German Sausages

There are hundreds of different German sausages so to better understand them it would be beneficial to know how they are classified and named. The German sausages are named by:

  1. The method of production (usually cooking).
  2. The type of meat, filler material or spice used.
  3. The region in which sausages were made.

Sausage names like Bratwurst, Kochwurst, Rohwurst, Brühwurst, Blutwurst or Leberwurst do not represent a particular German sausage, but a sausage type which is made in a particular way. Each type may contain dozens of sausages which belong to this group. It is necessary to break up the name to find more about the sausage. The first part of the name usually denotes the method of production, usually cooking, however, there are fermented or dry sausages which are never cooked yet safe to consume. The second part of the name “wurst” means a "sausage", nothing else. Some examples:

Bratwurst – grilled or fried sausage. The word “brat” signifies “to fry.” Leberwurst - liver sausage. The word “leber” means liver. Blutwurst – blood sausage. The word “blut” means blood.

The word wurst describes a regular sausage, however, a short and a small diameter sausage is called the “wurstchen”, for example: Halberstädter Würstchen

Rohwurst (Raw Sausage)

Roh means in German "raw". Rohwurst is made from raw meat, the sausage is not cooked at all, yet it is safe to eat so obviously their safety must be accomplished by other means. They are stable because they are either fermented and dried or just dried. A typical example is a traditionally made Italian dry salami or Spanish dry chorizo or American Summer sausage known in Germany as Sommer Salami. Rohwurst (raw) sausages are usually fermented; they are made from the top quality fresh meat, require more salt and sodium nitrite (cure #1 or #2) and are usually cold smoked.

Rohwurst covers a huge group of sausages which can be further divided as:

Rohwurst - schnitffest (fermented, sliceable raw sausage) which can be finely or coarsely minced. This group includes fermented sausages that we are familiar with such as salami or summer sausage. They have a firm texture and of course must be cut with a knife. Those sausages are fermented and dried. Depending on the drying time they will become semi-dry or dry sausages.

Salami

Rohwurst – streichfähig (slightly fermented, spreadable raw sausage), finely minced, made with softer fat to facilitate spreading. There is neither drying involved as the drying will produce firmer texture and the sausage will not be spreadable anymore nor cooking. The sausage, however, must be safe to consume so it is fermented and kept under refrigeration.

Streichfähige Rohwürste sausages can be considered Refrigerated Rohwurst. Fermentation alone does not make the sausage safe unless a lot of sugar is added in order to develop a significant amount of acidity (pH drop), but that will make sausage so sour that it will be rejected by most consumers. So, such a slightly fermented sausage must be kept under refrigeration, and although it is still a raw sausage, it can, however, be safely consumed. Because its shelf life is limited it must be consumed relatively fast. Those sausages are often cold smoked for a short time, however, smoking is not a preservation method, although it somewhat contributes to a longer shelf life. To clarify this point-if the cold smoking continues for weeks or longer, then the sausage will dry out and will become a dry sausage. But the safety of this sausage has been achieved by drying (removal of moisture) as cold smoking is drying with smoke.

Rohwurst – Gekart (cooked raw sausage). You can find in German books sausages classified as cooked raw sausages, yet they were not fermented, what is worse they are fully cooked, so there is a little dilemma – cooked meat is not raw anymore, right? You can often find Kochsalami (smoked or not) classified as Rohwurst, which makes a little sense. This is not limited to Germans as one can find Kochsalami (cooked salami) in the USA or in Poland. The only thing in common they have with salami or any Rohwurst is the look and the texture of the slices. They are really Brühwurst sausages.

Another example of twisting names is American sausage Salami Cotto which is a smoked and cooked in water large diameter sausage. The meat and fat are finely ground and the sausage resembles salami but does not taste like one.

Dried Sausages – not too many German dry sausages although any fermented sliceable Rohwurst sausage meets the definition criteria for a dry sausage as it has been fermented and then dried. A real dry sausage is made without starter culture and any sugar so there is no fermentation stage. That is why Spanish dry sausage has slightly different flavor than Italian dry salami.

Smoked Sausages – almost all German sausages are smoked, the only difference will be that Rohwurst sausages get cold smoke and Brühwurst sausages can be smoked with a warm or a hot smoke. Kochwurst sausages (liver, blood, head cheese) are usually not smoked, however, after they are cooked and cooled to below 18° C (64° F) they may be submitted to a few hours of cold smoke (18° C).

Brühwurst – sausage cooked in water, steam or hot air until the sausage reaches around 68-72° C (154-160° F) internal temperature. Majority of all sausages, smoked or not fit into this group. These sausages are fully cooked in water until they safe to consume. The temperature usually stays around 80° C (176° F) but can be 75° C (167° F), 80° C (176° F) or 85° C (185° F); of course, the higher temperature results in a shorter cooking time. Most sausages are safe to eat when the sausage reaches 68-72° C (154-160° F) internal temperature. Some sausages are not cooked in water but baked in hot air (oven, smokehouse) until their reach safe temperature inside, however, it is accomplished at around 88° C (190° F) or lower.

Kochwurst – (kochen in German means cooking) sometimes called scalded sausages are special group of sausages where meats or filler materials are precooked, mixed with spices, stuffed in casings and then cooked in water again. They include offal meats such as head meat, liver, blood, other meat organ and filler material like wheat rolls, flour, oats, rusk, bread crumbs, buckwheat groats, barley or rice.

Kochwurst sausages are popular all over the world except the USA supermarkets, where only liver sausages are available.

Leberwurst“leber” means “liver” so we are dealing with a liver sausage.

Leberwurst

Blutwurst“blut” means “blood” so we are dealing with a blood sausage.

Blutwurst

Sülzwurst“sülze” means “brawn” and brawn was often used to denote “head cheese”.

German Head Cheese

At pig’s slaughter noble cuts of meats (ham, butt, loin, belly) are saved whole for curing and smoking and meat trimmings are graded into groups and saved for sausages. The freshly collected blood is refrigerated or frozen. The bones with attached meat, ribs, head, skins and offal meat (liver, heart, lungs, dewlap etc.) are boiled on slow fire until cooked, separated from bones and then chopped. They will end up in special sausages – liver, blood and head cheeses.

Liver sausages and head cheeses are stuffed in casings and are cooked up in water again. Those sausages contain a lot of collagen which melts down on being heated and acting like a glue connects all particles together. Then, as it solidifies during cooling, it becomes a firmer sausage.

Blood sausages are stuffed in casings and cooked again so the blood can uniformly bind all particles together. Then, as it solidifies during cooling, it becomes a firmer sausage. Blood sausages contain less meat than other types and often made with a filler material like cooked groats, rice, rolls or flour.

Meat jellies, meat loaves, patés, meats in aspic and terrines also belong to the Kochwurst group of products as the technology is similar, what is different is the way the products are packed.

Meat Jelly

Meat jelly

Meat Loaf

Meat loaf

Liver Pate

Liver pate

Liver Pate

Liver pate

Like in all other countries some sausages carry in their name the type of the meat or major ingredient they were made from.

  • Rindfleischwurst - beef sausage (rind means beef, fleisch means meat)
  • Kalbfleischwurstchen - veal sausage (kalb means veal, fleisch means meat)
  • Schwineleberwurst - liver (schwine means pig, leber means liver)
  • Reiswurst - rice sausage (reis mean rice)
  • Kartoffelwurst - potato sausage (kartoffel means potato)
  • Zwiebelwurst - onion sausage (zwiebel means onion)
  • Knoblauchwurst - garlic sausage (knoblauch means garlic)

Or even the color of the sausage:

  • Weisswurst - white sausage (weiss means white)
  • Gelbwurst - yellow sausage (gelb means yellow)

When one knows just some rudimentary German, the naming of the sausages becomes easy and logical, for example Tomatenleberwurst becomes Tomaten (Tomatoes) – Leber (Liver) – Wurst (Sausage) which of course is Liver Sausage with Tomatoes.

Very often the name will consist of two words: the first one denoting the region and the second the type of the sausage. This means that one can encounter many bratwursts, blood sausages or liver sausages each made in a different region. The sausages might be quite similar yet the names will be different. Other countries practice the same system for example Italy: Salami Milano, Salami Genoa, Salami Calabrese, Salami di Felino, Salami di Verona or Mortadella di Bologna, Mortadella di Prato.

  • Berliner Sülzwurst - head cheese from Berlin
  • Hamburger Bratwurst - bratwurst from Hamburg
  • Frankfort Liver Sausage - liver sausage from Frankfurt
  • Münchener Rostbratwurst - bratwurst from Munich
  • Rheinische Bratwurst - bratwurst from Rhein region
  • Thüringer Rotwurst - blood sausage (rot means red) from Thuringia

One can easily find many German sausages in Europe as Europe is the sausage eating region of the world. As of this writing (Nov 12, 2017) these are the German sausages that could be purchased in a big well known American supermarket:

Bratwurst (fresh or cooked) - Braunschweiger Liverwurst – Liverwurst – Liverwurst Pate – Frankfurter – Beef Knockwurst

It would be futile to even ask for blood sausage or head cheese as not only they are not carried, but the sales personnel do not even know what a customer is talking about.

There is not denying that Americans eat a lot of sausages, but it is all Hot Dogs, Frankfurters and Bologna. These are emulsified, the cheapest to produce sausages, made from different animal meat trimmings, including meat scraps recovered from bones, and they contain a lot of added water. Unfortunately, almost 50% of American sausages are made with chicken and turkey which are not added to German sausages. This is because of an American obsession with eating less fat and calories so poultry must be the cure. Somehow it does not work very well as they carry a distinction of being the most obese nation in the world by devouring sugar in any shape or form. Do not confuse mass produced low quality frankfurters with high quality beef frankfurters that can also be found in a store. To find a variety of real German sausages it is necessary to find a little German butcher store that might be still functioning in a large metropolitan area or in a German neighborhood.

There are hundreds of great German sausage recipes and it would be impractical to list all of them on one page, but the most popular ones are listed below:

German sausages carrying European Certificates of Origin:

  • Eichsfelder Feldgieker PGI 2013
  • Greußener Salami PGI 1998
  • Halberstädter Wurstchen PGI 2010
  • Hofer Rindfleischwurst PGI 2010
  • Oecher Puttes PGI 2016
  • Thüringer Leberwurst PGI 2003
  • Thüringer Rostbratwurst PGI 2003
  • Thüringer Rotwurst PGI 2003
  • Nürnberger Bratwürste; Nürnberger Rostbratwürste PGI 2003

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