BLUE WINDOW | Food Travels in the Alps | Bayerischen Leberkäse (meatloaf)



The snow is visceral in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Seasonal smells mingle with seasonal stragglers. The wafting aroma of baked fruits, nuts and spices. The smell of roast chestnuts. A fragrant air colliding with cold vapours. Christmas is long gone, yet its essence lingers. The carnival detritus is evident. The Maschkera have put away their hand-carved wooded masks for another year. The sun shines with a fierceness that contradicts the season, reflecting our images on every casual surface. We live in that lightness of being, walking the path from serendipity to inevitability. This morning that path is alongside the Loisach river. We are not alone under the south-facing Almhuette and Wetterstein mountains, as we survey this magical twin-town and its surrounding peaks. Like us the people glance skywards. Unlike us they know their beloved heimat in the valley is sacrosanct. Up at Zugspitze and Leutasch Dreitorspitze, familial high peaks, comforted by the knowledge of their perpetual existence.

As is the traditional food of Bavaria.

Leberkäse – equal beef and pork, a quarter of that amount in bacon, one part water to four parts meat, seasoning and herbs – served with potato salad – potatoes and chicken stock, lemon juice and mustard – is our treat today. The 4000 Bavarian butchers who specialise in leberkäse cannot afford to deviate from tried and tested recipes. Attempts to introduce an ingredient they believe will improve the quality of the finished product are usually rejected. More often than not that ingredient is an egg, because the Bavarian leberkäse is made with an emulsion that can fall apart during baking. Butchers prevent this by freezing the meat, adding ice and keeping air bubbles out of the emulsion, so that when it bakes in a low oven it holds both its shape and texture. An egg would achieve that end. A Bavarian leberkäse should not be grey, it should be a pale pink with a reddish brown crust. The end slice, called scherzel, is coveted because it combines the crunchiness of the crust and the melt-inthe-mouth softness of the loaf. Leberkäse should taste delicious hot and cold. Hot it is cut into thick slices and served with potato salad or two fried eggs, and with sweet mustard. Cold it is eaten as a snack, usually with gherkins and a bread roll.

We tried the leberkäse of the Bräustüberl, the guesthouse with the famous beer garden in Garmisch, and it did not disappoint!

The Recipe

600 g pork shoulder, fat, sinew and tendon removed, chopped small
400 g pork belly (without rind), chopped small
300 g ice, crushed small
125 g onion, chopped small
20 g salt
10 g marjoram
10 g white pepper, freshly ground
Butter, for greasing

Freeze meat for an hour. Preheat oven to 160°C. Blitz ice into snow, combine with meat, onion and seasonings. Blend smooth in a food processor, pour into a greased loaf tin, pushing mixture into the corners. Bake at the bottom of the oven for 90 minutes. Remove from tin and brown under the grill, about four minutes each side.