Germany and sausages go together like copy and paste. It may be slightly clichéd, but there’s no getting away from the fact that Germans love their wursts. So much so that you’ll be greeted by a variety of different options as you travel the length and breadth of the country, each of which differs in size, colour and flavour.
So, with a great deal of choice on offer, how are you supposed to know the subtle differences? Well, here’s our guide to the best of the wursts.
The most common type of wurst, bratwursts are typically made using pork but there are also beef and veal versions out there. What else goes into the recipe will differ depending on the region, but seasonings like ginger, nutmeg, coriander and caraway are popular. The word derives from an Old High German term for chopped meat but is often considered to relate to the modern German verb braten (to fry/to roast) – which is how they’re cooked.
In the past, bockwurst would only have been eaten during bock beer season, but they’re common throughout the year these days. Unlike bratwurst, they are slowly boiled and usually contain a veal and pork mix. In terms of flavour, this type of sausage is often smoked and includes spices such as marjoram, paprika and white pepper. It’s worth pointing out that a Frankfurter is simply a type of bockwurst popular in the city of Frankfurt.
Invented in Berlin in 1949, currywurst was created when a woman by the name of Herta Heuwer received some ketchup and curry powder from British soldiers. The sausage itself is a standard bratwurst but it is chopped into circular slices and served in a tangy, spiced sauce. It’s then given a final flurry of curry powder to complete a delicious dish. There is a museum dedicated to this popular fast food in Berlin, but you can also sample it in other cities such as Cologne.
The traditions and recipe involved in making a Nuremberger Rostbratwurst are so treasured that the product is governed by a Protected Geographical Indication and can, therefore, only be made in Nuremberg. They differ from a normal bratwurst in that they are much thinner, a trait which one story says is a result of them needing to be passed through prison bars. Heavily spiced with fresh marjoram and cooked over a beechwood fire, they are often served as a trio in a bun – a dish known as ‘Drei im Weckla’.
No wurst has more tradition surrounding it then Bavaria’s weisswurst (white sausage). Boiled and made of a mix of veal and bacon, there are ‘rules’ surrounding when and how they should be eaten. Historically, they were prepared without preservatives and so wouldn’t last very long. This is why they are considered a breakfast sausage and ‘should never hear the chimes of noon’. Mixed in with the meat, you’ll find nutmeg, cardamom, mace and ginger – all of which gives the weisswurst a subtle flavour. Further customs dictate that you should eat it by cutting off the top and squeezing the insides into your mouth.
Another variation on a bratwurst, this one can be found in the state of Thuringia, the Green Heart of Germany. Like its Nuremberg counterpart, it is thin, has a PGI and is cooked over an open fire, but in this case, the flames lick charcoal and not wood. The main difference is the fact that a Thüringer Rostbratwurst has a spicy edge to it courtesy of a mix of spices often kept close to the chest of the chef.
With a name that means ‘old sausage’, it’s important to state that ahle wurst is much more delicious than it sounds. Produced in northern Hesse, they have a hard consistency and are matured over time during a traditional process that involves air-drying or smoking the meat.
If you’re starting to think it sounds a lot like salami, it would be wise to stop short of uttering this remark in earshot or any North-Hessian. They are proud to say that an ahle wurst is so much more than this and is unique in the way that it uses specially fed pigs, particular production methods and an ageing technique that ensures it’s never too dry or moist. All this – and a warming glug of rum added to the mixture – give this wurst its unique flavour.
Unless you hunt down Alain's Snack Bar on the outskirts of Berlin, you may have to go back in time to enjoy a ketwurst. Concocted during the Cold War, it was created to be exclusive to East Germany as a symbol of the culture. However, it all but died out once the country was reunified. Essentially, it’s a slightly backwords hot dog, made by impaling a finger roll on a hot spike, toasting the inside of the bread and then forcing a ketchup-lathered sausage in the hole that’s been created. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
The ‘yellow’ mentioned in this sausage’s name (‘gelb’ means yellow) refers to the fact that it was traditionally made within a casing of pig’s intestine that had been died with saffron. Today, an artificial substitute is more likely to be used. Mild flavours of pork, bacon, ginger, cardamom and lemon can be enjoyed and it’s much more at home amongst cold cuts than grilled and placed inside a roll. You may also see it referred to as hirnwurst (brain sausage), as 25% of the meat mix was historically taken from pigs’ brains.
Kohlwurst means ‘cabbage sausage’ but the greens are not placed in with the meat, rather it is typically eaten with kale. Predominantly eaten in the north of Germany, it is made using pork meat and pigs’ lungs which are then smoked inside the casing. Other seasonings include onions, thyme, mustard and our old friend marjoram.
If you would like to try some of these sumptuous sausages for yourself, the Fred.\ Holidays team can tailor-make a trip to Germany. Call us on 0800 988 3369 or sign up to our mailing list to stay up to date with the latest deals.