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Sheep's head for Rosh Hashana

v
vallevin Sep 6, 2011 07:53 PM

So I think we are going to indulge in getting a sheep's head as part of the simanim this year. Am I supposed to cook it?

How? Does it go in a sauce? I need guidance here.

  1. a
    AdinaA Sep 7, 2011 05:17 AM

    I admire your intrepid spirit. I can only tell you what I have seen in ethnographic sources, I have never seen this done, let alone done it. and I may be conflating Jewish and non-Jewish ethnographic sources in my memory.

    It was certainly eaten, in the olden days. And it was not set on the table raw Because If you killed the head with the rest of the sheep it would have been pretty smelly by the time you were ready to serve dinner. Since the refrigerator has been invented, you probably could. You'd need to wash the blood off.

    Get your butcher to remove the hair. Or, trim off the hair, then singe the remaining hair to remove before cooking.

    The brains are traditionally removed and prepared separately.

    the head can be boiled (the eyeballs are said float out intact) or roasted. You'll want to roast since boiling will caluse the meat to soften off the bone.

    You want presentation, so roast. I don't know how you would spit an intact skull. If I was doing this, I would place a heat reflector of some kind behind the head and turn it regularly in front of the fire. Or, in modern conditions, bake.

    Wish I could tell you more. Dry heat in a hot oven should give you an intact, dark brown head to set on the table. I'll be curious to know how your guests react. I have no idea what the eyeballs will look like after an hour or two in a hot oven.

    1 Reply
    1. re: AdinaA
      n
      njkosher Sep 7, 2011 06:18 AM

      I have dealt with this as I am Sephardi. Growing up in England, I recall as a young child we had the whole head on the table, and I believe it was boiled first and then roasted. I vividly recall my various family members eating parts of it. The only part I would eat was the tongue. We also had brains, which were boiled and then mashed up with raw egg into what you would call a latke.

      Fast forward to recent times. I have been able to get brain in the past, but it's been a number of years. Glatt Mart told me they could get it, but when I got there, they said the Mashgiach said it was too time consuming to take all the veins out and therefore, they would not kasher them, and could not sell them. They thought the mashgiach wanted them for himself.

      The heads themselves have very little meat on them, and most places I have seen sell them in halves. Admittedly, being out in the boonies of NJ means I don't really have access to the butchers in Brooklyn that might offer this, but if someone could guarantee me a place that would have head and brains, I would willingly make the trek.

      Given that there is very little meat on the head, I don't think you want to plan on serving it at the table. Also, most people are grossed out by it.

      Last year, I boiled the head, and then scraped off all the meat I could, and mixed it up with a couple of eggs, and made latkes with them. Another option, especially if you do not want to deal with a head, is to buy lambs tongue. I found them in Glatt Mart, 3 to a pack but they are tiny. The packet was perhaps one pound in weight.

    2. a
      asf78 Sep 7, 2011 06:12 AM

      The one time I was at a RH meal with a sheep's head, a friend prepared it and brought it over to our house with the meat already taken off the skull, and roasted. We knew what it was without actually having the head on the table. Wish I could give you more help with this.

      1 Reply
      1. re: asf78
        queenscook Sep 7, 2011 12:01 PM

        I was once at a meal where one of the guests had a strong minhag to have a lamb's head for RH. The ba'alat ha'bayit, on the other hand, had a strong minhag not to be grossed out, and she made him leave it in the paper bag in which he had brought it!

      2. p
        psycomp Sep 7, 2011 08:35 AM

        Last year, Pomegranate Supermarket had stacks of pre-roasted sheep heads in what is normally their "prepared salads" section. Had to have been the smallest sheep ever. Looked like the teeth were still in-place. They looked pretty nasty. I'll stick to the vegetarian "Simanim".

        3 Replies
        1. re: psycomp
          n
          njkosher Sep 7, 2011 09:13 AM

          The teeth are always there. My daughter who is usually up for this stuff, picked up the head last year in Queens and once she had seen it, in all its glory, could not even eat the latkes I made.

          1. re: psycomp
            v
            vallevin Sep 7, 2011 09:17 AM

            NJKosher....how Boonies are you? Sussex County? Warren?

            Rabbi Elkin of Bisra Meats (Hackensack, NJ) said he would do one for me "no problem". He will give you EXACTLY what you want.

            1. re: vallevin
              n
              njkosher Sep 7, 2011 11:07 AM

              Essex county.

              Good to know.

          2. s
            SoCal Mother Sep 7, 2011 11:04 AM

            Why am I thinking of the scene in The Godfather?

            Invite me over for kale, pomegranate, or even a piece of fish, but I can't stand looking at fish heads let alone a sheep's head.

            With much love for klal Yisrael and my best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year, here's one Chowhound that would respectfully turn down that invitation. Reminds me too much of HS biology class.

            Of course the only way I can buy meat is wrapped in plastic where it doesn't look like the animal it came from...

            26 Replies
            1. re: SoCal Mother
              v
              vallevin Sep 7, 2011 11:07 AM

              You and my mother.... SoCal (re: the Godfather reference).

              1. re: vallevin
                s
                SoCal Mother Sep 7, 2011 11:12 AM

                Of course I ate sweetbreads this weekend in Oxnard, but the server refused to tell me what it was while my husband and his buddy smirked.

                But it didn't LOOK like...whatever part of the body of ...whatever animal it was and ...NO DON'T TELL ME!!!

                1. re: SoCal Mother
                  d
                  DeisCane Sep 7, 2011 11:32 AM

                  Sweetbreads are not brains.

                  1. re: DeisCane
                    s
                    SoCal Mother Sep 7, 2011 12:41 PM

                    LALALALALA I can't hear you!!! I have NO idea what they are and I STRONGLY suspect that I don't want to know!!! If I paid attention to the source of my food I would end up a vegetarian.

                    But I am grateful that you have reassured me that at the very least I have not set myself up for a case of Mad Cow (or sheep, or chicken) disease.

                    1. re: SoCal Mother
                      p
                      Prettypoodle Sep 7, 2011 01:22 PM

                      SoCal Mother wrote: If I paid attention to the source of my food I would end up a vegetarian.

                      You and me both! During my last trip to England ( I am going back this spring for the next Bar Mitzvah!!) my cousin had a leg of lamb thawing one day on her counter for dinner. I ate salad that night and the mere thought of eatting lamb makes me ill:(

                      1. re: SoCal Mother
                        d
                        DeisCane Sep 7, 2011 01:23 PM

                        It's not a particularly gross part of the animal, imo.

                        1. re: DeisCane
                          s
                          SoCal Mother Sep 7, 2011 02:35 PM

                          Well I was once invited for Shabbat lunch in Israel and my hostess told me that she was all excited because her butcher was FINALLY able to sell her "reyot." I came over and while I was choking down what tasted to me like little pieces of cosmetic sponges in beef gravy, I remarked on the similarity of the name "reyot" to the Hebrw word for lungs...

                          Do I need to finish the story?

                          1. re: SoCal Mother
                            p
                            Prettypoodle Sep 7, 2011 02:40 PM

                            No thanks. Honestly it is ok:)

                            1. re: SoCal Mother
                              d
                              DeisCane Sep 7, 2011 02:56 PM

                              I don't know what reyot are but sweetbreads (groshitze in yiddish) can get rubbery if overcooked...and they're not lungs(g'linglach).

                              1. re: DeisCane
                                s
                                SoCal Mother Sep 7, 2011 03:22 PM

                                Reyot are lungs. (Sorry PrettyPoodle, DeisCane wanted to know.) My friend, who also made me ptcha* once, fed me lungs.

                                My public apology to the sheep-head-for-Rosh-Hashana folks on the list. This is my fault that the thread turned into a parts-of-the-animal-I-bet-you-didn't-know-you-could-eat thread. Full disclosure: My all time favorite restaurant meal is liver and onions.

                                *ptcha is a sort of aspic made from calves feet. Looks like the stuff left behind in a jar of gefilte fish but tastes meaty.

                                1. re: SoCal Mother
                                  a
                                  AdinaA Sep 7, 2011 03:30 PM

                                  Unusually among Ashkenazi foods, ptcha involves a huge amount of garlic. Garlic aspic, with cow knuckles. My father-in-law, z'l, adored it. I think its popularity passed with that generation. Most contemporary Jew react to it about as warmly as they do to sheep's heads. but who knows, with the current vogue for old-timey Ashkenazi foods, even ptcha may come back soon to upscale, Jewish-style restaurants in Tribeca.

                                  1. re: AdinaA
                                    d
                                    DeisCane Sep 7, 2011 03:44 PM

                                    I don't like p'tcha because I don't really like anything gelatinous and never really have--even jello doesn't really interest me much.

                                    1. re: DeisCane
                                      a
                                      AdinaA Sep 7, 2011 04:08 PM

                                      Agreed. But once upon a time, in a country called America, molded jello salads featuring miniature marshmallows and canned fruit salad suspended in sweet, cherry-flavored, gelatinous goo were the fancy dish served at holiday meals.

                                      Tomato aspic was the sine qua non of a ladies luncheon.

                                      I expect some chef to revive the gelatinous any day now. Including not only ptcha, but such delights as fish-shaped molds to produce clear, salty aspics quivering with suspended bits of cold carp.

                                      1. re: AdinaA
                                        s
                                        SoCal Mother Sep 7, 2011 09:31 PM

                                        Well there are jello shooters. Pretty popular with college kids. I don't think that Ko-jel gets stiff enough to use for that though. (Just joking!)

                                        My mom (A"H) used to make jello molds for parties. I remember the recipes used to warn than pineapple will keep the mold from hardening.

                                        Tomato aspic sounds interesting. I need to google and see what's in it.

                                        1. re: SoCal Mother
                                          a
                                          AdinaA Sep 8, 2011 04:12 AM

                                          Tomato aspic is delicious. I haven't eaten one in years, but, now that you mention it, I suppose it could be made in a bundt cake mold. It's nice for Shabbos lunch with cold chicken.

                                          1. re: AdinaA
                                            s
                                            SoCal Mother Sep 8, 2011 08:42 AM

                                            All the recipes I found have gelatin in them. I guess I should have figured that.

                                            1. re: SoCal Mother
                                              a
                                              AdinaA Sep 8, 2011 09:44 AM

                                              I know that I've seen this done with one of the vegetable-based jelling things (carageenan maybe), I don't have the recipe, but I know it can be done. Unfortunately, I don't try to jell things often enough to know how to tell you to do this. Maybe I'll make this a project next summer. Someone produces a retail, supervised carageenan, right?

                                              1. re: SoCal Mother
                                                queenscook Sep 8, 2011 02:44 PM

                                                That's what aspic is: tomato jello, essentially.

                                            2. re: SoCal Mother
                                              p
                                              Prettypoodle Sep 8, 2011 06:32 PM

                                              "MY" mom was :famous: for her multi layered jello molds. If it was a gathering the hiant brnady sniffer came out an the jello went in If by some xhance someone really wants to make one and MUST have oineapple in it, you can used canned pineapple with NO issues. Just an FYI.

                                      2. re: SoCal Mother
                                        z
                                        zsero Sep 7, 2011 04:22 PM

                                        Calf's-foot jelly is a standard food for invalids in Victorian novels. Every time someone gets sick, people bring lots of calf's-foot jelly, much like grapes, or chocolate today. The reason is that it has lots of calories in an easily-swallowed form, perfect for someone who must eat but has no appetite. Sort of an old-timey Ensure.

                                        1. re: SoCal Mother
                                          p
                                          Prettypoodle Sep 7, 2011 04:45 PM

                                          It is ok. I was just day freaming about chicken.org when I read your post and that kinfs took my mind off the (icky) topic,

                                          if tommootw's rain is not moonsoon -ish i will go there and pick up a dinner special to be enjoyed later that night.. Cooking dinner tommow night is NOT in the plans. I be a few blocks away getting a test done to make sure I really can breath so it seemed like a good idea to stop there.:) May have to grab a burger for lunch too at thier sister store. YUM!

                                        2. re: DeisCane
                                          z
                                          zsero Sep 7, 2011 04:28 PM

                                          A lung, in Yiddish, is "loong", or with a Galitzianish accent, "ling". A small lung is a "loongele", or "lingele". And the plural is "loongelach", or "lingelach", again depending on accent. Where the initial G is coming from I have no idea.

                                          1. re: zsero
                                            d
                                            DeisCane Sep 7, 2011 06:18 PM

                                            It comes from my grandmother. That's what she called it, or at least, how I remember it.

                                            1. re: DeisCane
                                              s
                                              SoCal Mother Sep 7, 2011 09:41 PM

                                              The g' is used as a reflexive. Maybe the name of the dish was something with lung so it was <some food made together with lung > g'linge.

                                              Like shmutzy (dirty) and geshmutz (got dirty.) I'm not explaining this well...

                                              1. re: SoCal Mother
                                                z
                                                zsero Sep 7, 2011 10:04 PM

                                                Not really. "Ge" appears at the front of past tense verbs. "Go" is "geh"; gone is "gegangen". "run" is "loif"; "ran" is "gelofen". There's nothing reflexive about it, and it doesn't happen to nouns. "Dirty" is "shmutzik" (or "shmitzik" in the same accent that calls a lung "ling"), and "got dirty" is "shmutzik gevoren".

                                                1. re: zsero
                                                  s
                                                  SoCal Mother Sep 8, 2011 08:40 AM

                                                  Well I don't speak Yiddish but I was trying to figure out where the g' in front of lung could be coming from.

                          2. b
                            brooklynkoshereater Sep 7, 2011 07:22 PM

                            I always roast my 'rosh keves' or lamb's head - usually with some olive oil and rosemary, although sometimes, if i'm lazy, i'll make a rub with onion soup mix (gasp!) and evoo and rub it all over. my mums usually pours duck sauce over and bakes it like that.

                            1. j
                              jdh11 Sep 14, 2011 04:49 AM

                              In previous years I've made "Tongue in Cheek" for my head siman. See the recipe here:

                              http://carolcookskeller.blogspot.com/...

                              1. v
                                vallevin Sep 27, 2011 09:59 AM

                                Just a quick post-script....

                                I don't know what happened, but I was not able to get the sheep's head, so I'm going with a whole carp instead.

                                Shana Tovah

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: vallevin
                                  t
                                  The Cameraman Sep 27, 2011 11:49 AM

                                  We're spending Rosh Hashana at my parents this year. My family traditionally serves the largest fish head we can find, and then we traditionally squabble over who gets to eat the eyes. My wife traditionally tries not to throw up during the proceedings and wonders out loud how she came to be mixed up in this family. Of course, *her* family traditionally bites the heads off of jellyfish and call it good.

                                  I'd like to do a sheep's head one year, but I don't think the wife would go for it.

                                  1. re: The Cameraman
                                    c
                                    craigcep Sep 27, 2011 01:57 PM

                                    Where's your wife's family's minhag from?

                                    1. re: craigcep
                                      g
                                      GilaB Sep 27, 2011 02:08 PM

                                      I doubt it's a minhag so much as a generic custom, because jellyfish aren't kosher.

                                      1. re: GilaB
                                        queenscook Sep 27, 2011 02:27 PM

                                        I'm sure "jellyfish" = "gummy fish (the candy)," not actual jellyfish. (I don't think even non-Jews eat jellyfish.)

                                        1. re: queenscook
                                          a
                                          AdinaA Sep 27, 2011 07:05 PM

                                          Yeah, they do... eat jellyfish. They are popular in East Asia.

                                          I suspect that eating the heads of candy fish this is less a minhag than a joke, which probably started when the jokers were in grade school. Family yom tov jokes are like that.

                                          Besides, it would be hard to bite the head off a real jellyfish, because, does a jellyfish even have a head?

                                          1. re: AdinaA
                                            t
                                            The Cameraman Sep 28, 2011 06:10 AM

                                            Oh, you guys.

                                            I knew I should have been more specific. Yes, I was referring to the candy. Yes, it began as a joke. No, an actual jellyfish does not have a head, per se. Yes, people do eat the actual Stomolophus meleagris and Rhopilema esculentum: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jellyfis... Yes, it is an actual minhag, if minhag is defined as "thing we do in rememberance of our parents having done a specific thing at a specific time".

                                  2. re: vallevin
                                    c
                                    cappucino Sep 27, 2011 03:08 PM

                                    Will you be storing it in the bathtub?

                                    1. re: cappucino
                                      v
                                      vallevin Sep 27, 2011 03:54 PM

                                      Nope...it's dead and thankfully gutted.

                                  3. v
                                    vallevin Sep 28, 2011 11:02 AM

                                    What a difference a day makes! I now have a sheep's head boiling in my kitchen. I put sugar, salt, pepper, lemon slices, carrots and an onion in. I figure I should stay simple.

                                    I will report on how it tastes motzi Yom Tov.

                                    Shana Tovah everyone.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: vallevin
                                      l
                                      linzertorte Sep 7, 2012 08:51 AM

                                      You never reported back. Making another one this year?

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