I was going to title this post New Year’s First Liverwurst, because it rhymed nicely, and because I generally use the term liverwurst when telling non-Danes about leverpostej, but in fact, leverpostej isn’t technically a liverwurst, but rather a liver paté. It’s pronounced LEE-wuh-poh-stigh, and you can hear it pronounced here. In a recent poll home in Denmark, it was affirmed that leverpostej is still the hands-down all-time favorite sandwich topper, and I’m with the rest of the Danes. I love this stuff spread on a piece of good Danish-style rugbrød (rye bread) over a thin scraping of fedt (pork and duck lard rendered with a bit of thyme, onion, and apple) topped with a few slices of my own pickled beets. Mmm!
With this batch of ‘postej, I used an approach that I often use when I want to recreate a perfect version of an old favorite food: I create a matrix of several different recipes, standardize the amounts of the ingredients, and then I apply a bit of thought, picking and choosing different elements and techniques from each recipe, and adding any tweaks that make sense. This time I used a recipe from my favorite Danish butcher, Tommy Lund, from the small Danish country town of Vig, which is near my auntie’s house in Bråde, then two recipes from my grandmother’s old cookbook: Carla Meyer’s Nutidsmad og Husførelse (1936), and finally a recipe I found at Lone Landman’s excellent Beretninger fra et autentisk landbrug blog. The main ingredient is pork liver, and the liver I was working with was just over 3.5 lb (1.6 k) from a recent Tamworth slaughter, so I adjusted the amounts in my matrix and decided that I’d follow Meyer’s no. 2 in terms of ingredients and Lone Landmand’s fatback-béchamel technique. The only ingredient tweak was to add a few bay leaves to the béchamel as it cooked.
Typically a home recipe for leverpostej would use 500 g of liver so this is a large portion which makes approximately 10 small foil loaf-pans of 475 g each. I baked four of them and bagged the remaining in 475 g portions and froze them. Thus I can defrost a bag, pour it into a greased foil loaf pan, and have a fresh warm leverpostej whenever I like.
- 1.9 lb / 900 g pork fatback
- 3.5 lb / 1.6 k pork liver
- 15 anchovies, rinsed briefly & blotted dry
- 3 large onions or equivalent
- 3 tbls kosher or coarse sea salt
- 3 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 6 tbls dried breadcrumbs
- 3 tsp allspice
- 3 bay leaves
- 5.2 oz / 150 g unsalted butter
- 6.3 oz / 180 g all-purpose flour
- 50 fl oz / 1.5 l whole raw milk
- 5 eggs
First I prepped the fatback, trimming off the skin (which I put back into the freezer for a future dish of pork rinds) and cutting it into circa 2-inch by 1-inch chunks, and then into the freezer it went to chill before grinding:
I prepped the liver, trimming away any tough white bits and chopping into 2-inch by 1-inch chunks:
I prepped the onions, simply chopping them so they would fit into the meat grinder shute:
Then I ran the liver and the anchovies through my KitchenAid meat grinder with the small-holed plate:
And then the onions:
I mixed the onion into the liver and added the salt, pepper, allspice, and breadcrumbs, stirring to combine.
Then I proceeded to run this liver mixture through the meat grinder another 6 times.
At this point I disassembled the meat grinder attachment and cleaned it, and then reattached it to the KitchenAid. Out of the freezer came the fatback, and it got processed, again through the small-holed plate. My fatback had gotten quite firmly frozen, and it took some work to push it through, but I like the texture I get when I process it very cold:
Now is a good time to preheat your oven to 390F/200C.
I heated the butter in a large enamel cast-iron pot over medium heat until the butter was sizzling and added the flour, stirring until the flour was just moistened and then cooked for a minute or two more. I added the milk and bay leaves, and whisked and whisked and whisked until I had a good smooth béchamel. Then I added the ground fatback, and stirred until the fatback was pretty much melted, maybe 4 or 5 minutes. At this point the béchamel looks a bit dubious and broken, but don’t worry –it’s just as it should be. Off the heat, let it cool for 15 minutes or so.
At this point I whisked the eggs and added them to the liver mix, stirring well, and then I added the béchamel-fatback mixture into the liver mixture a cup at a time, stirring until well combined between each addition:
I happened to have some luxurious guanciale drippings, and I used this to grease 4 small foil loaf pans, and then I filled them to within a quarter-inch of the rim. Into a roasting pan, and then carefully add boiling water from your kettle so that the water goes almost half-way up the sides of the foil loaf pans.
Bake the leverpostej’s for about an hour, maybe a few minutes more. A good leverpostej has a nice gently wrinkled and well-browned surface. Take the pans out of the waterbath and let them sit until cool –I cooled these overnight. Though I did have a little taste, as you can seen in the bottom left pan 🙂
While the four pans were cooking, I portioned out the leftover leverpostej mix into ziplock bags in 16.7 oz / 475 g portions, which is what I determined fit into my mini-loaf pans. You might want to double-check if you’re using a differently sized foil pan. You could also, of course, bake these in pretty little ceramic ramekins for a pretty presentation at a party.
So, now to enjoy the leverpostej! Here are some classic variations of smørbrød, or open-faced sandwiches, which use leverpostej. Note that leverpostej is most often eaten on thin slices of Danish-style rugbrød, or ryebread. Here in the states you can sometimes find it, though it is often described as German-style rye bread. Essentially it’s a very dense and nicely tender with varying amounts of whole grains. Another option is a good home-made bread: white artisan bread, etc. My own home-made bread uses Vermont-grown wheatberries & oat groats (ground), millet, King Arthur bread flour, Bob’s Red Mill 10-grain blend, and various seedy/grainy toppings. Leverpostej tastes great with my bread 🙂 An open-faced sandwich is called a `mad’ in Danish, pronounced with a soft Danish `d’ at the end, something between an `l’ and a `th’.
- Dyrlægen’s nattemad (the veterinarian’s midnight snack): A slice of rugbrød or other bread with a thin scraping of good rendered fat, a generous layer of leverpostej, a slice of good ham, a bit of meat-aspic, sliced onions, and a few pickles.
- Everyday leverpostej mad: A slice of rugbrød or other bread with a thin scraping of good rendered fat, a generous layer of leverpostej, and a slice or two of pickled beet.
- To serve this as part of a smørbrød buffet, warm and unmold your leverpostej and top it with slices of fried bacon and / or mushrooms.
- Another thing that goes nicely on an everyday leverpostej mad is a tablespoon or so of deep-fried onions or shallots.