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The Best of the Wurst

The Best of the Wurst

Know your sausages. They make delicious winter suppers and then, come summer, they love the grill!

By Karen Berman

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German wurst -- sausage -- often turns up on restaurant menus, and yet it’s great for at-home meals as well. Wurst is wonderful for cozy winter suppers as well as summertime grilled meals.

Sausage originated centuries ago, in the days before refrigeration, when other forms of meat preservation were mandatory. In the harsh climates of what is now Germany and northern Europe, feed for livestock was scarce in winter, so each fall, it was common to slaughter animals that would not be needed for breeding in the coming year. Some of the meat was eaten right away, and ingenious butchers figured out how to preserve that was left over it by making wurst.

In Germany, wurst (pronounced “verst”) encompasses sausages as well as aufschnitt--sliced cold cuts and meat spreads. Here in the United States, wurst typically translates as “sausage,” and in that category alone, Germany produces hundreds of different varieties. These can be divided into several basic categories: raw (cured), cooked and boiled. The popular bratwurst fits into several of these categories.

Raw (cured): Like their counterparts in other nations, cured German sausages are made with ground raw meat, fat, salts, and other seasonings that are stuffed into casings and allowed to air-cure under refrigeration for periods ranging from several days to several months. The longer the curing time, the more moisture that evaporates and the firmer the sausage. Short cures produce spreadable wurst such as Mettwurst (made of beef, pork and bacon), while longer cures produce sliceable, dry salami-like items such as Zervalatwurst.

Cooked: Cooked wurst, or Kochwurst, is sausage made of cooked meat (including organ meats and tongue) that is mixed with fat, gelatin, blood, bread, salt and seasonings. The mixture is stuffed into casings and cooked again. The category includes liverwurst and head cheese. Among the many kinds of cooked sausage: Blutwurst, a pork and pig’s blood sausage that dates to ancient times. Some cooked wurst are eaten cold; others are reheated in warm water or fried lightly.

Boiled: Boiled wurst, or Brühwurst is the largest category of wurst, and consists of sausage made of raw meat (pork, beef, or poultry) and seasonings that is stuffed into casings and boiled so that it becomes slightly crispy. Among the most popular boiled sausages: Knackwurst, a smoked beef and garlic sausage that gets its name from the sound it makes when bitten; the Bavarian Weisswurst, which gets its pale, off-white color from the veal that’s a primary ingredient; and Bierwurst, made with pork, beef, heart, bacon and spices (but not beer; it is typically accompanied by beer). In addition to cooking them in water and frying, some varieties of Brühwurst can be grilled.

So, take a break from American-style hot dogs and try some wurst!


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Tagged With: wurst, sausage, bratwurst, German food

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