The Most Popular German Sausages: How They are Made
Sausage making is a traditional German pastime and Germany is proud to be the sausage-making capital of the world! There are literally thousands of different types of German sausage and the terminology can get a little complicated to say the least! Sausage making may have originated with the Greeks and Romans but the Germans are the current undisputed experts and have been since the 1400s.
German sausages are named after the method of production (which can be fermenting, drying or cooking) or by the type of ingredients they contain. They can also be named after the region of Germany where the sausage is traditionally made.
German Sausage Terminology
So, what is German sausage and what do their names mean? If you understand a little more about how German sausages are named, you will be able to tell a lot about how they are made simply from what they are called. Let’s start with the German term “Wurst”. This simply means “sausage” although the term “würstchen” describes a “small sausage”.
Often, a term for the ingredient is added to the basic word “wurst”. German sausage ingredients are varied but always involve some type of minced meat. Pork is the most popular ingredient. Some typical examples are:
- Blutwurst – blut is the German word for blood so this is “Blood Sausage”
- Leberwurst – leber is the German word liver so this is “Liver Sausage”
- Sülzwurst – Sülz is the German word for a head cheese (meat derived from a pig’s head) so this is “Head cheese sausage”
- Zungenblutwurst – Zungen is the German word for tongue so this is “Tongue Blood Sausage”
- Knoblauchwurst – Knoblauch is the German word for garlic so this is “Garlic sausage”
- Reisewurst – Reise is the German word for rice so this is “Rice Sausage”
- Erbswurst – Erb is the German word for pea so this is “Pea Sausage”
Alternatively, the sausage may be named after its color. Some of the most common examples are Gelbwurst (yellow sausage), Rotwurst (red sausage which usually contains blood) and Weiꞵwurst (white sausage).
Finally, you may find a German sausage that is named after the geographical area where it was made. Some of the most famous examples are Berliner Mettwurst and Berliner Knackwurst, Hamburger Bratwurst, Hannoversche Leberwurst and the infamous Frankfurter Blutwurst.
Occasionally, both the method of cooking AND the region of origin is included! So, the Rheinische Bratwurst is a minced meat sausage (Bratwurst) that comes from the Rheine region.
Some German sausage recipes and names are protected by law and carry European Certificates of Origin. Some examples include Eichsfelder Feldgieker, Greußener Salami and Halberstädter Wurstchen.
The Most Popular German Sausages
From the thousands of German sausages, here are the most popular with some fascinating insights into how they are made. If you want to know how to make German sausage, read on.
Without doubt the most famous German sausage that is known throughout the world. The name is derived from the German word “brät” which means ‘minced’ or ‘finely-ground’. This type of sausage is made from a pre-prepared base meat ingredient. It is a fresh sausage and is not fully cooked during manufacture so it needs to be kept in the refrigerator and cooked before you eat it. You do this by heating it for a short while in hot water and then frying or grilling it.
Bratwurst are made using pork or pork and veal but some can be made from pork and beef. Most will contain pork belly. The joints of meat are finely ground in special bowl cutters and crushed ice or cold water is added so you end up with a mixture that is 20% water and 80% meat. However, some manufacturers add milk instead or egg whites can be added to help with binding.
The traditional spices for Bratwurst are oregano, pimentón, cayenne pepper and Tabasco sauce but other herbs or even vegetables can be used.
Another huge category; this type of sausage is cooked by scalding, baking or frying and are meant to be cooked as soon as they have been stuffed into cases. If they are cooked by scalding, they must be placed in water at 167-176° F. There are a number of different groups of Brühwürste.
Are short sausages that are produced in short cases that are 22-32 mm in diameter and are scalded. They are popular as snacks and need to be consumed quickly after they have been made. Popular examples include Wiener and Frankfurter.
- Brühwürste, fein zerkleinert
The meat in this type of sausage is very finely ground; it has been passed through an 1/8 inch plate several times. Also, between 10 and 20 % water is added and bowl cutters are used to emulsify the meat to a paste. The mixture is placed into casings with a 40-90 mm diameter and have a length of 50 cm. Some popular examples are Knoblauchwurst and Gelbwurst.
- Grobe Brühwurste
These are made from more coarsely ground meat and then stuffed into cases that are 40-90 mm diameter and 50 mm long. This type of sausage includes Göttinger, Krakauer and Bierwurst.
- Brühwurst mit Einlagen
The base ingredient in these German sausages is also finely ground pork meat but larger chunks of meat are added to the mixture. This can be chopped tongue, heart or simply fat. You may see this type of preparation in Bierschinken, Krakauer and Zungenwurst.
This type of German sausage is made using a process called fermentation. Therefore, it is a raw product and has not been cooked. It has been cured with sodium nitrate so it has the typical deep red color. They can be stored at 50° F and are cold smoked. This category can be divided into the following groups.
- Schnittfeste Rohwürste
This type of raw German sausage is served sliced and has a distinctive coarse and firm texture. They also have a long shelf life which is useful for consumers. The fermentation process is carried out using a starter culture and the sausage is cold smoked. It is not unusual to find white mold on the surface of this type of sausage. German meats in this category can be stored at room temperature as they do not provide a suitable substrate for pathogenic organisms or spoilage organisms to grow. Some well-known examples include Salami and Plockwurst.
- Streichfähige Rohwürste
These German meats are slightly different because they are a spreadable product. The sausage is made with soft fats which changes the texture and they usually have a fine grind which makes them spreadable. However, they can also have a coarser grind which gives them a slightly different texture. They are cold smoked during production.
The drying process is brief, they have shorter shelf lives and they have to be stored in the refrigerator. Teewurst and Braunschweiger fall into this category.
- Rohwurst – Gegart
“Gegart” is the German word for “steamed”. Often you will find that Kochsalami is classified as Rohwurst which is confusing because this sausage is not fermented. This type of sausage is made with cured meat. It has a red appearance and there are flecks of white fat visible. In truth, this is a Brühwurst sausage that has been cooked in water.
This delicious sausage is made from cuts of pre-cooked meats and other ingredients. Again, the clue is in the name and kochen means “to cook”. There is a second cooking process after these sausages have been stuffed. Often, they are sliced and served cold but it is possible to serve them hot.
Here are some of the most popular products in this category.
This is more like a pate or spread, it is designed to be eaten on bread. The main ingredient is liver.
This type of German sausage is associated with high quality ingredients. Often, they contain liver and are cooked and sold in molds rather than in casings. Popular examples include Leberpastete, and Geflügelpastete.
This type of Kochwürste sausage is made with liver obtained from pigs, poultry or cattle. They also have a lot of pork fat and the flavor is provided by onions, mushrooms and spices. You may have come across Kalbsleberwurst and Champignonleberwurst which are popular examples.
These German sausages are made from blood but they also contain fat and a carbohydrate filler such as rice or white bread. Some well-known examples include Blutwurst and Beutelwurst.
A slightly unusual sausage made from aspic or gelatin. They contain head cheeses or meat jellies.
To make this type of German sausage, pork, beef, poultry or even fish is cut up and diced. Then it is mixed with natural gelatin. This is derived by boiling meat that has a high proportion of connective tissue (such as sinews and skin) to make a meat stock. The mixture is packed into molds or into casings. Natural casings are traditionally pork stomachs but synthetic casings can also be used. Some typical examples include Sülzwurst and Bauernsülze.
Other Popular German Sausages
Here in the US, you are likely to come across the following German sausages also.
This is a semi-dried product that is eaten widely in Europe. It is often made by combining pork and beef with lard. To this is added red wine, sugar, and special spices. It has a distinctive rectangular cross-section which is produced using a sausage press. Then it is smoked and dried. Traditionally, these were eaten by hunters who carried them on hunting expeditions. “Landjäger” is the German word for land hunter.
This popular German sausage is prepared by air drying. The meat content is pork, beef or bacon. The meat mixture is finely ground and mixed with herbs and seasoning. Once it has been stuffed into the casings, it is cold smoked using beechwood and then left to ferment. It can be consumed without further cooking.
The popularity of this sausage is attributed to its mild flavor. You eat it by spreading it on crackers or bread. It is a classic teatime snack in Germany hence the “tee” in its name.
- Bierschinken wurst
It’s not hard to see why this sausage is so popular as it combines the German favorites of beer and ham! Literally translated, it means beer ham sausage and it is sometimes also referred to as schinkenwurst. This Bavarian delicacy is a parboiled product that contains larger pieces of cooked ham but this can be swapped for pickled pork. Other ingredients include pork meat that has been finely ground but this can be substituted with beef or poultry meat. Also, there is bacon and water or ice. The flavor is provided by seasoning and spices including cardamom, mace, ginger, white pepper and coriander. Once all the ingredients have been mixed up, it is stuffed into casings and it can be smoked before it is cooked.
So, where is the beer? This does not refer to an ingredient. Instead, it refers to the tradition of eating it whilst enjoying a cold beer. It is best enjoyed on a bread roll with picked gherkins and eggs.
The Last Word…
There is a seemingly endless choice when it comes to German sausages. Some need to be cooked at home and others are ready to eat so make sure that you know how to prepare them correctly. You will have a huge range of textures and flavors to enjoy.
This versatile ingredient can be used as a quick snack or the basis of a more substantial meal. Before you tuck in, it is worth finding out a bit more about the fascinating background of this delicious meat product so get your German dictionary out. Enjoy!