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Making Bavarian style Ham Sülze

September 28th, 2009

I love Sülze, here better known as head cheese or something in aspic. Every butcher in Bavaria has different kinds of Sülze, typically using cuts and bits and pieces that come from the head or other parts, things that can’t be sold as is and are maybe too good to put in a sausage. These dishes more or less resemble a tasty use of what ever is left over after a pig has been butchered. Thus the name head cheese, as it’s mostly made of the meaty parts one finds on the head of the pig.

Since returning from our Germany trip (see prior posts) I had a craving for some kind of Sülze, and as I had bought a couple books about sausage making that also contain recipes for Sülze I decided to have a go at it.

Sliced zucchini, carrot, diced peppers and a peek at the still packaged ham on the upper right

Sliced zucchini, carrot, diced peppers and a peek at the still packaged ham on the upper right

I had found a small pre-sliced boneless ham at Safeway that seemed just like the right thing to use for this experiment. I also had some peppers, yellow zucchini, and carrots that I had to use up. The zucchini were sliced with my little OXO hand slicer, a handy tool if I don’t want to set up the mandoline. Some of the carrots were also sliced thinly, the rest and the peppers were diced. I poached the vegetables briefly to soften them up a bit w/o loosing the crunch. The ham was cut into little strips, having a presliced ham made this a quick and easy task.

The most authentic way to make these kinds of terrines is to use fresh gelatine made from bones, feet, sometimes the ears etc. Simmered like a stock for a long time, it makes a very tasty gelatine, though it will not be clear. As I had none of those ingredients and this was just a test run I used Knox Gelatine from a box, using 3 packages made according to the package instructions but also adding some vinegar to give it a little taste.

The forms ready to be filled with the ham mix

The forms ready to be filled with the ham mix

To make the terrines I first lined the insides of two glass dishes with clear plastic wrap, this helps in later removing the Sülze from the form (though it also leaves imprints of the folds and creases and I might skip this next time).
The forms where then lined with the thin sliced raw zucchini and carrots to make a pretty pattern on the outside once everything had set and was turned over for serving.

I mixed the ham, peppers and some sliced green onion with vinegar, salt and pepper, basically making a sort of sausage or ham salad. Once I was happy with the taste I filled the baking dishes with my ham mix, and poured the gelatine mix over it to cover. An other go with the pepper mill and it was ready to be covered with more plastic wrap, making sure it covered everything tightly, then off to the fridge to set over night.

The finished Sülze cut in half

The finished Sülze cut in half

Everything set up nicely and we had a couple slices for lunch the next day. I served it with freshly sliced onion, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. While not quite as good as what I had in Germany, it turned out great for a first try! I definitely have to crank up the spices, as this is eaten cold. I will also add more vinegar to the sausage mixture next time, maybe some fresh herbs. A fun project that can turn out very pretty food with not too much work, though it has to be made several hours or better a day in advance. One can also add hardboiled eggs or just about anything else that works as a cold dish and is strong enough to hold it’s shape.

I’m not sure I’d do the decorative pattern again, it had a somewhat dated 1950es or 60es look to it. Of course one can come up with all kinds of decorations and layerings here, fun to play with. I will also make this with other meats, chicken works great, as well as with only vegetables. Some butchers sell this in thick slices, some sliced very thin. I prefer the later, but you pretty much need a meat slicer for that as things tend to break loose when cutting even with a very sharp knife. Serve with some great crunchy bread and a cold beer!

Plated with fresh sliced onions as garnish

Plated with fresh sliced onions as garnish

The whole sülze, removed from the form and inverted

The whole sülze, removed from the form and inverted

A close up look at the Sülze before it was removed from the form

A close up look at the Sülze before it was removed from the form

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  1. Lobster
    September 28th, 2009 at 19:38 | #1

    I don’t think most Americans can appreciate head cheese unless there’s some Italians in their family line. Having had a stepdad from Venice, it was always a part of any holiday meal. Never knew how it was made, thanks for the enlightenment.
    Also if you like the veggie pattern, keep doing it, who cares what others can’t see. It’s your food, play with it! I thought it looked cool, myself.

  2. Oliver
    September 28th, 2009 at 20:20 | #2

    Easier than I thought and fun to play around with ideas. I think the pattern was just a bit too geometric, but I’ll keep playing with my food, that’s the fun part! I’m thinking about adding edible flowers sometime.

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