Oktoberfest time again: how to eat a German sausage

Bratwurst and Nuernberger bratwurst from Munich Brauhaus.
Bratwurst and Nuernberger bratwurst from Munich Brauhaus.  Photo: Tim Grey

Eight years ago, when I moved from Hanover in northern Germany to Melbourne, I was exposed to the guilty pleasures of Aussie meat pies, dim sims and Chicko rolls. But it wasn't long before I started searching for that piece of Deutschland that I grew up with, that I know so well and hold so dear. Are there any good German sausages in Australia? Yes, plenty – and I am sometimes surprised at where I find them. A Polish deli at the South Melbourne Market sells beautiful Bavarian weisswurst, a German food truck brings the wurst to country Victoria, and with two new German beer halls in the city, it seems my search is finally over. Which reminds me of a German song, Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei: Everything has an end – only a sausage has two. 

1. Weisswurst (pronounced "vicevoorsht")

This breakfast sausage from Bavaria is made from veal, speck, parsley and spices such as cloves and nutmeg. Achtung! Don't  throw them on the barbie – you must poach them. Eat only the inside of the sausage, not the casing, with a bit of sweet Bavarian mustard. Try this as your second brekkie, if you have to settle your tummy with some Vegemite toast first.

When to eat: Traditionally before noon – they're made fresh daily without preservatives so don't keep long. Bring some water with parsley to a boil and take it off the flame. Throw in the sausages and let them poach for about 15 minutes. Done.

How to eat:  Are you a peeler or a sucker? There are two techniques to get the meat out of the casings. Both work fine. 

Eat with? This one is best with a nice pretzel and perhaps a stein of breakfast wheat beer.

Mustard pick: Sweet Bavarian mustard and you are doing it right.

Currywurst from food truck Mutter Krause.
Currywurst from food truck Mutter Krause.  Photo: Tim Grey

Buy it: Alka Polish Deli, stall 37, South Melbourne Market, 0416 829 433; Hansa Butchery & Smallgoods, 6 Avlona Street, Mordialloc, 9588 2100.  

Try it: Hofbrauhaus 18-28 Market Lane, Melbourne, 9663 3361. 

2. Bratwurst

There are famous bratwurst styles from every corner of Germany but my favourite comes from the middle-east of Germany – the Thueringer bratwurst, a mouth-watering sausage made for the barbecue. The Thueringer looks like a picture-book sausage: 15 to 20 centimetres long and made mostly made from pork although some recipes might ask for a bit of veal or beef in the mix. Nutmeg and caraway add a twist of originality.

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When to eat: No German grill party is complete without one. Use a piece of pork back fat to season the griddle and grill the bratwurst, not too hot, until it's golden brown.

How to eat: Poke a hole in your bread roll, stick that thueringer in and enjoy. Or, if you have to, use knife and fork. 

Eat with? Only the locals would enjoy them without mustard. The rest of Germany (and myself) loves their mustard too much.

Weisswurst (Vicevoorsht) from Hofbrauhaus.
Weisswurst (Vicevoorsht) from Hofbrauhaus.  Photo: Tim Grey

Mustard pick: A mild German mustard like Bautzener Senf or Bron Senf. Dijon will do at a pinch.

Buy it: Some continental butchers sometimes have them. Or you can try making your own.

Try it: Munich Brauhaus, 45 South Wharf Promenade, South Wharf, 1300 686 424.

3. Nuernberger Bratwurst

Finger-long, finger-thick and famous for falling through the barbecuegrate, these are beautiful small bratwurst from Nuernberg, but popular all over the country. In Germany they weigh precisely 23 grams each. We're talking about pure pork in a sheep casing and the key ingredient is a pinch of mace. You order them as a dozen or half – which seems a lot, but they will disappear in no time.

When to eat: In winter, pan-fried with most sauerkraut dishes and in summer straight off the barbie. Throw some pinecones in the charcoal to give them a nice smoky taste.

How to eat: Six sausages are a good measure to start with, but you may need more. No rules – or judgment. 

Eat with? On a bed of sauerkraut, in a roll, with potato salad, or just dunked in mustard.

Mustard pick: Lowensenf – extra scharf (hot).

Buy it: Hansa Butchery & Smallgoods.

Try it: Hofbrauhaus and Munich Brauhaus.

4. Currywurst

This  is a good sausage to start a conversation with. No matter where you live in Germany, locals will try to convince you they have they best currywurst. I reckon Hamburg is the winner, but the sausage itself was invented by Herta Heuwer on a rainy day in Berlin, back in 1949. The most common currywurst is slightly smoked, 25 to 30-centimetres long and served with a good slather of a curry-spiced, tomato-based sauce. Some sausage lovers just use a classic German bratwurst and add the curry sauce, and even a grilled kransky tastes great with it.

When to eat:  Any time really. When you need a sausage and a break from shopping, or to line the stomach before a stein or 10, or perhaps on your way home at 3am. This is where the currywurst shows its full diversity and why it is one of Germany's most popular snacks. 

How to eat: Cut into one centimentre discs with sauce on top. Traditionally eaten standing by a high table.  

Eat with? A triangle of white bread, plenty of sauce and a sprinkle of curry powder. I always order some chips with it.

Mustard pick: Skip the mustard and slather on curry sauce.

Buy it: DIY sauce with a sausage from a good German butcher.

Try it: Mutter Krause food trucks, mutterkrause.com.au.

5. Frankfurter

Just in case a German train should ever not be on time and you are looking for some food at the station, this is something you will definitely find there. Just say "Zwei Frankfurter bitte" and you will get two boiling hot sausages that snap when you bite them.  These beautifully smoked pork sausages contain about 30 per cent back fat.

When to eat: Any time really. A good all-rounder.

How to eat: Dip the end in some mustard, have a munch, then double dip again. 

Eat with? Traditionally with a good bread roll or with some mayonnaise-based potato salad and (of course) mustard.

Mustard pick: Kuehne Senf mittelscharf (medium-hot).

Buy it: Portman Continental Butcher, 19 Portman Street, Oakleigh, 9569 7078; Walma's Meat & Smallgoods, 4-6 High Street, Bayswater, 9729 0635. 

Try it: We couldn't find anywhere dishing up this fast-food frankfurter.

Bratwurst Thueringer style

700g pork shoulder (skin off), slightly frozen

300g pork belly, slightly frozen(fat)

100ml frozen cubes full cream milk

1 tbsp vegetable oil

100g onions, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp marjoram, finely chopped

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp crushed coriander seeds

1/2 tsp ground mace

1 egg

20g salt

Hog casings*

1. Mince the slightly frozen meat and milk cubes through the coarse disc (8 mm) into a large bowl.

2. Heat the oil in a frying over medium heat and pan-fry the onions and the garlic until softened but not brown. Remove from heat and set aside to cool down.

3. Add the onions to the meat with the marjoram, pepper, cumin, coriander, mace and egg but not the salt. Mix well to bind the meat, then add the salt.

4. Soak the casings in lukewarm water.

5. Fill the casings with sausage mixture and twist into  20-centimetre lengths. Hang the sausages to dry in a cool place for an hour. You can grill the sausages immediately or vacuum–pack and freeze.

* Natural hog casings are available at the Casing Boutique, or ask your local butcher.