Souse, or Hog’s Head Cheese

Souse is a traditional Christmas dish both in Charleston and on Barbados, where so many of the city’s early settlers and slaves first lived. I put it out on New Year’s Day, before the hoppin’ john, with beer and crackers, to ward off the ill effects of the night before. Charleston Receipts notes, “Have butcher clean head and feet.”


  • 1 hog’s head
  • 4 pig’s feet
  • 2 onions, chopped (1½ to 2 cups)
  • 2 bay leaves, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 shallots, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ( cup) white vinegar
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • fresh pig fat cut into ¼-inch-thick slices


Place the head and feet in a big pot, cover with water, and boil until the meat falls off the bones, about 2 to 3 hours, depending on the age of the hog. Remove the head and feet from the liquid and pick out all the bones and fat. Refrigerate the meat and the liquid overnight. The next day, skim the fat from the surface of the liquid. Put the picked meat in a pot, add the remaining ingredients except the pig fat, and add just enough liquid to cover; bring to a boil. Line 3 large bread pans with pig fat and pour the mixture into the molds. Refrigerate until ready to serve. The souse will harden into a jelly that can be sliced.