Pork head, jowl, ear, and tail

Other Names: Head: Cabeza (Spanish), testa (Italian), téte (French). Jowl: Guanciale (Italian), joue (French), museau (French, snout), papada (Spanish), tempia (Italian, jowl and throat). Ear: Orecchio (Italian), oreille (French), oreja (Spanish). Tail: Coda (Italian), queue (French), rabo (Spanish).

General Description: The jowl, ears, head, and tail are prepared in specialty dishes and are available in ethnic markets. A fat cut of meat along the side of the head, the jowl is often found smoked and cured, and is used as flavoring for other foods. Jowls are sold with the skin removed.

Pig snouts, ears, and tails are essential for the Brazilian national dish of black beans cooked with a panoply of pork parts, called feijoada completa. A whole simmered pig’s head is transformed into the German delicatessen specialty head cheese. It is also the traditional primary ingredient of Pennsylvania Dutch scrapple.

Part of Animal: The jowls and ears are on the sides of the head, which can be found whole. The tail is at the back end.

Characteristics: Jowl meat is rich and dense with plentiful amounts of fat. The head is made up of many different muscles and abundant amounts of gelatinous connective tissue.

How to Choose: Look for these parts in ethnic markets, especially Caribbean, Brazilian, Spanish, and Italian.

Amount to Buy: Allow 1/2 pound pork parts per person.

Storage: If fresh, refrigerate and use within 2 days. Otherwise, cure in salt and spices to keep longer.


Pork jowl is most commonly found smoked. Use like salt pork.

Head Cheese:

  1. Place 1 pig’s head, thoroughly rinsed and trimmed, along with 4 pig’s feet into a large pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, skimming as necessary.
  2. Add onion, carrots, leeks, garlic, lemon zest, a bundle of fresh herbs, and peppercorns.
  3. Simmer 2 to 3 hours, or until the meat starts to come away from the bone. Remove the head and feet from the pot and strain the liquid, discarding the solids.
  4. While still warm, pick the meat from the head (peeling and dicing the tongue) and the feet. Boil the reserved liquid down to half its original volume or until syrupy and season generously with salt. Cool till the liquid just starts to gel.
  5. Line a rectangular terrine mold (or bread pan) with plastic wrap. Fill with the picked meats. Pour the liquid over top, banging the mold down several times to eliminate air pockets.
  6. Chill overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from the mold, peel off the plastic, and slice. Serve cool.

Flavor Affinities: Bay leaves, black pepper, collard greens, garlic, kale, lemons, marjoram, mustard seed, thyme, vinegar.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com