The wurst sausage guide
Brats, wieners, wurst. Whatever you call them, sausages are a German staple, especially at any festival or market. If you’re new in town, you might find yourself staring at the options and thinking, “Why is that sausage white? Sausage isn’t white. And why is that one almost black? Is it expired?” Don’t despair. This is your complete guide to all things wurst in Deutschland.
Blutwurst - This is one a lot of people can’t get past, sausage made with congealed blood. Every region in the world has its version of blood sausage, all made and taste very different. In Germany, it’s most commonly made with pork meat, pork rind, pork blood and different fillers such as fat, barley, oatmeal or cornmeal. It’s smoked and ready to eat, similar to pepperoni. It’s often sliced and served cold with bread and pickles. Like other sausages, each region has its own take. Try Blutwurst at least once!
Bockwurst - This looks similar to the Frankfurter and gets its name from the tradition of eating it with a strong bock beer. It’s a sausage made with mostly veal and a smaller portion of pork, flavored with salt, white pepper and paprika. Before it hits the butcher shops and grocery stores, it’s smoked. When it’s prepared, Bockwurst is simmered or steamed. You want to avoid overcooking it, as the casing will split and the meat will lose its flavor in the water. You should note there is some mad beef (get it?) between Bavaria and Berlin as to which city created the sausage first. But, everywhere it’s served with a roll, mustard or potato salad.
Bratwurst - This is the basic German sausage and one you probably had back in the states. There are dozens of different kinds and can be served with or without skin. They’re mostly made from pork or beef, grilled and served on a roll with mustard. They can also be chopped and turned into Currywurst. If you haven’t had Currywurst, do your tastebuds a flavor and order some. Make sure you get your fries with mayo like the locals.
Frankfurter - The Frankfurter Würstchen is the closest thing to an American hot dog you’ll find here in Germany. It is a thin, long, parboiled sausage made from pure pork and cased in sheep intestine. They also go through low-temperature smoking to acquire their flavor. Frankfurters are usually cooked in hot water for about eight minutes to prevent the sausage from bursting out of the skin. LIke their Nuremberg counterpart, Frankfurters are also protected and can only be produced in the Frankfurt area.
Frischwurst-Aufschnitt - This translates to fresh sausages and cold cuts. It’s a family of sausages that are pickled meat (usually pork, beef or poultry) with bacon and spices. They’re sometimes smoked but always sliced very thinly and served as cold cuts. They come in all sorts of varieties like Schinkenwurst, Jagdwurst, Bierwurst, etc. all flavored slightly differently. You’ll find pre-packaged slices in grocery stores or, whole, in a can.
Gelbwurst - You likely spotted this in a German grocery, bought it because you thought it was sliced turkey but when you opened it realized it was definitely not sliced turkey. Or maybe that was just me. I’m talking about Gelbwurst, which translates to yellow sausage. The name comes from the sausage’s yellow casing made up of cardamom (used in Chai tea), nutmeg, ginger, lemon powder, pepper and salt, though sometimes the removable casing is artificial. Gelbwurst will have a spicy, slightly sweet taste and is primarily in sandwiches. Centuries ago, Gelbwurst was made with brains.
Knackwurst - This is a short, stubby and plump sausage that originated in Northern Germany in the mid-16th century. It’s often a parboiled link made from ground beef or a beef-pork combo and flavored with lots of garlic. There are all sorts of different varieties depending on the region. In Austria, knackwurst is called a Salzburger and contains bacon and potato starch. In Hamburg, it’s scalded, served with mustard and a slice of white bread.
Landjäger or Landjaeger - Hailing from the south and Alsace region, this sausage is sort of like a Slim Jim but less disgusting. It’s made from beef and pork, semi-dried so it’s ready to eat and doesn’t have to be refrigerated. This was also considered ‘soldier food’ for German servicemembers because it’s easy to transport and doesn’t spoil. Now, it’s popular with those hitting Germany’s famous trails.
Leberkäse - The translation, liver cheese, doesn’t exactly sound enticing but this is the food you see Germans walking down the sidewalk eating. It’s technically sausage but looks like a loaf, often called, German meatloaf. It rarely has liver in it, unless you’re in Bavaria. It’s made from ground corned beef, pork, bacon and other spices then baked until it has a crispy brown crust. The taste and consistency are similar to bologna. It’s thickly sliced and put on bread like a cold cut but can be pan-fried and served as a meal. Leberkäse is sometimes mixed with cheese, other meats and vegetables before being baked. There’s even a Pizzaleberkäse which has cheese, bell peppers, pickles and salami.
Leberwurst - If you were ever eating a sausage and thought, “Man, I really wish I could spread this on bread like butter,” this is the sausage for you. With the translation “liver sausage,” this link contains, you guessed it, liver, which gives it that spreadable consistency. It was first mentioned in the 11th century and is typically 10 to 30 percent pig liver. Any percentage higher would cause the sausage to be bitter. Leberwurst comes in all sorts of varieties from mild to strong and spicy. It can be sliced but most locals spread it on bread and eat it with pickles. You can even get some for your dog that comes out of a tube.
Nürnberger Rostbratwurst - AKA the Nuremberg original brat, AKA the Queen of German Bratwurst, AKA “Drei im Weggla.” States in Germany are very protective of their sausages and will go through great lengths to make sure their tradition is preserved and nobody spoils their name. Nuremberg is no different, fiercely protecting a more than 700-year-old sausage. The original Nuremberg brat is one of a few sausages in Germany with a “Protected Geographical Indication” from the European Union because Nuremberg, like the rest of Bavaria, is super extra when it comes to tradition.
To be called a Nürnberger Rostbratwurst, the sausage must be made with coarsely ground pork, spiced with marjoram and be 35 percent fat. The sausages have to be nine centimeters and weigh no more than 25 grams. When you order these sausages at a market or fest, you order them, “drei im Weggla,” or three to a bun. As a dinner dish, you’re served six to 12 sausages with sauerkraut, potato salad and horseradish mustard.
Teewurst - Teewurst translates to tea sausage and is served as a snack at tea time. It’s two parts raw pork and one part bacon, seasoned and packed into casings then smoked. It then matures seven to ten days. It can be thinly sliced and served on bread or, because of its 35 to 40 percent fat content, can even be spread. The sausage originated in Pomerania, (the same area the Pomeranians are named after) an area near the Baltic Sea that is now Germany and Poland.
Thüringer Rostbratwurst - Another sausage with protected status from the EU, meaning 51 percent of the ingredients must come from the state of Thuringia. Luxembourg used to call their sausages Thüringerian but had to change after the EU designation. Serious sausage business. The recipe, which is 600 years old, calls for minced meat (usually pork, beef or veal) seasoned with marjoram, caraway, garlic and stuffed in pig or sheep intestine. The full recipe is something that is handed down from butcher to butcher and is a closely guarded secret. I imagine it’s sort of like Fight Club, with the first rule being you don’t talk about Thüringer Rostbratwurst ingredients. These sausages typically are roasted over charcoal and the outside slightly charred. It’s served in a ridiculously small roll, given the sausage is usually three times as long as the bread.
Weißwürste - It’s always fun when a tourist or a newcomer sees this sausage for the first time. The look of confusion and often disgust is quite amusing. Why? Because Weißwürste translates to white sausage. The sausage is literally white. This pale-colored link is made from veal and pork, shoved into pork skin and has a milder flavor. It’s often boiled, served with pretzels and sweet mustard. This is a Bavarian favorite and is a beer fest staple, especially Oktoberfest. But why is it white? All meat turns greyish-white or brown when cooked. What gives raw meat a pink color is not blood but myoglobin. Sausages are often varying shades of pink and brown because they are cured with sodium nitrite, which turns the meat red, pink or brown. Weißwürste is cured with simple table salt. When it’s cooked, the sausage turns white like most meat. Don’t be turned off by the color and give it a try.
Wollwurst - Wollwurst is similar yet different from “Weißwürste.” Wollwurst (we’ll get to the name in a minute) is longer and thinner than white sausage and is made from veal and pork. It differs in taste to white sausage because there is no parsley and has less pork rind. There’s no casing and it’s dipped in milk, then sauteed which gives them their wooly surface. 16 years of journalism and this is the first time I’ve ever used the word ‘wooly’ to describe food. These are served with warm potato salad and in some regions used in currywurst.
Whether you're feasting on an original Nuremberg brat or trying blutwurst for the first time, German sausages are the best in the world. (Don’t tell my Italian family I said that.) They’re held to an extremely high standard and recipes have taken centuries to perfect. Before you leave Deutschland, try to sample them all and let us know which one is your favorite! Guten Appetit!
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