From Whence Come the Wurst

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Wurst is a basic term for sausage in German. Anything that is a sausage is a type of Wurst. Germany being the land of Sausage, there are lots of types of Wurst.  These are however some more widely known types and a look at the language of sausage.

Basic Terms

Market Stall of Grilling Sausages

As mentioned Wurst means sausage. So anything with “-wurst” in the name is a type of sausage. German compounds words together, so it may just be a part of the word.

Bratwurst is a generic term for cooked sausage. It often seems to be used to describe a sausage cooked with oil on a griddle. This is in counterpoint to Grillwurst that is more over an open fire, although I have seen Bratwurst used to describe that too. When ordering it is often good to just point at what you want.

Würstli, Würstle, Würstchen : These are different regional forms for what amounts to “small sausage”. I don’t really get the size distinction between a full Wurst and a Wurstchen. Though if you go into a store and buy them in a jar the Würstchen are the more hotdog like things.

Meats and Toppings

Typically sausage is made from pork. If it isn’t listed, I assume pork. You will either see the meat name followed by “-wurst” or the word “von” or “vom” followed by the meat. So either “Rindswurst” or “Bratwurst vom Rind” are sausages made from beef.

Rind : Beef

Geflügel/Pute : Poultry / Turkey

Kalb : Veal

Schwein : Pork

Lamm : Lamb

Standard Roll

A sausage ordered from a street vendor will usually come with either a slice of bread or a roll sliced open. In our marketplace it is common to get roasted onions with the sausage.

Mit Zwiebeln : With Onions

Ohne Zwiebeln : Without Onions

Curryketchup : Ketchup with curry flavoring

Senf : Mustard

Local Varieties

Each locality has a different way or recipe for preparing sausage. Sometimes several. Often you only find them in that locality, while other times every market will have that type.

Nurnberger : Small brownish spicy sausages similar to breakfast links in the US. These are usually served 3-4 to a roll.

Thuringer : Long thick whitish pork sausages with herbs which are often visible in the meat. Though this comes from Thuringa, it is very common here in Freiburg.

Lange Rote “Long Red” : This is the Freiburg speciality. They are as described long, thin and red. Ask for them “halbiert” to get the cut in half so they fit better on the roll.

Wiener : Wien is Vienna. These are similar to the hotdogs we know and they often come in pairs.

Frankfurter : Frankfurt gives us this similar type of hot-dog like sausage that like the Wiener comes in pairs.

Lyoner : Lyon is a city in France. This stuff is a spreadable cold sausage that comes in a can. Apparently you spread it on bread to make sandwiches, but it doesn’t appeal to me.

Hamburger : Wait, this isn’t a sausage. From the city of Hamburg comes the Frikadelle which are ground pork patties that become the cultural basis for the hamburger that is known in the US.

Various Types of Sausage for Sale from the Griddle

Currywurst & Weißwurst

An animal all its own. Currywurst is a sausage sliced into disks and drenched with ketchup and sprinkled with curry powder. Depends on where you go it comes with either bread or fries. Berliner seem to claim the birthplace of currywurst, but I see it everywhere here. There is a shop in town here that will spice up the curry ketchup to sinus cleaning levels. Make sure you pick up a fork or one of the little wooden sticks so you don’t have to eat it with your fingers.

Weißwurst is a Munich thing. They come as a pair of fat sausages that even when cooked are pale white. They get served with a sweet mustard and often a pretzel and beer to go with it. The thing is, they are normally for breakfast. The story seems to be one of lack of preservatives in the old days that meant they needed to be eaten fast. Now you can certainly get them anytime of the day.

Street Food is Good

Markets across Germany always have a few butchers that set up stands and sell their sausages to the public. If you want a cheap way to eat decent food look for them. Fixed stands doing the same thing on the main street are just as common and usually just as good. Festivals bring more stands as well. Anywhere you go in Germany a sausage meal is probably just around the corner. This guide should give you an idea of what to point at.

This page was submitted as a part of Expat Germany’s Food Friday.

28 thoughts on “From Whence Come the Wurst

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  5. Yum! Wish I had read this before going to Germany in June. I was never quite sure what I was ordering. I’ll be looking forward to sampling more “wurst” next time.

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  8. Another great guide to my country’s culture & cuisine 🙂 I am happy to hear that the Thuringer is popular in Freiburg, since Thuringia is my home country.. I hope it’s your favorite Wurst 😉

    • Freiburger Lange Rote are obviously more popular locally, but I do like Thuringer as well. My favorite are the naked veal ones. Though they are not market-grillwurst. The local currywurst place uses them.

  9. I never knew how many different types of sausage there were until I moved to Germany and you’ve listed some that I haven’t heard of. I love eating wurst at festivals, it makes me feel so German.

    • Hmm.. which had you not heard of? Do you have any local Stuttgarter stuff to add?
      Yup, festivals with sausage is good. It is such a great “walking food”.

  10. This is one of the wurst posts I have ever read! I don’t think it could get any more wurst than this! Strangely, I am feeling quite hungry right now and am thinking about hot dogs for lunch!

  11. Man… It’s almost lunch time here and you made me want to jump out of the window to get some food! I read a post about 10 best food in Germany recently too and it looked so good.!

  12. This post made me so hungry!! Not sure if that’s because it’s almost dinner time here, or because of your pictures 🙂 So good!

    These terms might be somewhat regional as well. I’m from close to Cologne and have never heard the term “Grillwurst” before. We call the sausages that are usually a mix of veal and pork “Bratwurst” no matter if they are made in a pan or on the grill.

    Gotta go home and eat something now 🙂

    • A lot of the language seems to be quite regional in Germany, especially food. So I am not surprised. I am fairly sure i have seen Grillwurst, but the market stalls do say “Bratwurst (vom Grill)”. The mixing of meat like that seems certainly common. There is ground meat in all the stores here that is pig/cow mixed. I go for the pure cow, thank you. And as Cliff mentioned, Bratwurst does not necessarily describe the cooking method. Though can you think of eating a “Bratwurst” that wasn’t cooked/hot?

      • Yup, sorta: that’s common in Nürnberg. Blaue Zipfel are Nürnberger Bratwurst which are steeped in broth with shredded onions, but as near as I can tell, not actually boiled or cooked. I have eaten one once, and it was not revolting (actually tasted quite good if memory serves), but I couldn’t really say if the meat made it past “raw” and into the “cooked” stage.

        Wikipedia has more about them in German:

        The English page for Bratwurst mentions them too, and states that they’re cooked, but the German page seems to say more that they’re “steeped” over “low heat.” So…raw meat sausages? I’m not sure.

        • Hmm.. not sure I would eat something like that. I am totally a grilled sausage person, including the little burned bits where the fire got too close. Neat that someone does it though. I wonder what the background of them are. The only thing I get in my head is the joke about if cookies cook for 30 minutes at 350degrees and 45 at 325, then how long do they cook at room temperature. Someone had not so hot a fire and just simmered them until he was too hungry to wait?
          Thanks for sharing this interesting stuff about sausages.

  13. ummm… this post left me quite hungry! As a half-german I must admit I’m quite a ignorant when it comes to Würstchen – but I do know that I LOVE Weisswurst over most other ones I’ve ever tried!

    • Interesting. Most people I know dislike Weißwurst if they dislike anything sausagelike. I don’t mind the taste, but find having to cut off the skin tiresome.

      Würstchen are neat. They come in pairs at the butcher counter or in jars. Some people just eat them unheated or as hotdogs. I like to cut them up into things like pasta.

  14. I believe “Bratwurst” refers not (only) to the method of preparation (“braten”, versus other methods like “grillen”, “kochen”, etc.) but rather to the content of the sausage — Wikipedia informs me that it’s (at least partially) derived from the word “Brät,” which appears to means “ground meat suitable for sausage-making.”

    I always thought it was weird that Bratwurst is often grilled!

    Another puzzle: “backen.” Seems pretty straight forward, until you start seeing stuff at restaurants labelled “gebacken” which has been pretty clearly (deep-)fried, like maybe a crispy duck breast or similar. Anyone figured that one out yet?

    • Yeah, I always wondered that too. Braten seems to be fried, but also grilled. Backen is pretty sure not “baked” in English. Your info that Bratwurst could be a description of the meat could fix one of them. Though I have never seen Bratwurst that you could eat cold/uncooked.

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