese is indeed a specialty cooked meat product. The constituent meat is chopped pork from the head of the pig (and sometimes a little veal) which has been cured and spiced with salt, sugar, vinegar and often nutmeg or other aromatic spices.

The meat is set into a mould in a gelatin base. It is generally sliced to serve cold, often as part of a party platter. Head cheese, due to its gay and colourful presentation, is commonly served at celebratory occasions.

Zure zult, also known as just zult, hoodkaas of kopkaas, or head cheese in English, is a traditional meat product form the south of the Netherlands, specifically Brabant. While it's not as popular as it used to be, you can still get it at the local butcher. It's mainly eaten on bread, in thick slices.

It seems that everyone has his own way of making this culinary delight. The common theme is a pig's head, whole, and vinegar. I'll give a default recipe, from 1:

Take a whole pig's head and boil it in water with a little salt for 2 hours, and then add two kilos of pork and boil it for another 3 hours. Which pork you should use is not clear, but I've seen heart, tongue, liver, and legs (With or without the hooves, I don't know) suggested. The meat should be very tender now, and it should be easy to remove the bones. Grind the meat, and add some of the water used for the cooking to get a nice, smooth, creamy mass. Now, things like pickles, a bit of sugar, lemon, nutmeg, salt and pepper can be added, to taste, I suppose. It is important to add vinegar, for taste, but mainly for conservation. Put the mixture in -preferably ceramic- bowls, which are rinsed with cold water. Put paper over it, with a small tear in the middle. Add so much vinegar there is a little layer on top of the mixture. Put it in the refrigerator to let it solidify. It's best after at least four days of waiting, and shouldn't spoil for six weeks, provided you keep vinegar on top at all times.

Zure zult with rye bread are traditionally served at funerals in the South, although I've never actually seen it happen, so I suppose the tradition has more or less died. I have had it offered to me at normal lunches though.

As for the taste, I have no idea. I have no intention of finding out, either. If someone has tried this, please /msg me. Zuur means acid in Dutch, and that and the vinegar suggest it may taste acidic. It does not have a discernable odor. It looks like a lightgrayish mass.

With this node, and the links below here, it should be able to make your own traditional zure zult, the way it is made in my native Noord-Brabant. Or, it might give a hint about the meat products you could be offered when you visit the Netherlands. If the thought of eating horse meat or organ meat makes you uneasy, be sure to check the meat served with your host, as they are common in Dutch cuisine. Sources:

  1. http://www.ruudverdonck.nl/archief/COMP01006.html
  2. http://www.receptenzoeker.nl/toonrecept/?link=99856
  3. http://www.farm-world.net/recepten/32.html

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