Recipe: Bavarian Leberkäse

I rarely rely on recipes, except for two things – baking and sausage making. The latter’s more snooty cousin, the world of farcir, forcemeats, terrines, and other concoctions, especially relies on well executed ratios. This Bavarian recipe for Leberkäse is a slight exception – since it is rather simple to make, I invite you to play around and have some fun with it.

Leberkäse
Bavarian Leberkäse with sunny side egg, some mild peppers, and Bavarian mustard (that’s for another time).

Leberkäse, or Livercheese, is one of those German foods no one south of the Prussio-Bavarian line can live without. Funnily enough, it contains neither liver nor cheese, the name being a derivation of Leben (life) and kas (a solid object of foodstuffs from which smaller portions are cut or carved, a loaf) – so, literally, the food that keeps you living.

Before starting all this, ensure a proper clean kitchen. Take a baking loaf form, sanitize it vigorously, then grease with lard or any other porcine derived fat (I love using rendered bacon grease for this) and place in the freezer until you need it.

Obtain the following:

  • 7 lbs of very lean beef. Any cut will do, you don’t have to waste your prime tenderloin on this.
  • 1 lbs of pork neck. A good butcher might be willing to cut this into smaller cubes for you, just make sure (as in any cut), that no physical contaminants (bones, etc.) are in the mix.
  • 9 oz bacon, preferably with rind and very preferably made at home or bought in a block, not as the cheap pre-cut megamart pennysaver version.
  • 1 onion (if they’re small, 2)
  • 1 tsp of ground white pepper
  • 2 tsp of majoram
  • 3 cloves of garlic, worked into paste
  • 6 1/4 cups of water (for a creamier product, replace 1 cup of water with heavy cream)
  • optionally some lemon zest

Proceed thusly:

  1. Grind all meats in your grinder. Additonally you might want to process the neck and bacon together in a food processor, but if you use a very fine die, that won’t be necessary.
  2. Take about 1/4th of the meat and mix with water and salt until you have a paste.
  3. repeat for the other 3/4th of the meat
  4. place the bowl into the refrigerator and let rest for at least one hour, at most four
  5. Retrieve, add the spices and finely chopped onion.
  6. [optional] Process in food processor (in batches works best) until you have a fine paste
  7. Fill into greased baking loaf and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours
  8. Enjoy

To mix it up, some, you could do what I did in the image above and add finely chopped peppers, small cheese cubes, hard-boiled eggs, or anything else that makes sense into the loaf. Serve with Bavarian Mustard (we’ll make that soon), eggs sunny-side up, pickles, rustic breads, or on a bun with mustard.

25 Comments

  1. Yummy! This dish has quite a following north of the Prusso-Bavarian border as well. ;-)
    .-= Tim´s last blog ..I’m going to Hollywood! =-.

    Reply
  2. Timely – dh was looking for recipe! RT @foodiePrints: I want to try making this! RT @wildhunt: Bavarian Leberkäse: http://bit.ly/5MIKju
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    Reply
  3. Hi Jonas,

    What about Leberkäs à la Metronet? It's done in 4 – 6 weeks …

    Reply
  4. when making forcemeats, i've read (in the book "Charcuterie" and elsewhere) it's essential to keep all the meat as cold as possible during grinding so that the fat doesn't melt and fall out of suspension.

    wikipedia provides this link: http://www.food-from-bavaria.de/en/reg_spez/einze… which includes a recipe as well as lots and lots of info.

    Reply
    • Surprise! There's more than one Leberkaese recipe on the web. As for the ice (and, really, "Charcuterie"? Couldn't you have quoted a grown up book instead of the paint by numbers version for kids? :), see my response to Andreas.

  5. what flies said – i never attempted to make my own Leberkäs but i know for a fact that my favorite butcher uses (crushed) ice for most of his Würstl and Leberkäs recipes.

    Reply
    • 4. place the bowl into the refrigerator and let rest for at least one hour, at most four

      We'll have to be careful with Leberkaese and ice, even a slight imbalance in moisture can really disturb the emulsification. If you adapt the fat and cream content, you can sub some of the water (or all of it) with crushed ice, but for the home-cook a fridge is the better solution.

  6. I'm just curious about how you got such nice, pink loaves of leberkaese without using curing salts. I've always used Prague #1 because my metzger told me that the loaf would turn gray without it.

    Reply
  7. Ah, you caught me in a little photography ruse. Even the ones I did with 6.25% Sodium Nitrite pink curing salt (Prague #1) looked pale when shot, so I added carrot juice for coloring and boosted the exposure and saturation of the loaf slightly.

    If you're averse to NaNO2 and have a means to control your bacterial contamination, the color fixating can be done with erythorbic acid and the same pink salt in Prague #1. But you're of course right – for commercial production and if clostridium botulinum is an issue Prague #1 is definitely the way to go.

    Me, I am more or less an amateur at this. I learn as I go, especially since it's really, really, hard to get a good butcher/charcutier from the old world to divulge their real secrets. Sometimes I am lucky and get some hints without having to sell my soul or sign a three year apprenticeship, but more often than not I just make stuff up as I charge in :).

    Reply
  8. Ah, you caught me in a little photography ruse. Even the ones I did with 6.25% Sodium Nitrite pink curing salt (Prague #1) looked pale when shot, so I added carrot juice for coloring and boosted the exposure and saturation of the loaf slightly.

    If you're averse to NaNO2 and have a means to control your bacterial contamination, the color fixating can be done with erythorbic acid and the same pink salt in Prague #1. But you're of course right – for commercial production and if clostridium botulinum is an issue Prague #1 is definitely the way to go.

    Me, I am more or less an amateur at this. I learn as I go, especially since it's really, really, hard to get a good butcher/charcutier from the old world to divulge their real secrets. Sometimes I am lucky and get some hints without having to sell my soul or sign a three year apprenticeship, but more often than not I just make stuff up as I charge in :).

    Reply
  9. Well I don't think it was a smooth paste, and I'm pretty damned sure that I got the emusion not going quite the way you described, but I'm Giving It A Go.  If it tastes dreadful, well there's a lesson learned.  Thanks for giving me a recipe for what has to be one of my Desert Island Meals.  Can't wait.  Only 52 mins to go.

    Reply
    • Don't make us wait :) How was it?

  10. Thanks for the recipe! We've been to Munich last year and it was our first encounter with Leberkase…. great stuff! I'm using your recipe right at this moment – still have 10 minutes to go in the oven. So now Leberkase Semmel has gone Down Under!

    Reply
  11. Trying it now as a suprise for my Bavarian friends wedding rehersal dinner. Wish me luck.

    Reply
  12. Yet you make fun of charcuterie. Ha.

    Reply
  13. Hello there!
    It is all good but why the colour of mine doesn’t match at all yours? Mine became grey/brow, the normal colour of a roasted meat actually. Any suggestions? Colour was fine before baking it…

    Reply
  14. OK I saw all the comments below. Can you please give the correct recipe with all secret ingredients not mentioned above (Prague#1 etc.) and the correct technology? Thank you very much indeed!

    Reply
    • The recipe as described makes the Bavarian Leberkaese. If you want to photograph it you can add some carrot juice and get a reddish tint that you can boost in-camera or in Photoshop. There isn’t much in terms of technique or recipe changes here unless you want to start food photography in which case I might write an article on how to make food photograph better.

    • Thank you for the reply! It is not about photography… ;)

      I’ve made it and it was very tasty indeed but didn’t have the texture of the real Leberkäse, it was much more meaty and not so smooth as the one I get in the German restaurants. I wonder what was wrong with my way of doing it :(
      It actually shrank a lot during the baking, and lots of water (juice) came out of the meat. Any suggestions? The external “crust” doesn’t look at all like yours. It looks more of a roastbeef than a Leberkäse :(
      I confess I’ve baked it to a little higher temperature, 190 degrees centigrade (C), but I don’t think this could be the reason…
      Also, when exactly do you add the Prague #1?
      Please, any suggestions will help, we all LOVE the Leberkäse ;) Thank you!

    • Prague should go in after you have your emulsion since it acts hygroscopic (salts) and therefore “steals” the water from the emulsion which will then never form.

      To get it a little fluffier you can freeze some of the water you are adding, crush it, and use that instead of ice cold water. This adds the “bubbles” you see in Leberkäse in Germany.

      If it’s “bleeding” you might have had too much water in the emulsion or it didn’t form well. In that case do the optional step above and process again after adding spices and see that you have an emulsion that does not lose water (take a spoonful out and put it on a pate and watch if it seeps).

      I think I’ll put all this into a video if it helps?

    • Wow thank you very much indeed!
      I will a try it and will let you know how it worked ;)
      Yes, a video would be great really ;)

      Cheers and thanks again!

  15. What did you expect? More than a recipe and a great explanation? Less? Something else?

    Reply

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