Bratwurst: More than just sausage

Bratwurst: More than just sausage

by Darren Svan
Stripes Europe

One likely won’t find Germans in fisticuffs over which region produces the best sausage; however, bratwurst supremacy is serious business in this country of meat lovers. Germans have been making this ubiquitous food for literally centuries. In fact, bratwurst was reportedly invented nearly two centuries before Christopher Columbus “sailed the ocean blue” in 1492 and discovered the Americas.

A connoisseur of fine cuisine might dismiss the prolific brat as provincial or perhaps too simple for haute palates. OK, take a deep breath and consider the facts in this case. Why would someone dismiss such a universal food: perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner; brats are even a snack, although they’re certainly not a very low-calorie choice. For those who enjoy indulging in German beer — like dark ale, Pilsner or hefeweizen — brats are great accoutrements. With brats, unlike wine, finding the right bouquet to compliment a specific meal is absolutely unnecessary. Just grab any variety of beer and serve it with your bratwurst!

Cooking wurst with beer

In addition to consuming beer with sausage, fresh sausage also can be parboiled in beer and then fried or grilled until brown. Sausages absorb the flavor of the beer; stronger beers impart stronger flavors. Using a beer that is well-matched to a sausage promotes optimum flavor. To parboil, place sausage links in a heavy skillet. Add beer to cover sausage and par boil until sausage is grey throughout (about 10 to 15 minutes). Onions also may be added for additional flavor. The sausage then can be fried until nicely browned. Parboiled sausage also may be grilled slowly over coals, turning frequently until grey-brown throughout. 

Variety is the spice of wurst

There are reportedly hundreds of wurst varieties throughout the country. Most regions claim a variety that differs in size, seasonings, type of meat, cooking method or texture. One important distinction about bratwurst is that it is made from minced pork, while wurst in general can be made from pork, veal, beef or even horse meat. A discussion about German wurst is complex. A few examples include: Plockwurst, Landjäger, Zervelatwurst, Leberwurst, Sülzewurst, Blutwurst, Wiener Würstchen, Gelbwurst and so on. 

Among Germans, and even some Americans, brand loyalty — for lack of a better term — for regional varieties of bratwurst is legendary. Depending on whom you ask, the “best” brats can only be found in, say, the Swabian region or the city of Nuremberg. Even in the Kaiserslautern area, some grilling aficionados claim the only truly edible brats in the area are found at the Metzger (butcher) in Queidersbach. Most regions in Germany have their own version of the bratwurst, with names that usually coincide with a city or town in that region. The following examples are a few of the more well-known bratwurst from the German Food Guide:

Coburger bratwurst: Made from pork and beef, its seasonings include only salt, pepper, nutmeg and lemon zest.

Fränkische bratwurst: This sausage is relatively long, between 4 to 8 inches, thick and coarse.

Nürnberger rostbratwurst: It’s small and thin, no longer than 3 to 4 inches, and one of the most popular.

Rote wurst: A spicy sausage made from finely ground pork and bacon.

Thüringer rostbratwurst: A thin, spicy sausage that is 6 to 8 inches long.

Not the healthiest of foods, bratwurst is high in fat content, along with a smattering of protein and carbohydrates. Ingredients are strictly regional. Common ingredients include salt, pepper, coriander, paprika, nutmeg, cumin, ginger, cardamom and, of course, pork. A few uncommon bratwurst varieties include “paprika,” “cheese” and, a new addition to the family, “spargel bratwurst,” or asparagus sausage.

Rheinland-Pfalz does not seem to claim an overall regional favorite. Instead, bratwurst lovers are partial to their local town butchers who make a variety called hausmacher bratwurst, which means homemade. Another Rheinland-Pfalz favorite is currywurst, a somewhat recent invention that involves ketchup, curry powder and usually a spicy bratwurst that is sliced into pieces. Currywurst is served with fries or bread on a paper plate with a small plastic fork.

Although you might encounter a wide variety of German sausages at festivals, there are two very common ones: the thin, white Thüringer bratwurst (pork) and the thick, red Rindwurst (beef). Bratwurst meat is either fein or groß; fein means the meat’s texture is ground very fine, while the groß has a rough texture like American sausage; mittelgroß is somewhere in the middle.

Guten appetit!

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