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The History and Traditions of Some Famous German Wursts

Germans love their wurst and you can find it everywhere—at the street vendors, at every biergarten and on every restaurant speisekarte (menu). There are also many types of sausages in Germany, with different variations in the meats and seasonings used and traditions in the way they are served and consumed.

German sausages
German sausages
In this article, we look at some of the famous German wursts, their ingredients and history besides the different traditions of serving them.

Getting to Know the German Wurst

Germany is a sausage country and there are numerous recipes for making the sausage which in German is called wurst. Just as pasta is synonymous with Italian cuisine and sushi with Japanese, wurst has a special bond and pride with the Germans.

Wurst comes from Old High German and it means 'something rolled', related to Latin vertere which means 'to turn'. Bratwurst, Bockwurst, Currywurst and Weisswurst are just a few members of the large wurst family but each is different with regards to the meat fillings and seasonings. Some are made from pork, while others contain beef or veal and then there are some that have both pork, beef or veal.

Wurst Categories

Wursts can be broadly grouped into 3 categories: raw, cooked and scalded.

Raw Wurst

Raw wurst as the name implies is made from raw meat and can be made as firm sliceable sausages or soft spreadable sausages. The firm sausages have a firm texture and longer shelf life while the soft spreadable sausages have a short shelf life.

Lungenwurst
Lungenwurst
The firm sausages are made from ground raw meat with salt and other seasonings, as well as fat pieces. The ingredients are stuffed into either an artificial or natural skin (intestines) and pressed into shapes. They are then ripened through a drying period in refrigerated rooms which gives it the desired taste, firmness, aroma, and shelf life.

The soft spreadable sausages are also made from ground raw meat and other seasonings and then stuffed into either an artificial or natural skin (intestines), but ripened for only a short period of time and in a low temperature to keep a specific moisture content and a soft texture.

Raw sausages known as Rohwurst can be also smoked for additional flavor and aroma.

Cooked Wurst

Cooked wurst known as Kochwurst are made of cooked or partially cooked ingredients and may include water and emulsifiers. The mixture is filled into the sausage skins, then cooked again in hot water or steam. Some varieties are also smoked for additional flavor and aroma.

Smoked Blutwurst and smoked Hessian Leberwurst
Smoked Blutwurst and smoked Hessian Leberwurst
The cooked wurst can include different ingredients like meat, chopped liver, tongue and bacon. It has a short shelf life and must be refrigerated.

The most popular cooked sausages are Blutwurst (blood sausage), Leberwurst (liver sausage) and Zungenwurst (tongue sausage).

Scalded Wurst

This category of sausages known as Brühwurst has many different varieties and the ingredients vary from finely ground raw pork, beef, veal, chicken as well as bacon, salt and other seasonings.

Brühwurst - Fleischwurst, Dauerwurst, Weißwurs by Rainer Zenzt
Brühwurst - Fleischwurst, Dauerwurst, Weißwurs by Rainer Zenzt
After the ingredients are filled into its casings, the sausages are scalded or boiled at a high temperature causing the meat mixture to solidify and develop a well-known, crispy texture and flavor.

Importance of Wurst in German Cuisine

Germans have a long tradition of making wursts as a way to minimize waste after butchering by utilizing the different organs of an animal called offal seasoned with different herbs and spices and packaged into a delicious food delicacy that is consumed anytime during the day and is an important part of the German cuisine.

A special evening meal with wurst and cheese by Manfred&Barbara Aulbach
A special evening meal with wurst and cheese by Manfred&Barbara Aulbach
Wurst, particularly cold cuts (Aufschnitt), is often eaten for breakfast, accompanied with other German favorites, such as toast, hard-boiled eggs, bread or rolls, butter and marmalade.

At mid-day sausages are generally accompanied with sauerkraut, potato salad, mustard, and/or horseradish. They may also be used to create hearty dishes like soups, casseroles or stews.

The evening meal is often a light meal consisting of wurst served with bread, cheeses, mustard and pickles typically accompanied by a soup or salad.

Some Famous German Wursts

Although there are many different wursts in Germany and specialties across different regions, here are some of the famous wursts.

Bratwurst

Bratwurst is a sausage made from finely chopped pork or beef and seasoned with salt, nutmeg, pepper marjoram, caraway and other regional preferences. There are many different recipes for the Bratwurst in Germany based on the region and even locality. Many of the best bratwursts originate from the Franconian region, which is mostly situated in northern Bavaria and its northern neighbor Thuringia and the adjacent areas.

Fränkische Bratwurst with sauerkraut by Hermann Luyken
Fränkische Bratwurst with sauerkraut by Hermann Luyken
The word bratwurst roughly translates to 'finely chopped sausage' and is derived from the Old High German Brätwurst—from brät meaning finely chopped meat, and wurst, which means sausage.

History of Bratwurst

Though the history of sausages goes back to over 2000 years, as a way to preserve meat, the debate about the oldest bratwurst is highly contested between Franconia and Thuringia.

Nürnberger Bratwurst with sauerkraut by Eviyani Lubis
Nürnberger Bratwurst with sauerkraut by Eviyani Lubis
In the year 1313, the Nuremberg Council is said to have defined the recipe for the production of Roastbratwurst, using only pork loin for production. It is claimed that the Council document can be found in the State Archives of the Franconian city of Nuremberg.

Historians in Thuringia claim the discovery of a 1432 Bratwurst Purity Law document that revel the strict quality guidelines for Thuringian bratwurst makers, requiring the use of only 'fresh pork'.

The bratwurst versions from Nuremberg and Thuringia have been recognized and protected by the European Union as a regional specialty.

Different Types of Bratwurst

The Franconian bratwurst known as Fränkische Bratwurst is a relatively long (10–20 cm), thick and coarse-grained with marjoram as the main spice. White pepper, paprika and mace are also used. There are different variations based on the use of ground veal, beef or pork and also the use of different seasonings which can include salt, marjoram, white pepper, paprika, mace nutmeg, lemon peel, caraway, and garlic.

Nürnberger Bratwurst on bun by Jane Ricloebe
Nürnberger Bratwurst on bun by Jane Ricloebe
Traditional Nuremberg bratwurst comes in two varieties: short and thin and long and thick, but both are thinner than other bratwursts from Franconia. They are made of pork seasoned with fresh marjoram, which gives them their distinctive flavor. They are traditionally grilled over a beech-wood fire. The smaller variety, known as Nürnberger Rostbratwurst is an iconic Bratwurst.

Thüringer Rostbratwurst by Christian Bier
Thüringer Rostbratwurst by Christian Bier
The Thüringer bratwurst from Thuringia is long (15-20 cm), thick, and lean with marjoram as the main spice. It is traditionally made exclusively of ground pork, lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, marjoram, caraway seeds and garlic, and grilled over a charcoal fire.

Serving Bratwurst

Bratwurst is commonly considered as a snack and served with bread or on a bread roll accompanied with mustard or served with potato salad or sauerkraut and a side of horseradish.

Bockwurst and Rote Wurst

Bockwurst is traditionally made from ground veal, beef or pork. It is seasoned with salt, white pepper and paprika with the addition of herbs like chives and parsley. Bockwurst was originally eaten with bock beer, hence the name.

Bockwurst
Bockwurst
The Rote Wurst which is similar to the Bockwurst is a favorite of the Swabian region. It is made from finely ground pork and bacon and has a spicy taste.

History of Bockwurst

The origin of the Bockwurst is not clear as there are two different stories about its origin. The first rather simple story attributes the origin in Bavaria in 1827. The second story, with more detail, states that Bockwurst was created in 1889 in a restaurant owned by Robert Scholtz of Berlin.

The story that places the origin of the Bockwurst in Berlin, states that, in 1889, Scholtz's restaurant served a hot sausage with Bockbier, at a party commemorating the end of the winter semester at Humboldt University, which was baptized by the students as 'Bockwurst'. Scholtz had obtained the sausages from Jewish butcher Benjamin Loewenthal who made them with veal instead of pork to be kosher.

Different Types of Bockwurst

Bockwurst can be made from ground veal or beef or from ground pork, and bacon may also be added to it.

Serving Bockwurst

Bockwurst is usually served with bread or on a bread roll accompanied with mustard. The sausage is usually simmered, fried in a pan or grilled giving it an appetizing darker hue or grill marks. Boiling is generally avoided as the casing may split, causing it to lose flavor to the boiling water besides looking unappetizing.

Currywurst

Currywurst is a popular street food snack consisting of steamed, then fried pork sausage typically cut into slices and flavored with ketchup and curry powder. It is particularly popular in Berlin, from where it originated.

History of Currywurst

Currywurst was invented in the German capital city by Herta Heuwer a resourceful woman in 1949. She is said to have obtained curry powder from British soldiers stationed in Berlin which she mixed with ketchup, added other spices and poured it over grilled pork sausage.

Currywurst
Currywurst
Heuwer started selling it at a street stand in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin, where it became popular with construction workers because it was cheap yet a hearty snack with an exotic flavor.

She patented her sauce, called Chillup, in 1951. Today, a metal plaque honoring her contribution to sausage cuisine marks the spot where her stand once stood.

Different Types of Currywurst

Currywurst is made from cured pork sausage but outside Berlin bratwurst or Bockwurst may also be used.

Serving Currywurst

The dish is generally served as fast food or street food on a paper plate with a tiny disposable fork along with potato fries.

Weisswurst

Weisswurst which in German is Weißwurst literally means white sausage is a traditional Bavarian sausage made from minced veal and pork. It is seasoned with salt, pepper, parsley, ginger, and cardamom although there are some variations.

Weisswurst with pretzels and mustard
Weisswurst with pretzels and mustard
Traditionally weisswurst may only be served until midday because preservatives are not used, the meat is not smoked, and hence the sausage is made fresh every day and is perishable. There is a Bavarian saying that the weisswurst should not be allowed to hear the noon chime of the church bells and hence they are traditionally eaten before noon.

The Weisswurst is a long-standing tradition in Munich and has become popular through local festivals, such as Oktoberfest and Fasching (Mardi Gras). It is also popular with children because of its milder taste.

History of Weisswurst

According to the legend the weisswurst was accidentally created by a butcher Sepp Moser who also worked at a Munich restaurant called Zum Ewigen Licht, in 1857. The restaurant had run out of regular sausages on a busy Fasching Sunday and Moser in order not to upset the customers, proposed a creative solution. He created the sausages from thin casings, the only ones he had, but to prevent the sausages from splitting when frying, he put the sausages in hot water for 10 minutes to cook them. The customers liked the new creation and hence weisswurst was born.

Though historians have questioned the validity of the story, it more accurately highlights how creative improvisations have produced many different types of wursts in Germany.

Different Types of Weisswurst

Weisswurst can be made from ground veal or beef and ground pork combined together or from ground veal. The seasonings also vary, but it is mostly flavored with lemon, onion, parsley, ginger and cardamom.

Serving Weisswurst

Weisswurst is made fresh every day and traditionally eaten before noon. Weisswurst are served on the table in a big bowl with the hot water used for preparation, and then they are eaten without their skins. They are usually served with Weißwurstsenf, a Bavarian sweet mustard and accompanied by Brezen, which is a pretzel.

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