Why are german bratwurst so special?

October 2013

A while ago I was emailed a question: "Why are German bratwurst so special?" Well Dave (from Didcot), now come on, the words bratwurst and special don't immediately in my mind especially go together. I can't say I even remember the last time I had one as part of a meal or even a take-away. Yes Ok I know they're popular in Germany and the US...but here in the UK? Not sure...

What is a BRATWURST then? 


Basically , a sausage made from pork, in a natural (or synthetic...horrid things) case or skin, that's grilled or pan fried. So what's different about these than our British banger or chipolata?

There's quite a few varieties and shapes and sizes of bratwurst available in Germany which individual regions claim as their own. Coburg have their "Coburger Bratwurst" made from veal or beef, with only salt , pepper, nutmeg and lemon zest added. Traditionally cooked over pine cones or so they say. Whereas the Swabian region has it's spicy "Rote Wurst" made from finely ground pork and bacon. They cut an X in to the ends when grilling or frying. The ends open during cooking, with the rest remaining as is, thus giving it a shape all of it's own. The Wurzburger bratwurst is a variance on the spicy Thuringer but theirs with white wine added.

Ooo I'm getting interested in "brats" the more I research....

The makings are evidently more often than not minced very finely we're told using a "bowl-cutter" (sometimes known as a "bowl chopper") to almost emulsify the meat. Passing the mix through a very fine mincing plate a couple or even three times gets close to it but to make them accurately, a bowl-cutter is what's needed. The mix is then loaded in to preferably natural skins. .


The "brats" would be normally steamed (or pan simmered in water) to cook them and then chilled ready for use. Frying them off in a hot pan or under/over a grill to give them colour before serving. Some recommend spraying them with water or beer whilst they're grilling to keep the skins cool. Cooking them by grilling or pan frying, without pre-cooking is a skill, as burning the outside and the inside remaining under cooked or raw is very likely. Not good.

OK, so I arranged some un-cooked brats from our local sausage specialist (The Churchgate Sausage Company of Sheering, Essex). Yes they're not German produce but these will do to get started with an opinion on bratwurst. As it happens, we liked the "Churchgate Bratwurst" from Herr Drage...mind you I suppose we should have eaten them rather than with mash and onions, but in a bread roll with some German mustard perhaps. Hey ho, next time. The texture of the meat was fine/smooth and the taste was definitely different to a British sausage. More like a frankfurter (or dare I say a "saveloy"). Don't get us wrong, there was nothing wrong with the "foreign" sausage, but then again we like what we like and no doubt other nationalities like what they like!

I've read that in Nuremburg alone the estimate is around 1 billion brats being produced a year! Now add the rest of Germany's production and you've got a serious amount of sausages being consumed! It appears to be around 60 lbs of sausage consumed per person per year in Germany...and they have around 81 million citizens! This compared with the UK's 63 million people and 7 lbs of sausage per person per year! Good heavens!

I've also read that VW factory in Wolfsburg have their own butchery department within the factory complex that produces LOADS of sausage for the staff meals and supplies some very local supermarkets. Whether they only produce their very popular "currywurst" or do in fact produce bratwurst as well, I may need to arrange a visit to find out!

Audi in Bavaria, also have their own butchery department...pork/veal/milk weiswurst over there....

Now back to the initial question...I still can't see why German Bratwurst would be so special. I prefer the Great British Banger personally, but then that's me! However I'm sure there's people out there who would disagree...each to their own of course!

So perhaps the question should have been "Why are German Bratwurst so popular"!

Answer: They taste good and 81 million Germans will no doubt be the first to say so.... 

BTW: Did you know that sausage production in Germany, Austria and northern France was effectively halted for a time during WW1 (with sausage eating banned) by the German authorities. It appears that animals intestines used as sausage skins became so sought after during this time with them being used in Zeppelins to hold the hydrogen gas.

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