I was invited to learn about how to make Saumagen at Metzgerei Hambel by Deutsche Weinstraße e.V. – Mittelhaardt – and Südliche Weinstrasse e.V., however all editorial and opinions are my own.
One of the most beloved culinary specialties of the Palatinate (Pfalz) region, Saumagen is a pig’s stomach that’s been stuffed with pork, vegetables, herbs and spices. The pig’s stomach part might sound off-putting, but it only acts as a vessel for the meat during cooking and is discarded before serving. I’ve long been interested in learning exactly how it’s made, and who better to be taught by than Klaus Hambel, the butcher who used to make it for Helmut Kohl.
Klaus Hambel took on his father’s small butchery business in 1985. During the 1990s, he often supplied Saumagen to the then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who famously introduced the regional favourite to every visiting dignitary imaginable, from Margaret Thatcher and Boris Yeltsin to François Mitterrand and George H. W. Bush. Today, Klaus owns and runs a very popular butcher’s shop in the gorgeous winemaking town of Wachenheim, and regularly opens his restaurant’s doors for presentations on how this much-loved local specialty is made.
How to make Saumagen
The casingMany 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 keep fresh 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 stuffingThe 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 (which comes from the state of Thuringia, or Thüringen, which he touts 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.
The cookingOnce 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 region 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 to take home, it’s also available to buy in tins.
What to drink with SaumagenSaumagen is best enjoyed with a glass of local 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
You’ll find stuffed pig’s stomach on the menu at traditional 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 hoe 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 fancy a glass of wine with your meal, 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 a hike 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 HambelKlaus’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
Website (German only)
Tel: +49 (0)6322-4613