I said it before and I’ll say it again, Spam is the king of canned meats

Or, I will not be cowed by the powerful Vienna sausage lobby

A can of Schwartenmagen and a can of Spam

A can of Schwartenmagen and a can of Spam

My brother, aka Pupa eater, brought me this can of Hausmacher Schwartenmagen (head cheese) made by EDEKA when he came to visit me this summer. I wasn’t sure I wanted to try it, but the picture on the front wasn’t that gross and after all, I do eat Spam. Not all the time, mind you, and I try to do it ironically, whatever that means, but yes, I am a Spam eater and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

The grody pictures are after the jump, so here’s your cue to leave if you don’t care for that kind of thing.


See, it just looks like bumpy sausage on the can, doesn’t it?


Although I probably should have looked up the words I wasn’t familiar with on the can before I opened it and tasted. Schwartenmagen just never came up in German class. I guess Rocky Mountain Oysters isn’t a term they teach in English classes until you get pretty advanced, probably graduate level however, I can’t help but think that maybe in Foreign Language 101 one of the little sidebars in the textbook should be “Names of foods you might not want to try”.


Spam and Schwartenmagen

As you can see, Spam is a bit more processed than Schwartenmagen. Spam contains pork with ham, salt, water, modified potato starch, sugar and sodium nitrite. The head cheese contains 65% pork, Schwarten (which as far as I can tell means rinds), potable water, Nitripokelsalz (which I bet is the same as sodium nitrite), herbs and spices, flavoring, preservatives and sugar type substances. So, I guess they are pretty comparable in terms of ingredients.

Head cheese (Schwartenmagen)

Head cheese (Schwartenmagen)

Oh but what a difference a whirl through a blender makes!


The parts that look like meat didn’t taste too bad, a little salty and stringy and with a scent of something like cloves or allspice, but not terrible. The huge hunks of fat or rind though? Couldn’t get it down. I put it in my mouth, but I couldn’t bite all the way down and had to spit it out.

In looking up headcheese, I found that it’s made by boiling a pig (or cow) head, stripping off the meat and putting it back in the stock, which jellies because of all the um, whatever it is in animals that jellies. I also found photos of some headcheese that was thinly sliced, like deli meat, and think perhaps it might be easier to eat that way. A thin strip of fat, why that’s just bacon, isn’t it? Huge honking bite covered with animal bone goo? Yeah, I think you have to grow up eating it to like it.


I think that’s the beauty of Spam, all of those white bits are homogenized into the pink bits and so you get the benefit of the unctuous delight that is pork fat evenly dispersed throughout. Oh yeah, sure it’s a rectangular, lightly goo coated pink slab of meat in a can, and as such an object of ridicule, but as processed and preserved foods go, it’s not that bad. In fact, it’s delicious, as my recipe for kimbap will prove.

And although I couldn’t eat the headcheese, by golly, I respect the headcheese and all it represents. It’s not its fault that it isn’t as palatable to me as Spam, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to diss it on the internet.

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