Introduction: Truly Danish Christmas Food
The holiday season is near, and food is one of the central things in any culture. Here in Denmark pork have been the meat people ate for Christmas, or "Jul" as we call it, for centuries. The whole animal was used and traditionally the head was boiled for hours and the meat was then easy to pick off and then pressed in a tin with salt, pepper and raw onion. Onion seems to act as a natural preservative, so apart from giving the taste to the meat, it will keep longer. The name of this cold cut is "Sylte". Sylte is similar to "head cheese" which some of you might know, but is of cause completely different too!
Step 1: Buy Pork With Bones And/or Skin
Go and buy some pork (few people use heads anymore!). It doesn't have to be high quality meat, but you need to be sure there are bones and skin to help produce natural gelatin. A proper "sylte" should NOT have a lot of clear gelatin, but gelatin is needed to keep the chunks of meat together. In my shop, I can get bones with little meat on them, but any peace of meat with skin and bones will do.
Step 2: Prepare Meat and Vegetables
Cut the meat up in large chunks. Also cut some vegetables - you can use what ever vegetables you like, but I prefer basic roots, herbs and spices as seen in the photo. My mother boils the meat without any seasoning what so ever! IMPORTANT: do not add salt at this point. We will reduce the broth quite drastically, so if you add salt to taste before reducing, then the final result will be way too salty.
Step 3: Time to Boil
Put the meat, bones and vegetables in a sauce pan with enough water to cover it. I use about 1.5 litres (6.3 cups) of water to the shown amount of meat/vegetables. Remember: no salt yet!
Boil the meat and vegetables for 2 - 3 hours at low heat. Then pick up the chunks of meat and put it in the fridge. it will be a while before the broth is reduced. Do not leave any vegetables, herbs or anything else with the meat.
Step 5: Reduce, Reduce, Reduce!
Now we need to remove what is left in the broth. Use a sieve to do this. The clear soup/broth is now reduced by boiling without a lid for ... quite a while. The volume has to be at least 7 times smaller. My 1500 ml was reduced to about 200 ml. The pictures for this step show the process.
Step 6: Putting the Sylte Together
When the broth is reduced to a potent package of taste, it is time to put the sylte together. Take the meat out of the fridge end pick out the meat and discard bones, skin and (most of) the fat. The meat is weighed and placed in a mixing bowl. The amount of raw onion we need is .15 of the meat by weight, so 500 grams of meat needs 75 grams of onion. Chop the onion very finely on a very clean chopping board. Mix the onion with the meat. Now add the broth and salt to taste. If the broth has started to solidify, just give it a minute in the micro to melt it again.
Step 7: A Tasty Package
When meat, raw onion, broth and salt is mixed, you press the mix in an ordinary baking tin. I line it with baking paper in order to ease getting the sylte out again in one piece and so I can fold the paper in over the sylte while it sets in the fridge. You can use a disposable aluminium tin, but then you should remember to cover the sylte with the silvery cardboard lid that often comes with them.
Step 8: ENJOY!
The sylte should set for between three to five days in the fridge. After that you can pop it out and slice it in thick slices and eat is on a traditional Danish open top sandwich of rye bread and with mustard and pickled beetroot. No butter is needed as the sylte is fatty enough in itself. Sylte should be accompanied by Rød Aalborg schnaps and a good beer.
Cheers and enjoy!