In Farmer Boy, Laura tells the story of her husband Almanzo Wilder’s childhood growing up on a farm in New York state in the late 19th century and refers to many things during butchering that people are not familiar with today. One of those is headcheese, and it isn’t really cheese at all.
In Farmer Boy, headcheese is a type of meat product made from the head of a pig. It is typically made by boiling the head – in Farmer Boy, Almanzo’s mother boiled six heads – and then separating the meat from the bones and other parts of the head. The meat is then pressed into a loaf form and allowed to cool, forming a solid mass, with a gelatin-like substance that has come out of the bones. Earlier in the book, the headcheese is described as quivering.
The resulting headcheese can be sliced and served as a cold cut. It was implied to be a fancier type of food to be served, as it was served while Mr. Corse, Almanzo’s teacher, was staying with the Wilder family.
Today, it is considered a specialty food and is not widely consumed in the US. It can be found in some butcher shops and specialty farmer markets however.