I randomly mentioned in my previous posts my love for cold cuts from central Europe. We grew up with this food and cold cuts in a sandwich for school lunch break was common in our childhoods. So when we, my husband and myself, visited my family in Austria during July and August, I was asked to write a post about cold cuts from central Europe.
Note: As a culinary meat lover I suggest you save or bookmark this post if you are currently visiting central Europe or if you are planning to do so. I am going to explain the different meat and sausage cuts and teach you how to buy fresh meat cuts from local grocery shops.
The one to suggest that I should share my knowledge around cold cuts was nonother then my Goan born food picky husband. Of course, I was surprised to hear this from his side but then I realized why he got the idea. You see, he loves his cold meat cuts, – such as salami to name one – especially sandwiched in a Semmel bread bun with sweet and sour cucumber pickles. Besides a growing attraction towards towering sliced midnight meat sandwiches, he found himself also asking about the different types and names of cold sliced meat varieties in central Europe.
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There are countless different cold meats and sausages displayed in grocery shops everywhere in Europe. The choice is overwhelming between German, Austria, and Italian lunch meats!
Each country and even region will have their traditional meats and sausages. Austrian and Bavarian shops (German) have a similar choice of cold sliced meat cuts and frequently the same meats are known with different names across the borders. The best example would be a popular thick smooth, juicy and lightly spiced meat cut, which is better known in some parts of Austria and Germany as Fleischkäse (literal translation: meat cheese) or also as Leberkäse (Literal translation: liver cheese), but both are the same things, the same meat variation.
I will get to the most common cold meat cut varieties from central Europe in this post and I will share my all-time favorite ones with you, but first I want you to take in these pictures, which I took with a mobile in a local shop in Austria.
Isn’t that a beautiful sight for meat enthusiasts? It always reminds me of an Asterix Comic episode where Obelix finishes the whole curing meat and sausage in cellar in seconds. Unfortunately, I can’t recount which Asterix episode it was, but as a child, I wished I could have experienced such a meat and sausage paradise.
Meat and sausage rolls are cut into very thin slices with a special meat cutter and can be consumed instantly, hence cold cuts. Back in the 80s, most of the households had their own meat cutters and my mother has one too, however she hasn’t used it in 20 years. Back then I think so it was more common to buy the meat rolls – maybe because they were cheaper – and to cut thin slices at home. I remember growing up hearing at times stories that some kids accidentally cut their fingers with the meat cutter, so I think so this was another reason why those meat cutters came out of fashion.
Anyway, nowadays it’s easier to go to any grocery store, look out for the meat section, which is usually quite prominently displayed, pick your order and let the friendly lady or sir do the slicing job. Easy, one might think, right? It is if you know the local language, if not, then it might be a bit challenging to get what you want. I remember seeing foreigners struggling and feeling overwhelmed by all the quality meat goodies and I did help a few foreigners to get what they wanted.
So, how exactly does one order and buy the cold cuts in central Europe?
In the meat display, you will see the different cold meat cuts and you will also notice name and price tags somewhere on the borders or somewhere near the meat rolls. If you don’t know the most common meat cuts you will have trouble finding out what is what and with the huge choice, you will feel overwhelmed, so at that point you might want to inquire about what is what in the display. I always do that because, for example, you will see 5 different ham variations, sitting right next to each other and the name and price tags somewhere floating around the ham squares and at that point it makes sense to ask the professional behind the meat counter (or to at least point towards a meat roll or square).
Normally the prices are per 100 grams/10 dekagrams of cut meat slices and sometimes they mention also per kilo just as a reference. The price heavily depends on the meat quality, so some will be around 1€ per 100 grams and others will cost more, but they taste better as well. To compare: In Goa, India, lower quality meat slices cost around 1,50€ per hundred grams, which is quite expensive if you consider the huge quality difference.
In Austria, it’s common to calculate weight with dekagrams instead of grams. So, while you might be ordering a 100 grams of a particular cold meat, the lady cutting your meat into thin slices might answer by saying 10 dekagrams.
Usually, 100 grams of a sausage might be more than enough, which will last a few days before it gets bad. It doesn’t really make sense to buy 200 grams except if you are planning a party or picnic. Sometimes, the meat sections of grocery stores also sell a few slices of different cold meats together so that people get to try around.
When ordering the meat slices you get to choose too if you want them packed to take home or if you want the lady at the counter to make a bread sandwich with the cold cuts. You get to pick the sausage you want in your sandwich and you can add a cucumber pickle or mustard, or sweet green chilies or even ketchup, the choice is up to you.
Once you finish your order, the lady or sir at the counter will wrap it all up and stick a label on it with the weight, price and content description. You are only left to pay it at the cash counter with all the other grocery items and that’s it.
What are the most common cold cuts from central Europe?
First of all, I want to roughly explain the different ways of cold meat preparations, each with a sausage example. I am not an expert in the cold cuts sausage preparation, I am just sharing what we learned back in college. There are 3 main different cold meat/sausage preparations, which include:
- Raw Cold cuts/sausages such as Salamis
- Cooked Cold cuts/sausages such as Liver sausage
- Brewed Cold cuts/sausages such as Extrawurst and Mortadella
Cold cuts/sausages are made with either or mixed with meats such as pork, beef, wild game, veal, mutton, horse and poultry/turkey. Each of the 3 different cold meat preparations is first reduced to a fine consistency and then salts, herbs, and spices are added.
The most common Cold cuts are usually raw or brewed, whereas the raw cold cuts can be stored longer. Pink-shaded brewed cold cuts can be kept for a few days only before they start to get bad.
The most common pink-shaded cold cuts are the popular Extrawurst, Paprikawurst (or Pikantewurst) and Champignonwurst as seen in the picture above. All three can be found all over Austria and Bavaria. Especially the Extrawurst, the regular fine cold cut sausage, is an all-time favorite in Austria. Incidentally, a well known Austrian criminal serial with a German Shepard as star detective, sees the German Shepard asking for Extrawurst sandwich treats. Yep, even our pets eat the best of sausages…
Other pink-shaded cold cuts include:
- all the different ham varieties – for example, mountain ham and pressed ham
- sausages based on the Extrawurst (as Paprika and mushroom sausage) – for example, Olive sausage, pickled cucumber sausage, cheese sausage, chili sausage, pistachio sausage etc
- foreign cold meats such as the Italian Mortadella, Lyoner or Bologna Sausage
Then, of course, we have our beloved raw cold cuts such as Salami. Salamis are omnipresent all over Europe and there are countless variations. Some are fattier some are less. Some are more spiced then others and as you can see they can vary in the intensity of red saturation.
Do you have similar cold cuts in your country?
A few German words from this post…
sausage – Wurst
ham – Schinken
Paris mushroom – Champignon
bell pepper/capsicum – Paprika
Garlic – Knoblauch