Guide to German Sausage: Bockwurst

All about the Wurst

Pair of sausages with potato salad and mustard in plate on white background
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Germany is sausage country. They love their wurst and you can find it on almost every speisekarte (menu) - no matter how fancy the restaurant. You can get sausage everywhere from street vendors to imbiss to every biergarten. But what German sausage is the best?

Bockwurst is one of the most popular varieties of German sausage. To many Americans, it simply looks like a tasty curved hot dog. But this iconic German sausage has its own history and flavor associated with Bock bier and Lent. Learn all about the German sausage known as bockwurst.

What is Bockwurst

Bockwurst is traditionally mild and pale, made of a higher portion of veal than the usual German pork sausage. It is seasoned with  salt, white pepper and paprika as well as herbs like chives and parsley. However, there are many varieties and versions of bockwurst including those that use turkey or chicken, or even a fish version in northern Germany along the coast.

This sausage is sold lightly smoked, so partially cooked. It should still be cooked thoroughly before being served. That said, there are endless varieties and preparations sold both inside and outside Germany so check with the butcher or packaging on preparation instructions.

History of Bockwurst

There are two popular theories about the origin story of this sausage.

The first story places bockwurst in Bavaria as far back as the 1550s. It was best enjoyed accompanying strong Bockbier which was brewed in the northern town of Einbeck. The Bavarian Kings invited an Einbeck brewer to bring his Ainpöckisch beer south and by 1827 both the beer and the sausage were quite popular.

The second tale of the bockwurst's origin places the sausage as a Berlin invention (similar to the contentious story behind the beginnings of currywurst - split between Berlin and Hamburg). It says bockwurst was a product of a kneipe (bar) owner in Kreuzberg, Robert Scholtz, and a Friedrichstrasse butcher, Benjamin Loewenthal, in 1889. Loewenthal was Jewish and insisted the wurst be veal and beef rather than the German standard of pork to be kosher. Served with bratkartoffel at a party commemorating the end of the winter semester at Humboldt University, the light, white sausage was a hit. Served with tasty Templehofer Bock, a dark beer, it earned the name of Bockwurst. Word of the “Bockwurst Scholtz” spread from southeast of Berlin to all of Germany and beyond.

Whatever version is the true story, bockwurst is here to stay as a German favorite, especially around Lent, or Fastenzeit in German. Bock beer is the beer of the season and this sausage is most associated with that beer and that time of year

Bockwurst Pairings & Recipes

Over time, the heavy sausage, potatoes and gravy combo changed to a (somewhat) lighter, midday meal. Bockwurst is now usually eaten with a brötchen (roll) and spicy Bautzen mustard.

Where to Buy Bockwurst

Bockwurst are so popular you can find them at any German supermarket. However, the best place to buy it is right from the source, a local metzgerei (butcher’s shop)

Bockwurst are actually so popular they can now be past the German borders and in everyday American supermarkets as well as other locations around the world.

If you want to go back to the beginning, track down the Berlin bar Kraus. They estimate that they've  served over a million Bockwurst and for under four euro, you can enjoy a taste of German sausage history.

How to Prepare a Bockwurst

The sausage is usually lightly simmered or poached. Be careful to avoid overcooking and busting the casing, resulting in split and dry sausage.  

Basic Bockwurst Recipe:

Place sausages in a cast iron or heavy skillet with a little water and a drizzle of oil. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium as you turn the sausage to grill all sides. Once the water has evaporated and turned an appetizing brown, it should be cooked through. To check, the sausage should have reached 165 degrees F internally. You know it is right when you take a bite and the crisp skin almost cracks upon opening, revealing the juicy meat within.

And, of course, serve it with a Bock beer. 

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