Snapshots from Germany: Weißwurst

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[Photograph: Urs Kuckertz]

While Berliners have their currywurst and their Turkish döner kebab, the weißwurst (white sausage) is strongly associated with Bavaria, particularly the great city of Munich. It's hugely popular across Germany, and very simple. Order weißwurst and you'll get a pair of white sausages, a brezel (pretzel), sweet mustard on the side and weißbier. That's it.

Served at breakfast up until lunch, this delicate white sausage is said to have been invented at the Gasthaus Zum Ewigen Licht (a taveren/pub called "To the Eternal Light") at the stunning Münchner Marienplatz in 1857. Since then, weißwurst has become a signature Bavarian dish proudly served as a light meal at markets, restaurants, bars, and biergardens including the Oktoberfest held in September.

Weißwurst is primarily made of finely minced veal added speck with chopped parsley and a combination of spices such as nutmeg, cardamom, salt and pepper (all sausage makers have their own special recipe). When producing weißwurst, the emphasis is on the sausage color being as white as possible, not grayish or yellow but snow white. The only colorful element should be the small bits of green chopped parsley seen through the transparent casing.

The sausages must be heated at around 170°F in hot salted water for 15 minutes. It's essential that the sausage casing does not fracture or crack while heated. If that happens, the dish is destroyed and may only be served to dogs or children. So pay attention to the temperature and avoid boiling water.

Just to recap: there are four components involved. Don't even think about changing any one of them.

  • The Weißwurst: Normally served in pairs. For the hardcore Bavarian (Munich) locals, there are a number of rules on how to remove the sausage casing (it's never eaten). Some will argue that you should suck the meat out of the pork casing, and that "any other method would be sacrilegious." Removing the casing with a knife and fork is completely fine by me, as long as you remove the entire casing in one gentle, elegant motion. But this can only happen if the weißwurst has been properly heated, allowing the casing to be peeled off easily without disturbing the sausage texture.
  • The sweet mustard: Sweet Bavarian mustard consists of roughly ground, roasted mustard seeds blended with applesauce, honey and sugar. It balances the salty, savory white sausage and is an excellent dip for your brezel as well.
  • The Brezel: Stay tuned for a full piece on this, but for now, I'll say this. The brezel should be fresh, lukewarm with a crisp crust and soft, chewy insides.
  • The Weißbier: Serve any premium quality Bavarian style wheat beer. I'd go for a strong Aventinus Weizen Eisbock from the the Schneider-Weisse brewery, a long time favorite of mine.
Note about the image: It's slightly misleading. Besides the missing beer, weißwurst wouldn't normally be served this way. Traditionally a pair of white sausages would be served floating in a small bowl, half filled with hot, lightly salted water, with a lid to keep it warm. Next to the bowl you'll find a fresh brezel, a jar with sweet mustard and wheat beer. However since my good friend, beer lover and photographer Urs Kuckertz refuses to shoot any cutlery or tableware, you'll have to use your imagination.

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