Snapshots from Germany: Thüringer Rotwurst

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[Photograph: Urs Kuckertz]

Recently at my local butcher shop, I was looking for sow's stomach, known in Germany as saumagen, but unfortunately they had none. In between all the delicious-looking leberwurst, pickled calf tongue, colorful sülze and other sausage goodies, there was the Thüringer Rotwurst.

Rotwurst, which translates as "red sausage," is one of many types of blutwurst (blood sausage) in Germany. It's made mostly from pork blood, rind, some liver, speck and grütze (groats) spiced with cloves, marjoram, thyme and cinnamon. The delicate taste might actually surprise you. There's a slight touch of metallic blood flavor, sure, but it's nicely complemented by the spices, especially the underlying cinnamon.

Sliced and served cold on fresh rye bread with butter and mustard, it makes a fine little lunch snack. You can remove the casing if you'd like, or add some applesauce since apple and pork, as we all know, is a successful marriage. You should wash it down with wheat beer, particularly the Lammsbräu Weisse from the award-winning Neumarkter Lammsbräu brewery.

The region of Thüringen—one of five eastern states of the former East Germany (DDR) that was absorbed by West Germany during the reunification in 1990—is known for its bratwurst and Köstritzer Schwarzbier.

But perhaps the most obscure dish from former East Germany is Tote Oma - Verkehrsunfall, or "dead grandma - by traffic accident." What's up with the name? It comes from the appearance of the warm melted blutwurst with leberwurst, bread crumbs, and onions, served alongside mashed potatoes. Like most stuff from this historic area, it's been forgotten and only thrives in fringe DDR nostalgic communities.

Blutwurst does make me a little nostalgic. During Christmas season in Denmark, my dad used to serve pan-fried blood sausages from horse meat. It was dark violet with an intense iron flavor that would prickle your tongue. He'd serve it with maple syrup, warm applesauce, cinnamon powder and Danish style fedtegrever, best described as tiny crispy golden fried speck nuggets.

So, if you were curious, I did buy that unspectacular-looking (but delicately flavored!) rotwurst from Thüringen. Anyone else have good associations with blood sausage?

About the author: Steen Hanssen lives in Berlin (tje Winterfeldt area) with his German wife and their six-year old daughter. Born in Saigon, he spent part of his childhood in Africa and grew up in Denmark. He's worked for the Norwegian and Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the United Nations in both Thailand and Indonesia. Passionate about delicious food and food culture, Steen is an average home cook and always up for a better-tasting bite and beverage.

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