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I am a great fan of some cold meats typical to Germany, Italy, and Romania. Surprisingly, I was unable to find a definition of how they are made which is sufficiently accurate to determine any significant difference. They are clearly different visually:

  • Fleischkäse is usually shaped in a cake form and often has a dark crust.
  • Mortadella is very large in diameter and has white (presumably fatty?) inclusions.
  • Parizer seems to be the most heterogeneous of the three, but is usually a bit smaller in diameter than Mortadella and has willful inclusions (olives, pistachios, mushrooms, etc.).

But to me it seems the pinkish substance which makes up most of these cold meats is exactly the same. Could you explain in how far these are regional variations of essentially the same product, or whether there's a more fundamental difference?

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Your instinct is correct, all your favourites fall into one category of saussage: Brühwurst.

This means that they follow the same principle when made, which is

  • Mincing the raw meat and fat with ice or ice water, salt, often curing salt and various spices until a smooth paste forms. This is what you refer to as "pinkish mass".
  • Shaping the saussages (or loaf in case of Fleischkäse) and sometimes smoking them.
  • Heating the saussage until the core reaches around 68 C / 154 F, either by scalding in hot water, baking (for Fleischkäse) or roasting. Sometimes this step is left for the customer, e.g. in the case of Fleischkäse that can be baked in the home oven, raw Bratwurst for grilling or Weisswurst.

The differences are in the spices and additional ingredients (pistachios, mushrooms, cubed fat for Mortadella...) details in preparation (coarser chopping or smoother mass, smoking or no smoking, shape) and the percentages of meat / fat / water (typically around 50%/25%/25%).

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