Guide to German Hams and Sausages

Ham

Hams are one of Germany’s most favorite meat products, both the air-dried, cured, prosciutto-like “raw ham” (Rohschinken) and the boiled, cured, pink “cooked ham” (Kochschinken). Both types are frequently used as meal ingredients, for example as white asparagus wrap-around or mixed with spätzle noodles. Or ham is used as open sandwich topper during evening bread meals (Abendbrot), along with mustard and fresh tomatoes, pickles or cucumbers.

The quality and ultimately the price of hams depend on how long they have been smoked and dried in air. A distinction is then made between Knochenschinken (ham on the bone), Nussschinken (fillet ham), Rollschinken (rolled ham) and Schinkenspeck (bacon), depending on the way in which the ham is cut, spiced, smoked, dried or stored.

An important note: the original Black Forest ham is actually a Rohschinken (“raw,” prosciutto-like ham) and not a cooked ham as it is sold in the United States. This ham owes its unmistakable smoky flavor and  dark red color framed by a white layer of fat to the fact that the ham is de-boned before it is cured and then smoked over pine wood. This process gained the EU “designated origin” protection, which means, no similar type ham  can be called “Black Forest” ham, if it wasn’t  produced in the Black Forest area.

Sausages

 

As with breads and beers, sausages are main components of German cuisine. You can find close to 1,500 varieties across the regions, a great number of states, cities, or even towns have their own signature ways to mince, mesh and stuff meat, bacon, salt and spices into a casing made from intestines or other materials.

Germans differentiate between three types: Kochwurst (cooked – over 350 types) , Brühwurst (scalded – over 800 types) and Rohwurst (raw sausages – 60 types ) prepared in different ways and consumed either cold, sliced, warm or hot.

With almost 800 different varieties (60%), scalded sausages are the most common type. Made from raw pork or beef, bacon and finely crushed ice, these ingredients are finely minced and mixed with salt, pepper and other spices, such as coriander, paprika, nutmeg, ginger or cardamom, depending on the type of sausage. The name “scalded sausage” (Brühwurst) comes from the fact that these sausages are scalded in hot water or steam. They need to be refrigerated and eaten as soon as possible. The most common types of scalded sausage are: Fleischwurst, Bierwurst, Jagdwurst, Bierschinken, Paprikawurst, and Zigeunerwurst (literally, “gypsy sausage”).

The most famous of Germany’s sausages are the “Würstchen.” Würstchen can be eaten any time and anywhere; they are filling, taste great and are good not only as a between-meal snack. One could say they are the original convenience food. There’s a huge variety of würstchen – such as “Bockwurst”, “Frankfurter” or “Vienna” sausage, “Nurnberger” or “Thuringian” sausage — and they’re eaten hot or cold, singly or in pairs, grilled or fried. And what would Munich’s annual Oktoberfest be without the world-famous “Weisswurst?” Real Bavarians eat this scalded sausage variety, which contains lots of fresh parsley, before noon, with sweet mustard and fresh pretzels and, of course, a real Bavarian beer.

Here are the most famous varieties:

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