Food Friday: Leberkäse (Liver Cheese) and Bavarian Royalty

leberkaese liver cheese“Leberkäse?  What exactly is “liver cheese”(the direct translation)?  I asked looking up from the menu as we settled in for lunch at a hut overlooking the Chiemsee (lake in the German Alps).  My German dining companions struggled to explain.  “Well it’s pork” they all quickly agreed.  “It’s… a mixture of meat.”  “You really just have to try it as it’s difficult to explain,” chimed in someone else.  “It’s a local specialty (Bavarian),” offered someone else.  “It was invented by the cook of a Bavarian duke,” supplied someone else.  Which while all very interesting wasn’t helping me to identify the mystery meat.  “Is it made of liver and cheese?” I asked, my lip curled up.  “NO” came the reply in unison, although I later found out that while Bavarian Leberkäse doesn’t contain liver, other varieties of Leberkäse do contain a small portion of liver.

Despite my curiosity, I wasn’t feeling confident about ordering the mystery meat so  J.P. (my German husband) offered to order it so that I could try a bite.  When it came out, I told my German companions that I thought it resembled SPAM which was met with blank stares.  “You know the meat that comes out of a can that’s really cheap and popular with university students.”  From the scowls on their faces it was clear that my unflattering comparison of Leberkäse to canned meat wasn’t appreciated.  I cautiously tasted a small bite – yep it tasted exactly like warm SPAM.  I wonder what other “treats” Bavarian royalty were served and how in a time of change Leberkäse has managed to survive 235 years since its founding in 1776.

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Comments

  1. says

    I sort of quite like Leberkäse: I couldn’t eat a whole slab on my own, it’s so rich, but I don’t think it’s altogether too bad. Although now you’ve likened it to spam…. urrrgh….!!

  2. Laurel says

    @Frau Dietz – I know it’s very popular. Half the people at our table ordered it but it’s definitely “nicht fur mich”. Maybe I would have thought it tasted better if it didn’t look like SPAM, but once I had that image….

  3. Sabrina says

    Leberkaese! We don’t have it in Cologne where I am from… I totally got turned on to it when I moved close to Stuttgart for my studies though. So freaking good. Especially in a nice, fresh Broetchen. The thought that there could be actual liver in there disgusts me though… I’ve heard it being compared to Spam before and yet I still have not had the courage to try Spam here in the US. Just sounds so bad. And it’s from a can!

  4. says

    Oh, how I love Leberkäse mit Bratkartoffeln. I can vividly imagine the faces of your German companions when you ‘dared’ to compare this ‘sacred’ Bavarian food to SPAM!!! Laurel, Laurel, how could you….

  5. Laurel says

    @Sabrina – According to Wikipedia most Leberkäse that is not Bavarian Leberkäse may contain up to 4% liver, not a lot, but still. I think SPAM is bad, but if you’re ever homesick you could just fry some up and voila you have the American version of Leberkäse :)

    @Inka – Really? I wouldn’t have taken you for a Leberkäse kind of gal. I should probably keep my mouth shut regarding my thoughts on Leberkäse if I ever want to make any Bavarian friends, but I really do think it tastes very similar to fried SPAM.

  6. says

    After reading the first paragraph, “spam” was also my first thought! I’ve never tasted it though. I’m not much for mystery meat… I barely eat meat already!

  7. says

    Always a risk trying a food that is difficult to explain! I don’t think the egg on top would really help it either. But, at least you gave it a try. Sometimes, I stay too much in my comfort zone with food when traveling. I should take more chances!

  8. Laurel says

    @Cathy – Exactly, that’s usually a bad sign :). I had a very small bite, but that was enough. I stay in my comfort zone a lot when it comes to food as well, but I’m working on it (hence the bite of the Leberkäse)

  9. Laurel says

    @Tara – “Interesting” is a good word. I haven’t tried liverwurst before, so I’m not sure how similar it is to Leberkäse, but I agree texture is key. Good to know I’m not the only one who thinks it looks like Spam.

  10. says

    LOL! Cholesterol heaven, methinks – not that that would put me off when in need of comfort food. Many years ago when we were in school, my best friend’s sister had a German exchange student to stay, and they served Spam one day at tea time. It was new to him too. My friends’ mom was prattling on about it and how it had been “invented” to eek out meat rations in war time (I have no idea whether that’s correct), and then suddenly blushed violently and stopped mid-track when she realized that the boy was German. This was in the mid 60s, only 20 yrs after WW2, so she was really embarrassed, but they all laughed about her embarrassment too, and she felt that she had done her bit for international relations! Possibly that explains why your German friends have never heard of it?

  11. says

    That meat does look like spam….a LOT.

    Reading that it is “mixed meat….possibly pork” ringed a red bell in my head (because you never know what kind of meat or parts they mixed in!!) XDDD

    How did it taste?

  12. Laurel says

    @Linda – Cholesterol would be a good excuse not to eat Leberkäse, even though that doesn’t stop me either from eating things I like :). Love your story, it made me smile and yes that would explain why spam isn’t widely known in Germany :)

    @Sue – Well I only had a bite, rather than being brave enough to order it myself, but it’s a step :)

    @Annie – Thank you! So glad to know it’s not just me who thinks so. I always worry when nobody can describe what the meat is. It tasted like fried spam, so at least it was consistent with how it looked.

  13. John says

    I guess the source of the meat that is ground/cooked into these bars makes all the difference. If you put all the nasty stuff in there you got cheap crap, if you put good meat in there you have a good meal.

    The same as with mac n cheese and Käse Spätzle. You can take cheap cheese and cheap noodles and you got crap, but take good noodles and good cheese and you got yourself a winner.

  14. chris says

    I just came from eating it, and it definitely looks exactly like spam.. however, it tasted pretty good, though I don’t recall how spam tastes. The texture is exactly how I imagine spam’s is…

  15. says

    It’s spam, there’s no denying it! I had exactly the same reaction in Berlin last weekend… This just doesn’t slide out of a can first. I’ll stick with the currywurst… :O)

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