German Sausage Guide: An Introduction

Fleischwurst
Fleischwurst

Think of Germany, and many a stereotypical image – probably of beer, Lederhosen and Schnitzel – springs to mind.  But there’s another image that probably gets there before the rest, and that’s of a lovingly grilled, mustard-slathered sausage.  And not without good reason: the Germans each consume an average of 60kg of sausages per year, some 18kg more than the rest of the us (source).  Boiled for breakfast, curried for lunch, sliced for supper, there’s almost nothing they won’t do with a Wurst.

There’s estimated to be over 1500 different types of sausages in Germany which is, of course, far beyond the number I will probably ever quite get round to listing here, but from now on, I’ll be introducing a sausage to you every now and then, and hope to slowly build up a comprehensive series.  I’ll share many of the classics as well as some traditional ones that you may well never have heard of.  I hope it will help you to decipher the odd menu and provide some assistance when you’re overwhelmed by choice at the butcher’s counter.

To start the series off, here’s a brief explanation of how German sausages are categorised, since they fall broadly into three main groups based on how they’re produced.  If you’re vegan, you may wish to leave off here.

A plate of three different kinds of pre-cooked German sausages

A trio of Kochwürste

Kochwürste

Literally translated as “cooked sausages”, Kochwürste are those that contain meat or offal that is cooked, cured or smoked during their preparation; some also contain cereals such as oats or barley.

This type of German sausage can be further categorised by which additional ingredient is used to hold the meat together in its casing (or jar or tin): pâté-like liver sausages made with fat, which makes them good for spreading on bread; those that contain gelatin, such as corned meats or aspic terrines; and those that are held together with coagulated blood. Bar the blood sausages (Blutwürste), Kochwürste don’t take well to reheating because all these binding substances melt when they’re warmed up.

The most important thing to remember when buying and serving this type of sausage is that because of the nature of the ingredients, they don’t stay fresh for long, so you should eat them up within a couple of days of purchase.

Butcher's window display of Salami

A rather impressive Salami-based window display

Rohwürste

Rohwürste (raw sausages) are sausages that consist of raw meat – usually pork or beef – plus bacon, curing agents and spices and are smoked and/or fermented to preserve and flavour them.

Rohwürste are available either as soft, spreadable sausages to be served with bread, such as Teewurst and Mettwurst (the latter of which is also, slightly confusingly, used as a synonym for Rohwurst); or as firm sausages such as Salami, that are easy to slice.

Lamb sausage on a plate

Lamb Bratwürste

Brühwürste

The word Brühwürste comes from the German word brühen, meaning to scald or blanch, though they are in fact produced using any method that involves heat.  Brühwürste have a very firm consistency (think of a Wiener) and are compact enough to slice, making them ideal for serving as Aufschnitt (cold cuts) at, in the German tradition, breakfast or dinner.

Chunks of certain types of Brühwürste can also be added to soups, stews and potato or pasta salads; and strips of them used to create a rich, meaty salad of their very own.  Brühwürste can also be served whole, warmed through in water, and some of them taste best fried or grilled.

So, before we begin, are there any requests?  Let me know in the comments below if there’s a particular type of German sausage you’d like to know more about or learn what to do with…

p.s. There’s a monthly newsletter to compliment A Sausage Has Two, which features bits and pieces from this site as well as other relevant articles of interest from elsewhere.  If you’d like to sign up, have a look for the sign-up box in the sidebar towards the top right of this page and fill in your details.

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