What is Salceson?

Susan Grindstaff

Salceson is a type of deli meat made from meat byproducts, including livers, ears, tongue, and stomach. There seems to be no set rule about exactly what byproducts go into salceson, but it is usually created from parts of the animal that would otherwise be thrown away. It is most often made from pig byproducts, but sometimes veal, lamb, and beef are used. Salceson is a type of food that is also referred to as headcheese, and is believed to have originated in Poland.

Sage is sometimes used as a spice for salceson.
Sage is sometimes used as a spice for salceson.

Generally speaking, salceson is a type of hard sausage, in some ways similar to smoked versions such as pepperoni, salami, and kielbasa. It consists of cooked meats that are combined as a sort of mush, and then inserted into a meat casing. The casing is often made from the stomach lining of the animal. Recipes for making salceson often vary greatly, and in some families, the recipes and techniques for making it are handed down from generation to generation. Various incarnations of headcheese are historically a common part of most cultures.

During various points in history, it is believed that animal glands and other byproducts were commonly eaten, and in fact were often considered delicacies. As time passed, however, and more food choices became available, fewer and fewer cultures were willing to eat byproducts. For this reason, salceson and other types of headcheese are considered less popular in modern cultures. Historians are not entirely sure when or how headcheese came to be popular, but most believe the sausage was an invention of necessity, because poor families could not afford to throw away any edible part of an animal carcass. Some historians believe that because salceson was not smoked or preserved, it may have been intended for the wealthy, since most poor families smoked or salted down their meats to preserve them.

One way to make salceson is to boil the byproducts in a large pot. Some recipes call for adding spices as the meat boils, while others recommend adding them while grinding. After the meats have boiled long enough to cook through, they are generally tender enough to mash or grind. At this point, most cooks add peppercorn, garlic, or sage. When the meat has been ground well enough to be pliable, it is usually time to insert it into the meat casing.

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