Germany has such a rich culinary heritage that many of its foods are known and enjoyed across the world. From the acquired taste of sauerkraut to the sublime sweetness of the Lebkuchenbiscuit, there is a German delight to suit every palate. One of the best known is the not so humble German sausage which boasts over 50 varieties.
Traditionally sausage was a way of preserving meat for the family to eat during the cold winter months. The Romans ate sausage as did most cultures. In Germany meat was cured by dry winds in the mountainous regions of the country and this method eventually lead to the production of the bratwurst as we know it today.
Roughly translated from 9th century German, the word bratwurst means meat without waste. Just as in medieval England where guilds maintained the quality of produce the same was true in Germany. In England failing to stick to the rules when it came to making foods would result in severe punishments often befitting of the crime. It is recorded that an English wine maker was found to have contaminated his stock to make it go further which, aside from loosing his license to ever make wine again, meant that he had to drink substantial quantities of his own poor quality produce as punishment. In Germany too sausage makers had to adhere to strict rules. In Thuringer records from 1432 show that if the sausage makers of the area didn't follow the guidelines for creating Thuringer sausages they would be fined one days wages – 24 pfenninigs. That's a pretty hefty fine for forgetting to add the pepper.
Which town in Germany truly made the very first bratwurst is a highly contentious issue. Thüringer believe that their famous sausage is the likely king of the bratwursts and for taste many would agree. The Thüringer Rostbratwurst is a spicy sausage served smothered in mustard with bread. Its long thin shape is carefully monitored to this day as are the ingredients. If the sausage doesn't meet the guidelines then it can't be called a Thüringer Rostbratwurst.
The rival for the spot of first ever bratwurst is the Fränkische Bratwurst. This yummy little number comes from the Franconia region in Bavaria. Records go back to 1573 although the sausage, it is claimed,was being produced long before the recipe was committed to paper. This sausage is usually served with sauerkraut but not with mustard.
The Nürnberger Rostbratwurst comes from the city of Nürnberg and is served with horseradish sauce and potato salad. The pork sausage is flavoured with marjoram giving it a very distinct flavour. This sausage is smaller than its contemporaries being only 3 inches long which is why a serving consists of up to twelve sausages.
The Nürnberger Rostbratwurst is protected under German law so that it can only be produced in the city. Historically the sausage was served on a Sunday cooked in a broth of onion and vinegar. The acidic soup gave the rostbratwurst a blueish tint earning the dish the name Blaue Zipfel.
A famous sausage dish available from street vendors across Berlin is Currywurst. This sausage recipe dates back to 1949 when ketchup and curry powder were available from British soldiers. These days the spicy sauce is poured over pork sausages and sold to over 70 million people a year in the city alone. The currywurst is so embedded in the culture of Berlin that each new mayor is photographed at a currywurst stall.
One thing is for sure – the bratwurst is much more than just a banger in Germany.
Do you have a favourite bratwurst? How do you serve yours?