The name Leberkäse or Leberkäs is used for both: The Fleischkäse which is made without liver and the original Leberkäse = Liver Cheese which is made with liver. Not to make things unnecessary complicated, I will just use the word Liver Cheese for this recipe although it has no liver in the recipe.
First things first: What a big brand in America is selling as Liver Cheese in the cold cuts section, is absolutely not tasting the same as my recipe here!
When I first read a recipe for Liver Cheese, I was quite anxious about the ingredients. So many spices! And then also chemicals like phosphate and nitrite. But I decided to try it anyway and it turned out a big success at the first try already.
Chemistry and Liver Cheese?
I was hesitant about putting things like phosphate and nitrite into my liver cheese. Both are necessary, although you should not eat food with it too often. But Oktoberfest is only once a year, right?
While looking up the American equivalents of my German ingredients, I got a little worried that I might recommend the wrong stuff and accidentally have someone poison themself. I got my phosphate and nitrite in Germany but the company doesn’t deliver outside Europe, so I will tell you what my package contains and what I think might be an equivalent here in the US, but you please think & decide for yourself:
- Phosphate – German package says “Diphosphat” – could be PhosThis
- Nitrite – German package says “Natriumnitrit” – could be Pink Curing Salt
- Citric acid – will be sold in the US as Citric Acid or you can also use Ascorbic Acid (= Vitamine C)
This said, the amounts are very little: 1 tsp nitrite, 1 g phosphate, and 0.5 g citric acid are all you need. The phosphate is necessary to help with the binding of the meat. The nitrite is making the liver cheese pink. If you use regular salt instead, your liver cheese will taste the same but will have a rather white color.
The Spices in Liver Cheese
I could never really figure out what spices are in Leberkäs (Liver Cheese) until I read the recipe. I would say it is the most adventurous recipe in the traditional German cuisine! While Majoram, Koriander, and Thyme grow in German gardens, Macis (the flower of nutmeg) is not very common. Also, Ginger is rather rare in our recipes and Cardamom is hard to get in Germany. The toughest ingredient for Germans is a different one though: crushed ice! While American fridges often have them fall out on the front when pushing a button, Germans don’t have such luxury. Instead, we need to use an ice tray, fill it with water, put it into the freezer, and wait for hours for it to be frozen. Then we need a food processor or the like to crush it. Food processors are also not very common since German kitchens don’t provide a lot of space. So, you’ll understand that we Germans usually get our Liver Cheese at the butcher.
Where to get the spices
I had some trouble finding all the spices here in Texas but since I live in Houston – the most diverse city in the nation – I decided to ask my neighbor, who is from Pakistan. She would have helped me out but wasn’t in town. She texted me the address of an Indian spice shop where I can buy it. Oh, this was so much fun! I love that little shop and they had everything I needed (and much more), and cheap and I will definitely be back there for other spices.
What is it with the temperature?
In the video, you can see me checking the temperature and I explain that it needs to stay below 12°C / 53°F. Why is that important? Well, it is important to make sure that the meat, water (ice) and other ingredients are binding together. While it is all mixed in the food processor, heat is created, therefore you want to keep this heat below the recommended temperature.
How to eat Liver Cheese
The most obvious way is to eat it warm and in slices of 1 cm or 1/2 inch just when it comes out of the oven. Add some homemade mustard to it (the sweet one is amazing with this!) and a fresh pretzel with butter as a side and that’s it. There is no sauce added since this is so juicy, it simply doesn’t need a sauce and also a sauce would spoil the whole taste.
My favorite way is to cut a thick slice and fry it in a pan from both sides. Then I eat it with a fried egg on top for lunch or dinner.
You can also cut very thin slices and use them as cold cuts on a sandwich. I saw that someone referred to it as Bologna, which it is not. Add some of the mentioned Bavarian sweet mustard and a salad leaf and your liver cheese sandwich will be delicious and filling.
Very often you can see a “Leberkäs Semmeln” at a German bakery: A dinner role cut open with butter and a thick slice of liver cheese in between the bun halves. Again: The Mustard is a Must!
And before I forget to mention: A German Hefeweizen beer is “the cherry on top” for this food!
You can easily wrap a Liver Cheese in a freezer bag and freeze it for some weeks. When you want to reheat it, just thaw it, then put it into the oven. If you are only freezing some leftover slices, it works best to fry the slices in a pan with some oil.
Liver Cheese – Leberkase – German Meatloaf
- 200 g Veel
- 200 g Pork
- 400 g fat Pork Belly
- 1 tsp Nitrite
- 1 g Phosphate
- 3 g White Pepper
- 1 g Marjoram
- 1 g Thyme
- 1 g Macis
- 0.5 g ground Ginger
- 0.5 g Cardamom, ground
- 0.5 g Coriander, ground
- some oil or butter for the baking pan
- 250 g crushed ice
- Cut all the meat in smaller pieces to fit into the meat grinder.
- Grind meat finely.
- Add all other ingredients except for the crushed ice.
- Mix well, then place into the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 160°C / 320°F.
- Add the ice to the food processor with knife attachment and crush to smaller pieces if needed.
- Add the meat and start the food processor.
- After a couple of minutes, check the temperature. It must stay below 12°C / 53°F.
- If the temperature is in the cooler range, keep mixing it. If the temperature nears the max temperature, either add some more ice or finish the mixing.
- When the meat mass is creamy and sticky, it is ready.
- Prepare a baking pan with oil or butter, then add the meat mass.
- Avoid air pockets, fill in every corner of the baking pan.
- Cut some diagonal lines into the top.
- Bake at 160°C / 320°F for 60 to 90 minutes or until the center temperature has reached 72°C / 163°F.
- For a nice crust, turn on the broil for a couple of minutes.