All About the Wurst: Leberwurst

Whe knew liver can be so tasty?

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Like Blutwurst (blood sausage), this is a German delicacy that does not get much love outside of Germany. For one, Leberwurst (often anglicized as "liverwurst") is made of liver, an offal many Americans avoid.

But Leberwurst is a traditional part of German cuisine and should be enjoyed while visiting the country. While it was once only brought out on special occasions, it can now be enjoyed on the regular .

German children even love it - really! This is a staple of the German breakfast spread, along with a table full of delicious rolls, meats, and cheeses.

Here I will make a case for all the Leberwurst-haters why you should give it a try. And, after all, Spiel nicht die beleidigte Leberwurst (Literally translates to "Don’t play the sore liver sausage", or "Don’t be such a whiner/sourpuss").

What is Leberwust?

Leberwurst can be compared to the more popular French paté, but the choice of meat and flavor profile is firmly German. Unlike the French who use duck, hare, or goose, the Germans stick with the less exotic calf’s liver. The meat is seasoned with salt, pepper and marjoram as well as other herbs and roasted onions. Leberwurst manufacturers are even getting crazy with their recipes, adding unusual elements like Lingonberries and mushrooms to their sausage. It is then ground either coarse with chewy bits of Speck (similar to bacon) and white pork fat or refined like butter.

It is a spreadable sausage in the category of Kochwurst (cooked sausage).

This sausage comes in many varieties, but all must contain at least 10 percent liver with the best versions composed of over 25 percent liver. Liver's reputed health benefits are not lost in Leberwurst form. This wurst is rich in vitamins, able to fill 100% of your daily needs for vitamins A, B and especially B12.

It is also an excellent source of iron.

On the other hand, it's also high in sodium and fat. Just like all the finer things in life, it should be consumed in moderation.

Regional Variations and Varieties of Leberwurst

There are many different varieties of Leberwurst and some are distinct to their region, like beer. Several types even have protected status in the EU, similar to the Spreewälder Gurken (Spreewald pickle).

Thüringer Leberwurst

An example of an EU protected regional sausage is the Thüringer Leberwurst. Part of its criteria is that at least 51% of the raw materials must be from the state of Thuringia and all processing must take place there. It has a distinctive taste from the local products and cooking method of smoking.

Braunschweiger

Synonymous with Braunschweig (Brunswick in English), Germany, this sausage is usually served as mettwurst within Germany. In the USA, however, Braunschweiger is the most popular type of liverwurst, a descendant of the original liver sausage brought over by German settlers.

Frankfurter Zeppelinwurst

Named after Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin (yes, the guy who created those giant old-timey air-ships), this sausage was also approved by the count. A master butcher, Herr Stephan Weiss, put together the unique blend back on March 15th, 1909 and obtained Count Ferdinand’s consent to lend his name to this tasty enterprise.

This type of leberwurst became standard fare on Zeppelin's airship. The slogan, “Ein Genuss zum Abheben gut” (A pleasure good for take off), reflects its affiliation. 

Pfälzer Hausmacher Leberwurst

Palatinate liver sausage is a classic of the Palatine area (southwest of Germany). This style of leberwurst usually finds its way onto the regional meat platter served in restaurants and biergartens. It is often mixed with a regional variety of blood sausage.

Where to Buy Leberwurst

Leberwurst can be found anywhere in Germany. While the discount grocers such as Aldi or Lidl usually only offer one or two varieties, bio stores and major markets like Kaisers and Edeka carry a wide range. In addition, Metzger (butchers) often make their own versions in-house with the best ingredients.

While it may be sold in a squishable casing, the sausage is more often sold in a glass jar with resealable lid.

Sausage from a butcher or independent seller may not contain preservatives so it should be eaten quickly. After opening leberwurst it should be kept refrigerated and it is good for about one week after opening. 

Leberwurst Recipe

If you aren't able to find a version you like or are feeling particularly ambitious you can make your own Leberwurst fairly easily.

Basic Leberwurst Recipe

Serves 6+

  • 2 lbs pork belly
  • 1/2 lb pork shoulder
  • 1 1/2 lbs pork liver
  • 2 onions, sliced (optional to roast the onions before including)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram  
  • pork casing

Nine Easy Steps to Make Leberwurst:

1. Cut all the meat into small pieces
2. Mix in onion and seasoning
3. Simmer 40 minutes on stove
4. Add marjoram
5. Grind cooked meat to your preference - either fine or coarse
6. Stuff into casings and tie
7. Cover with water; bring to a very low boil for 6 minutes
8. (Alternative flavor can be achieved by finishing the sausage by smoking over beech wood)
9. Enjoy!

How is Leberwurst Served?

The spread is usually enjoyed simply, spread on some good German bread for breakfast or the light evening meal of Abendbrot (dinner bread). Eat it with some Senf (mustard) or Gurke (pickle) to get the full German effect.