What colour do Germans like their sausages? If brown, they’re from the north. If white, they are definitely southerners.
Most countries have their north/south divide, and Germany is no exception. Dialect, culture, traditions, attitudes, personality, all change depending on degrees of north and south. So how do you tell when you’ve actually crossed from north to south? The sausages change colour, from Bockwurst to Weisswurst, because you’ve just crossed the White Sausage Equator.
There’s several schools of thought as to where the Equator actually falls. Some say it goes through Frankfurt and follows the line of the Main river, others suggest it lies further south, at Heidelberg, and Bavarians maintain that the true border is a radius of 100km around their capital, Munich.
The cultural differences between south and north (and there are plenty) are too many to detain us here, so let’s concentrate on the sausages themselves.
You’ll be forgiven if you just use a knife and fork
The white Weisswurst are rather unappealing to look at and made from minced veal and pork bacon, flavoured with parsley, lemon, onions and various other ingredients. They are perishable, so used to be produced fresh every morning and served at midday, although this practice is not so common now that we have fridges. Heated in water and served in the cooking liquid, to avoid cooling, there’s a particular etiquette to eating them, called zuzeln, or sucking. The technique is as follows, and it does require practice: cut the knots or metal clips that secure both ends of the sausage, then suck the first half of the Weisswurst filling through one open end, and then suck the rest through the other open end. Not easy. However, there are as many styles of zuzeln as there are Bavarians, so you’ll be forgiven if you just use a knife and fork.
The typical northern sausage, Bockwurst, requires no particular technique. It also is made from ground veal and pork, but browner in colour. Today, recipes with pork, lamb, turkey, chicken (and even fish!) exist. It is often smoked, and put in natural casing. The ‘Bock’ part of the name comes from the fact that it was traditionally eaten with Bockbier (beer with higher alcohol content), and it should be served with a piece of bread and strong mustard.
Bockwurst or the omnipresent Bratwurst (mainly made from pork) are the basis of the ubiquitous Currywurst (curry powder and tomato sauce) invented in post-war Berlin by highly successful snackbar owner Herta Heuwer (in her heyday she employed 19 curry girls). The staff canteen of the VW plant in Wolfsburg is famous for its Currywurst and sells several million every year.
Germany’s first white sausage academy in Neumarkt near Nuremburg offers courses for the uninitiated.
In the north, there’s Berlin’s Deutsches Currywurst Museum in Berlin.