Some of America's favorite sausages, including frankfurters, summer sausage, bratwurst and knockwurst, come from Germany, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. There are more than 1,700 varieties of German sausage, from links to cold cuts, most falling into one of three basic categories. The large number of varieties is a result of regional recipes, some of which are eaten across the country and beyond, and some of which remain local.
Brühwurst, or scalded sausage, is the most common type of German sausage, and includes bockwurst, bierwurst and weisswurst. Frankfurters are also a type of Brühwurst, though German frankfurters differ from most American hot dogs, which have the outer casings removed. Brühwurst is made of finely or coarsely ground meats, often in combination, sometimes with additional fillers added. It is generally mildly seasoned with garlic, onion and a variety of herbs and spices. Though scalded sausages are not raw, they are not preserved and should be heated and eaten soon after purchase.
Rohwurst, or fresh sausage, is made of raw meat that has been ground with additional fat, salt and seasonings, encased or pressed, and dried at a low temperature until ripe. Rohwurst is firm, has a long shelf life and is usually eaten uncooked. Sliceable types include salami, cervelat, mettwurst, landjäger, plockwurst and hartwurst. Some rohwurst is spreadable, such as schmierwurst, pfeffersäckchen and teewurst. Look for rohwurst at specialty groceries and German delis.
Kochwurst is cooked sausage often made with organ meat or blood bound with gelatin, bread crumbs or hominy. Types of kochwurst include leberwurst or, in English, liverwurst, which is sold in both sliceable and spreadable varieties; sülzwurst, or head cheese, which contains no cheese but may contain tongue as part of a collage of organ meats and vegetables held together in gelled broth; and blutwurst, or blood sausage. Kochwurst is frequently eaten sliced and cold, or it can be heated.
Bratwurst, or farmer's sausage, is one of the most well-known German sausages, and also one of the few that does not fall neatly into a category of scalded, fresh or cooked. This is mainly because it is not made the same way all the time; sometimes it is scalded for quick grilling and sometimes it is sold raw and must be fully cooked before eating. Both types are commonly sold in the U.S. To prepare raw bratwurst, simmer in water, beer or sauerkraut for about 20 minutes, or until it turns light in color and the inside is no longer pink. Once cooked, the bratwurst can be grilled for a few minutes, if desired.
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