Saumagen

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Pfälzer Saumagen

Saumagen is a German dish popular in the Palatinate. The name means "sow's stomach". The dish is similar to a sausage in that it consists of a stuffed casing; however, the stomach itself is integral to the dish. It isn't as thin as a typical sausage casing (intestines or artificial casing). Rather it is meat-like, being a strong muscular organ, and when the dish is finished by being pan-fried or roasted in the oven, it becomes crisp. The dish is somewhat similar to the Scottish haggis, although the stuffing is quite different.

Saumagen stuffing consists of potatoes, carrots and pork, usually spiced with onions, marjoram, nutmeg and white pepper, in addition to which, various recipes also mention cloves, coriander, thyme, garlic, bay leaf, cardamom, basil, caraway, allspice, and parsley. Sometimes beef is used as well; a variant popular in autumn replaces some or all of the potatoes with chestnuts. The larger ingredients are diced finely. After that, the saumagen is cooked in hot water, slightly below boiling temperature, to prevent rupture of the stomach. It is either served directly with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes or stored in the refrigerator for later use. To warm it again, the saumagen is cut into slices approximately 1/2 to 1 inch thick, which are then fried in an open pan. The typical accompanying drink is usually a dry white wine, sometimes a German beer.

Saumagen was created in the 18th century by Palatinate farmers who used leftovers to make a new dish. Today the ingredients are not leftovers at all; indeed the butchers creating saumagen use very high-quality ingredients.

Helmut Kohl, the German chancellor from 1982 to 1998, who came from the Palatinate, gave the heretofore very local dish some international recognition. He served saumagen to many foreign visitors such as Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Kohl was sometimes ridiculed for this in other parts of Germany, where it was perceived as just another sign of his alleged provinciality. The connotations invoked by the mere term "sow's stomach" in people who are not really familiar with the dish (which included most Germans outside the Palatinate region) did not help either.

In the Pennsylvania Dutch region of the United States, the dish, known locally as seimaage, hogmal, stuffed hog maw (maw is an old word for stomach), simply pig stomach, or Dutch goose (by those who are not Pennsylvania Dutch) is popular during the harvest season. Traditionally, pig stomach, not turkey, was the main course for Thanksgiving among Pennsylvania Dutch families. This tradition stems from the Old World, with the bulk of Pennsylvania Dutch settlers originating from the Palatinate. Unlike the German version, the dish is typically baked for several hours, rather than boiled.