Kassler is a German term for smoked and salted cut of pork. It is also known as Kasseler Kotelett or Kasseler Rippchen (smoked pork loin). The whole process of smoking and ripening the meat in brine is known as Kasseler. Generally loins, and pork necks are used for creating kassler, but sometimes shoulders, ribs and bellies are also used. All meat cuts, which have undergone the process of “kasseler” are termed as kasseler, such as Kasselerbauch which means pork side and kasselermacken is name for shoulder of a pork.
Kasseler Rippchen resembles ham, except that it is bit smoky, drier and less salty than ham.
This dish has migrated to United States and other parts of the world along with immigrant Germans. Many German – Americans, serve cured pork and sauerkraut during the New Year dinners. The pork used in many of these holiday dinners are preferably not Kassler, but they definitely strengthen the idea of presenting the pork with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes.
Sometimes chicken is also used for creating this cured meat variant. Finnish people use this term for un-seasoned, fresh and unsmoked pork meat derived from the neck. The pork meat can be kept plain, cubed, sliced, marinated, braised in casseroles and stews and sometimes grilled too.
In Germany many cooks use various kinds of spices and herbs to improve the taste of cured meat. Coriander, sage, thyme, juniper berries – are some of the ingredients that are added to the cured meat during preparation. Culinary experts recommend removing the fats to make this dish healthy. Kassler has a long preparation time and it is treated as a delicacy in the regions, where it originated.
History of Kassler
The origins of this smoked meat variant is not well documented but it is widely assumed that the name might have came from a butcher known by the name Cassel and he was based in Berlin. Cassel prepared this preserved meat in late 19th century. Cassel began by smoking a large piece of pork loin and he ripened it in salt brine for a long time. After some days he observed that the meat was free from moisture and it prevented the bacteria from infecting the meat. Cassel found that this meat preservation technique also imparted a very unique taste to the meat. This meat preparation method was soon adopted by many Berliners and it became a national favorite in Germany.
Some culinary historians have suggested that the meat preservation stuck by this term after a German town Kassel.
Kassler Recipe Variants
- Rippchen mit Kraut – This is popular dish known as Kasseler Rippchen with sauerkraut. The rippchen is cooked in juice squeezed out of sauerkraut. The rippchen is served on the bed of sauerkraut and teamed with mashed potatoes, which are cooked in milk and butter.
- Roasted Rippchen – The rippchen is smeared with brown sugar and cloves are inserted at every inch of the meat and roasted for about 20 -25 minutes. The roasted rippchen is served with gravy prepared by cooking the butter with flour and served with mashed potatoes which are cooked in milk. Sometimes potato dumplings are served with this dish instead of the mashed potatoes. The potato dumplings are prepared by combining the mashed potatoes with egg, flour, salt, black pepper, grated onion and croutons. The dumplings are cooked in salted water.
- Smoked Pork Rippchen with Pineapple Habbanero Sauerkraut – This dish is usually served during the Octoberfest. The pork rippchen is cooked with sauerkraut juice and served on the bed of sauerkraut which is flavored with habanero pepper and pineapple.
- Kasseler mit Apfel-Rosenkohl – This is the name for typical rippchen dish served with apples and Brussels sprouts. The dish is prepared by cooking the apple wedges and brussel sprouts with the rippchen. The dish is flavored by the addition of ready made schinitzel mix which is poured over the rippchen and brussel sprouts before cooking. The kasseler is best to be served with chopped parsley or fresh potato noodles.
- Red Cabbage and Kasseler Rib Potjie – This dish is usually served during the potluck parties. The Potjie is a vessel used for preparing this dish. Meat chops are browned and cooked in the same potjie. Onion rings and cabbages are laid on the bottom of the potjie and meat is placed over it and topped with apple rings. The meat is simmered for about 2 hours before serving with vetkoek.
Kasseler Rippchen is either added to stews and soups or it is grilled, baked, steamed or pan fried, depending upon the occasion when it is served. Usually it is teamed with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. Some other popular accompaniments include kale and red cabbage too. Extra care should be taken while seasoning because the cured meat contains some salt.
The meat which has undergone kasseler process is always ready-to-eat, because it is already smoked and ripened in salty brine, so it requires very less cooking time in comparison to the regular meat cuts.
Kasseler Rippchen dishes are always served with cold beer.
In Germany the kasseler is usually treated as a holiday or feast dish.