Passion for Pork

Pork Hock Head Cheese

Sharman - Monday, January 7, 2013
Irving Farms Pork Hocks

Over the holidays I always look forward to eating a pork dish that is certainly an acquired taste. As a second generation Ukrainian I grew up eating head cheese at Christmas. Head Cheese is not a cheese.

The version I grew up with I think it can be best described as gelatinous meat – made from boiling pork hocks for a very long time.

While I’ve seen it being made a hundred times, I’ve never made it on my own, but in anticipation of Ukrainian Christmas, I decided to give it a try. I went to the Strathcona Farmer’s Market on Saturday to visit Alan at Irving Farms to pick up some fresh pork hocks.

Since my mom didn’t have a written recipe, I had to slightly wing it on her verbal instructions. This is what I ended up doing.

Sharman’s Head Cheese


4 pork hocks
2 bay leaves
1 Onion – cut into large slices
2 tbsp picking spices (best tied up in a cheese cloth)
2 tsp salt
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
½ cup vinegar
2 gelatin leaves
¼ cup sugar



  1. Cover hocks with water in a large pot. Add bay leaves, onion, salt, and pickling spices.
  2. Bring to boil, and then reduce to simmer. Cook until tender (3-5 hours) until the meat flakes easily with fork. Cool and save liquid.
  3. When meat is cool, remove bone and fat and chop up meat. I grew up eating it with the skin on, so I save that and chop it up (but this is totally optional)
  4. Place gelatin leaves in cold water for ten minutes.
  5. Mix together 4 cups of broth, vinegar, sugar, garlic and meat. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Mix in gelatin. Stir, and pour mixture in a pan (I use loaf pans).
  7. Cool and refrigerate until firm. Scrape off any fat from the surface. Slice and enjoy!

Head cheese getting ready to set
My brave friend Marc trying his first bite of head cheese