All About German Mett

All About German Metthandmadepictures /123RF

German mett, a preparation of raw minced pork, is anything but your regular meat.

Mett, a delicacy of finely minced raw pork seasoned with salt, black pepper, and sometimes minced garlic or garlic powder, is a popular dish in Germany, Poland, and Belgium. Very rarely, mett can also be made out of minced beef.

If “mett” sounds a lot like “meat” to you, you are not too far off. The Old Low German word “Mett,” Deutsche Welle reports, was originally an all-encompassing term for food. Eventually, it became “meat” in modern English.

A common entrée on the menus of local restaurants, mett is traditionally spread on a bread roll, topped with sliced white onions, and eaten raw. Occasionally, it is also topped with separated uncooked egg yolk.

If a raw onion is added, the mett dish is called “Zwiebelmett” for “onion mett.” When the mett is spread on a halved bun or slice of toaster bread, the resulting sandwich is called “Mettbrötchen,” or “mett bread.”

(You have to appreciate the no-nonsense approach Germans have to naming their foods… and everything else, for that matter.)

Mett is also served at butcher shops and bakeries. Between 1950 and 1970, it wasn’t unusual to see it served at parties in the form of “Mettigel,” the German word for hedgehog.

To make Mettigel, a large serving of minced pork is made into the shape of a hedgehog, then decorated with “spikes” made out of pretzel sticks or raw quartered white onions. A cocktail tomato and two black olives are normally used to give the hedgehog a nose and a pair of eyes.

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There are, of course, more elaborate ways to prepare and serve met. The authentic and traditional way, however, celebrates the plainness of raw minced meat.

In present-day Germany, the mett that’s served in restaurants is legally required to contain no more than 35% fat. In Belgium and Poland, mett’s fat content is unregulated.

You’d think that raw pork would taste weird, but you’d be wrong. I’ve eaten mett at an old beerhouse in Germany’s capital city, Berlin, where it’s locally known as “Hackepeter,” and it tasted fresh, creamy, and outright delicious.

That was years ago, when travel was still something you could do without wearing a mask and carrying hand sanitizer at all times. Did I get sick from eating it? No. Would I do it again? By all means, yes.

In a way, German mett smells and tastes as it looks: it has a soft, creamlike texture, a raw, fatty pork aroma, and a rich, meaty flavor that any true carnivore would recognize. Essentially, steak tartare of raw pork.

When it comes to food safety, the act of eating mett is generally frowned upon.

German mett, or Hackepeter, is not safe to eat, and American and European food authorities advise against it. Still, that doesn’t seem to stop many Germans from serving—and enjoying—mett as a party snack.

The European Food Safety Authority advises against eating German mett. Raw pork can contain Yersinia enterocolitica, pathogenic bacteria known to cause yersiniosis.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that Yersinia enterocolitica causes nearly 117,000 illnesses, 640 hospitalizations, and 35 deaths every year. Children, the CDC says, get infected more than adults do, and the infection is more common in the winter season.

The consensus among Quora foodies is that mett shouldn’t be prepared from supermarket-bought minced pork, and that you should only make mett out of pork sold by butchers and raised by farmers you can trust.

Those who advise against making mett out of supermarket meat claim that, because it is made in high volumes in commercial slaughterhouses, uncooked minced meat from the supermarket is likely to have higher amounts of pathogenic bacteria when raw.

Should you eat mett, then?

At the end of the day, it comes down to your personal choice. There’s a clearly higher risk of getting infected with parasites or coming down with a food-borne illness compared to eating pork cooked to 145°F (62.8°C), the minimum internal temperature deemed safe by the USDA.

Simply said, you will have to weigh the pros and cons of tasting something new and rare, pun intended, and the consequences that it may or may not have to your overall health.

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