One of the most beloved culinary specialities of the Palatinate (Pfalz) region, Saumagen is pig’s stomach stuffed with pork, vegetables, herbs and spices. (The pig’s stomach part might sound off-putting, but it’s only used as a casing to keep the meat in during cooking, and is discarded before serving.) As someone obsessed with learning about culinary traditions and processes, I’ve long been interested in learning how Saumagen is made. And who better to learn from than the butcher who made it for Helmut Kohl, the most famous Saumagen fan of all.
Klaus Hambel took on his father’s small butchery business in 1985, and during the 1990s, he often supplied Saumagen to then-Chancellor Kohl, who famously introduced the regional favourite to every possible visiting dignitary, from Margaret Thatcher and Boris Yeltsin to Francois Mitterrand and George H.W. Bush. Klaus owns and runs a very popular butcher’s shop and restaurant in the gorgeous Palatinate winemaking town of Wachenheim, and regularly opens the restaurant’s doors for presentations on how this much-loved dish is made.
How to make Saumagen
Many butchers today use artificial casings to make Saumagen because of their lengthy shelf life. Traditionally, however, pig’s stomachs are used – they’re very stable, and will still keep for up to 14 days. Klaus also prepares smaller Saumagen for 2-3 people using pig’s bladders. Either way, the natural casings are heavily salted and left overnight before being washed and stuffed the following day.
The cuts of pork Klaus uses for his Saumagen stuffing include leg, topside, and silverside – all very lean meat containing less than 5% fat. The pork is passed through a grinder twice to ensure it’s very finely ground. This prevents the Saumagen from falling apart during cooking or slicing.
The ground pork is mixed with waxy potatoes that have been peeled, cubed, boiled and cooled, plus a selection of freshly-ground herbs and spices. Klaus’s own recipe involves nutmeg, coriander, marjoram (from the state of Thuringia, or Thüringen – he touts it as the best), cloves, white pepper and salt. Depending on the time of year, he might also add fresh ingredients such as green asparagus, chanterelle mushrooms or chestnuts.
Once the casing is stuffed and tightly sealed – pigs stomachs have three natural exits that need tying up with butcher’s string – the Saumagen is lowered into a hot water bath and cooked gently at 72 degrees celsius for four hours, until it’s completely cooked through.
What to eat with Saumagen
Saumagen is most commonly served warm, in finger-thick slices. As a main dish, two pieces are browned in butter on both sides and served with Sauerkraut and mashed potatoes or slices of dark bread. At Metzgerei Hambel, Saumagen is also sandwiched – still warm from the water bath – into a crusty white bread roll. It makes for an very good portable lunch, if a rather hefty one.
Butchers in the Palatinate often experiment with using the Saumagen mixture in sausages or, in Klaus’s case, Maultaschen (a specialty from Swabia). If you’re looking for a souvenir, it’s also available to buy in tins.
What to drink with Saumagen
Saumagen is best enjoyed with a glass of regional white wine. It’s also popularly eaten in early autumn alongside locally-made Federweißer, delicious but potent half-fermented white grape must.
Where to eat Saumagen
Stuffed pig’s stomach is on the menu at traditional German restaurants all over the Palatinate, but the pretty village of Kallstadt is particularly well known for the dish. (Kallstadt is not just famous for Saumagen: it was also the ancestral home of families Heinz, of food processing fame, and Drumpf, now Trump). The most famous vineyard site in Kallstadt is also called Saumagen, so if you wish, you can even enjoy a glass of Saumagen with your Saumagen.
Probably the most best-known dining option in Kallstadt, with a friendly, rustic ambience and lovely leafy courtyard. Saumagen specialties include Saumagen pâté, and in the spring, browned slices served with white asparagus or wild garlic.
Weinstraße 53, 67169 Kallstadt (website, German only)
This very popular hotel restaurant offers slightly more refined Saumagen options with increased prices to match. Meat-lovers will enjoy the challenge of Henningers “Pfalz-Glück” (Palatinate Bliss): a portion each of of Saumagen, sausage and liver dumpling served with Weinkraut – Sauerkraut cooked in wine.
Weinstraße 93, 67169 Kallstadt (website, German only)
After walking through the vineyards from the neighbouring town of Freinsheim, I enjoyed a very simple plate of Saumagen and Sauerkraut served with a basket of bread in the quiet, shady courtyard of this Strauswirtschaft (a seasonal pop-up restaurant run by a winery).
Freinsheimer Str. 41, 67169 Kallstadt (website, German only)
Learn about Saumagen at Metzgerei Hambel
Klaus’s one-hour presentations take place in German at Hambel’s Restaurant, opposite Metzgerei Hambel, on Fridays at 13:00. They cost 5€ per person and include a glass of local sparkling wine and a Saumagen sandwich. Check the Wachenheim Tourism website events calendar for upcoming sessions. Advance reservations required.
Metzgerei Hambel, Bahnhofstraße 19, 67157 Wachenheim an der Weinstraße (Tel: +49 (0)6322-4613; Website, German only)