Tag Archives: traditional food

Beyond Bratwurst– Blutwurst, German Blood Sausage

Stick with me through this post on Blutwurst, and you will be rewarded by the next recipe to come–a luscious dessert is coming soon.

Now here’s a sausage that will test how adventurous your eating habits are.  Blutwurst, the German means Blood Sausage in English, turns some people off right there. Just the name.  Even if you get your steak rare or barely medium, with a little bloody juice dripping out, there is just something about being so bold as to actually eat something called blood.

Blutwurst Package

Blutwurst Package

Other Names for Blutwurst

The English, in their coy way, disguise their blood sausage under the name Black Pudding. Well, that sounds pretty innocent, doesn’t it?  Since the English also tend to call all desserts “pudding”, you might be fooled by Black Pudding.

The French call it boudin (boo-DAN), which sounds pretty classy.

Italians say biroldo.

In Poland it’s kiszka.

Ingredients of Blutwurst

And so on.  Proving that every culture that eats pigs has found a way to maximize the use of ALL of the pig.  So while I found that I do like Blutwurst, I find it necessary not to dwell on the ingredients.  It is not the blood (which can be pork or beef blood) that gets to me–it’s the “pig snouts, pork jowls and pork belly fat that are added to chopped pork, seasonings like clove and ginger, marjoram and garlic.

It seems that most other nationalities add fillers of wheat or rice or other grains, but my German ancestors thought the left over parts of the pig were just fine all by themselves–with a few seasonings, thank you.

The Blutwurst I got from Wisconsin’s German sausage maker Steiglmeir is fully cooked, but it does contain nitrite–a chemical not found in many of their sausages.  That makes it a food you eat once in a while, but not frequently.

People’s Reactions

Blutwurst sliced

Blutwurst sliced

People have a ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ reaction to blutwurst. There seems to be no neutrality about this stuff.  Some are turned off at the mere thought of blood in the name. Some think they detect a strong, iron aftertaste that they hate.  Some don’t mind the taste but don’t like the texture.  (Blutwurst is soft, rather more like liverwurst than like the solid texture of bratwurst.)

How To Eat It

Like other German sausages, blutwurst can be eaten as a cold cut or fried. I was a little put off by the big globs of fat, so preferred it fried.  I found that the texture improved if I fried it longer than I would other sliced sausage.  When it cooks all the way through, it loses that “gooey” texture that it has otherwise.  However, even in an oiled cast iron skillet, it was prone to stick, so I turned it frequently.  It cooks up black and is not terribly photogenic.

Blutwurst fried

Blutwurst fried, on pumpernickel with mustard

As with the other sausages, the traditional German accompaniments taste great with blutwurst–namely potato salad and sauerkraut.  I didn’t have any sauerkraut on hand, but made a cold potato salad without mayo. In cooler weather, I would definitely make a German (hot) potato salad.  I also think I would love a few slices of apple cooked along with the sausage.

One Other Thing Not to Think About

Let’s face it, sausage does not qualify as health food, no matter how you slice it (or fry it).

But besides not thinking about ingredients, I try not to think about the nutritional value of the German Sausages I am trying out.  This one is loaded with iron, if you have an iron deficiency, however many people have to be careful not to ingest too much iron.  Otherwise, here’s the bad news about a serving of  blutwurst:


Protein, 15 grams  28%


Iron, 35%


Saturated fat: 13 g., 65% of daily requirement

Ployunsaturated Fat 3.5 g.

Monosaturated Fat 16 g.

Cholesterol, 120 mg., 40% of daily requirement

Sodium 680 mg, 28 %

Vitamin D 13%

B-12  16%

Blutwurst dinner

Blutwurst on pumpernickel with potato salad

But once in a while, for a special treat, Blutwurst, sauerkraut and potato salad will fill my plate. Add some pumpernickel bread and a splash of German mustard.

Or maybe I’ll have one of these that I wrote about earlier.

  1. Weisswurst
  2. 2. Gelbwurst
  3. 3. Krakauerwurst

St. Patrick’s Day Irish-American Soda Bread

Irish blessingIrish cottages

Two foods come automatically to mind when someone mentions St. Patrick’s Day in the United States: Corned Beef and Soda Bread. Neither are truly “traditional.”

In my family, because my mother loved to coordinate the menu with holidays, we usually had corned beef and cabbage (and carrots and potatoes) on St. Patrick’s Day. But we never, to my recollection had soda bread.  Now in researching these two foods that we think of as “typical Irish”, I learn that neither of them were commonly eaten in the old country.

Well, a soda bread was baked, but it was a heavy, stone-ground wheat affair with no fruit/raisins–until our ancestors arrived in the New World where they were introduced to white flour and other innovations. Corned Beef has a similar history–both these foods and the wild celebration of St. Patrick’s Day is an Irish immigrant thing–not an old country Irish thing.

Irish American Swiss soda bread

Irish-American (Swiss?) soda bread made with a muesli cereal with dried blueberries.

I chose to try a recipe with muesli and whole wheat flour standing in for the original rough peasant flour.  The link to “two other versions” below is where you can find the recipe. I liked the symmetry of pairing a recipe from my Scots Irish ancestors with a cereal popular with my husband’s ancestral land–Switzerland.

I’m not going to repeat all the information about soda bread, or even give you the recipe here, because the web site American Food Roots does such a good job.  They present not just one recipe (the one you may be familiar with) but several others.  Also, my favorite baking site, King Arthur’s Flour gives you a basic recipe.

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda bread with German sauerbraten.

Just to complete the melting pot version of  my St. Patrick’s Day meal, I served it, not with corned beef, but with the sauerbraten of my German ancestors. I spread a little applesauce on the bread as another nod to the German ancestors.

Stay tuned.  The sauerbraten recipe is coming to you next week.

New Year’s Day Food Traditions: Sauerkraut

 Photo by Andy Mangold

Photo by Andy Mangold

What did you eat on New Year’s Day for luck?

I think it depends on where you came from, or where your family originally came from.  The answers I have had to that question are greens and  black-eyed peas, pork, lentils, and less frequently–fish, cornbread, grapes, and special sweets,

According to Southern Living, the origin of the greens and lentils or black-eyed peas that are popular in the South comes from the Civil War.

According to folklore, this auspicious New Year’s Day tradition dates back to the Civil War, when Union troops pillaged the land, leaving behind only black-eyed peas and greens as animal fodder. Rich in nutrients, these were the humble foods that enabled Southerners to survive. Details of stories differ, but each celebrates a communion of family and friends bound by grateful hearts and renewed hope for good things yet to come.

Others suggest the greens are for paper money and the black-eyed peas signify coins–wealth to come. Another source says the circular pattern of the eye on the black-eyed peas signals a completed cycle of a year.

Pork/ham or sausage may come from this association, suggested in the web site Food Timeline. “pork/ham (because pigs root forward as they eat, embracing challenges)”  They explain that the tradition goes back hundreds of years in many European countries.

The Food Timeline has many interesting references and talk about several lucky foods and the reasoning (or superstition) behind them.

Our family has been eating sauerkraut and sausages on New Year’s Day for generations, now.  It is guaranteed to make you wealthy in the coming year.  Despite the fact that we have not seen any evidence of that result, we keep eating it. After all, this might be the year that it works. On the other hand, perhaps I should add greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread and fish to the menu.

According to another article at Food Timeline, New Englanders choose sauerkraut for their lucky meal, and some countries eat cabbage for luck and prosperity.  That may explain my family’s devotion to sauerkraut for New Year’s Day.  But how does such magical thinking come about?

My theory is that sauerkraut was a plentiful and vitamin-rich food in the dead of winter when most vegetables were no longer available. Everybody was going to be eating ‘kraut in the winter.  It was a food of the poor.  So if you celebrated the ordinary on New Year’s Day, you had no where to go but up during the coming year.

Although there are differing opinions in our household about the edibility of sauerkraut, I actually like it–particularly the way that my mother always prepared it–and her mother before her. So, of course, I stick with the traditional food, cooked in our family’s traditional manner.

Please chime in and tell us what you eat on New Year’s Day.  And if you don’t think you like sauerkraut, you might try this recipe.


New Year’s Day Sauerkraut and Sausage


  • pork sausage (whatever kind is your favorite)
  • 1 Can, jar or package of sauerkraut
  • 1 apple
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar


1. Brown sausage i skillet, pour in a small amount of water and simmer until done. (see package directions). Remove from pan.
2. Core and slice unpeeled apple. Stir apple pieces into sausage drippings in skillet.
3. Drain part of liquid off of sauerkraut and discard. Add sauerkraut to apple slices.
4. Stir in brown sugar and stir until dissolved.
5. Serve with sausage around a mound of sauerkraut.