Cuisine, Memories, Stearns

Pickled Parts

We creatures of the earth shouldn’t eat each other’s lips. That’s my firm view.

But some Minnesotans love to Ziffel such treats.

Pigs and turkeys are especially vulnerable to this fate.

As a child I was fascinated by the pickled pig’s trotters, pickled turkey gizzards, pickled eggs, and pickled fish displayed in tall jars in Minnesota bars.

They weren’t just for show, they were for sale, and people bought them, and found them lip-smacking.

When an animal gives its life to feed others, we German Americans believe there is honor in eating every part of it.

To waste nothing as we consume and absorb the noble qualities of its animal spirit (I made this part up; my older relatives thought little about animals’ noble spirits – they were too preoccupied with their own).

A common saying in Minnesota is that you can eat every part of a pig except its squeal. 

I saw this philosophy in practice when my uncles got together to make spicy German sausage, using all of a slain critter’s innards, brains, and even blood to make blood sausage and head cheese. Blood sausage and head cheese.

Hasn’t the time for such things passed?

Today there is little need for brine and pickling to preserve food for long-term storage. We can take vitamins rather than consume blood and brains. And it bothers me that we eat the lips.

Should the lips, at least, not be allowed to rest in peace?

I’ve been wondering, too, whether modern Minnesotans still eat macabre pickled items.

The answer lies before me in the refrigerated foods aisle of Coborns in St Cloud – neatly displayed jars of pickled trotters and turkey gizzards.

The gizzards are often used to enhance the flavors of Thanksgiving stuffing.

But spread a gizzard on a cracker? I leave this pleasure to connoisseurs.

I did more research, asking a staff member at a St Joe gift store whether pickled items of animal flesh are still a thing.

Oh ja, she said.

“People love these old fashioned foods. They are gourmet delicacies.”

Minnesotans do have a taste for all things pickled.  

Deep fried pickles at county and state fairs. Refrigerator pickles. Dill pickles. Popsicles made from frozen pickle juice. Pickled herring.

And still, it seems, pickled porcine and poultry body parts.

Many of us are fascinated by and have sleepless nights over vampires, zombies, werewolves, and supernatural beings.

I invite you to watch the YouTube video below. Perhaps we humans should look in the mirror when questioning the existence of bloodsucking, sharp-toothed monsters. 

I had this conversation with a family member last week when he showed me a photo of the large bass he caught on the Mississippi River in St Cloud, which he admired then released.

“Don’t you think it’s cruel to hook a fish then, having ripped its lips apart, tell it how pretty it is before throwing it back into the river – in pain no doubt, and at risk of getting caught again, maybe multiple times during its life?”

He reflected for a moment.

“It’s better than being filleted, crumbed, and eaten.”

And thus I was silenced.

But still.

Listen not to what they say – observe their facial expressions.

Pickling FAQs

Pickled eggs were widely eaten by Germans as early as the mid-1700s, and were a popular food with German immigrants. Many bars and hospitality outlets still sell pickled eggs to ward off the worst effects of alcohol – and to make patrons thirsty so they will order more drinks.

Many pickled items originated in the southern states of the United States and are also enjoyed in other countries. There is little difference in the pickling process for pig’s trotters, ham, or bacon. Pickled pig’s feet are low carb, high protein, and the tendons and skin contain lots of collagen, said to be beneficial for your joints and skin.

Pickled pig lips, unlike the snouts and ears, are not cooked before they are preserved in brine. Those who enjoy them say pig lips have a delightfully spongy, gristly texture. “The overwhelming taste is of vinegar and salt, with bacon notes.”

Lips are preserved in a pinkish brine to give them an appealing lifelike color – the same reasons for using embalming fluid to ready corpses for public viewing.

Guten appetit!

  1. Here are some recipes for pickled eggs.
  2. Arnold Ziffel was a clean and clever pig who starred in the popular 1960s TV comedy Green Acres. Some of us in Stearns County still refer to the unattractively swift consumption of favorite foods as Ziffeling.

Like Arnold, we like to Ziffel jellybeans.

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