You may think it’s just a generalization that Germans produce and consume tons of sausage and have as many kinds of sausage as Eskimos have words for snow. But it’s true. They’re really serious about tube steak. And with the upcoming celebration of food and beer that is Oktoberfest, you should be, too!
Every region has its own particular riff on “sausage in a bun,” like Nuremberg’s much-loved Drei im Weggla or the massive Thuringer, whose bun cannot hope to contain it all. You can have your sausage with potatoes or with kraut (hopefully both). There’s a sausage for every morsel of every pig or cow, as there should be. Here are 10 favorites to get familiar with — because one cannot live off bratwurst alone.
Knackwurst (photo above)
Knackwurst, also spelled knockwurst, are short, thick sausages made of finely ground pork, flavored with plenty of garlic. The name comes from the German “knacken,” which means “to crack.” We’re assuming these sausages were named for the crackling sound the casing makes when bitten into, but it could very well be for their highly addictive qualities. Recommended served with sauerkraut and mustard.
Bavarian white sausages, or weisswurst, are pale beige-colored links made mainly from veal, with a little pork and pork skin added in. They’re milder in flavor, and spiced less than other varieties. Weisswurst is traditionally boiled, rather than grilled or griddled, and served with pretzels and sweet German whole-grain mustard.
Traditionally consumed with — you guessed it — bock beer, bockwurst is made with a mixture of ground veal and pork, with the addition of cream and eggs. It’s flavored with mild parsley as opposed to the stronger herbal flavors of marjoram and thyme that season other kinds of sausage. Serve it with sharp, piquant yellow mustard to bring out its subtle flavor.
Jerky, kind of! Landjäger, predecessor to the modern Slim Jim, is made with pork and beef and seasoned with red wine, sugar, caraway seeds, mustard and white pepper. No mechanically separated protein here — all the work must be done by hand to ensure the proper texture and shape. Eat it dried in stick form, like salami, or boil it and serve it with potatoes.
Like its cousin to the south, the Nuremberg Bratwurst, Thüringer sausage also enjoys the privilege of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). The only place you’ll find an authentic version of this spiced pork and beef tube steak is in Thüringia. Our favorite part of the Thüringer is the way the grill is prepped to prevent the sausage from sticking and keep the casing from breaking: a nice thorough rubdown with bacon fat. This is especially necessary, because the Thüringer’s fat content is generally lower than that of other sausages.
Another veal and pork confection, wollwurst’s claim to fame is its lack of casing. That’s right, this sausage is totally self-contained. Boiled and cooled, then fried to give it its signature crisp exterior, wollwurst is a perfect example of how the Germans have reinvented the sausage hundreds of times to enjoy the massive library of cylindrical meat they (and we) enjoy today.
Some awesome things about these sausages: “Cervelat” translates to “brain sausage,” but actual pork brains are very infrequently used nowadays. Smoky, firm cervelat is scored or butterflied on either end so the tips curl out when cooked — an age-old tradition in Switzerland and parts of Germany. Know what else? It’s made of beef, bacon and pork rinds. Just like the sausage of our dreams.
Ready for some pure pork goodness? That’s right, no veal, no beef, not even bacon, just pork. We’re not mad at that, nor do we resent the fact that Frankfurter Wurstchen, its official full name, can only be made in the Frankfurt region. Yup, PGI. That is one protected sausage. These aren’t grilled, griddled or even boiled. They’re simply heated in hot water until warmed through. A sausage staple since the 13th century, our modern hot dogs’ ancestors are still popular throughout Germany.
Nope, blut’s not German for “burned.” That’s blood in that sausage, pig’s blood. And boy, oh BOY is it tasty. Blood sausage is common all over Europe, Asia and South America. A billion or so sausage fans can’t be wrong, can they? Although congealed blood is the main ingredient (mmm, iron), you can also find pork meat, oatmeal and spices keeping everything nice and together. Get past your wurst fear by taking that first bite. You’ll never go back. It pairs beautifully with something fruity, like applesauce.
Drei Im Weggla
You can find these delicious little links side by side in Nuremberg’s famous “Drei im Weggla,” or “three in a bun.” Crisped and slightly charred over an open-flame grill, rather than griddled or boiled, Nuremberg’s brats are so ingrained in the city’s heritage that they’ve earned PGI status. Smear with yellow mustard and eat with bread, “Drei-style.”