Any meat-lover will tell you that a well-made bratwurst is one of the best dishes out there. Born out of necessity and perfected over centuries of tradition, the delicious sausage we now affectionately call the “brat,” has a unique history that continues as a German restaurant and hotel staple to this day. Explore the unique history of this tasty creation below, and complete your experience by visiting an authentic German restaurant!
The Origin of the Word “Bratwurst”
A lot can be learned about bratwurst history through a study of the etymology, or origins, of the word “bratwurst” itself. Many etymologists trace the origins of “bratwurst” back to the Old High German word “Brat,” meaning without waste, and “wurst,” which means “sausage.”
And that’s exactly what bratwursts are: unwasteful sausages. A bratwurst is typically made using scraps of meat held together in a thin casing (originally made out of animal intestine). Centuries ago, bratwursts were a means of survival for many German people. During harsh winter months, not even the smallest scraps of meat could be wasted, so they were gathered, encased, and preserved into bratwurst sausages. The same the process continues in German restaurants to this day (though many sausage makers elect to use synthetic casing instead of intestine).
The Earliest Bratwurst
The exact origins of the bratwurst are still not entirely known, though most believe it to have originated in Germany several hundred years ago. It has been a long-standing argument between the people of Thüringen and the people of Franconia, two German regions, as to which region developed the bratwurst first. Recently, a hobby historian, Heinrich Hollerl, discovered a list of ingredients for Thuringian sausage over 600 years old. It is currently the oldest known recipe for German sausage. However, Hollerl’s discovery did not settle the debate. Hollerl himself believes that the bratwurst was originally invented by the Celts and was later introduced to the Franconians and Thuringians.
The Bratwurst Today
Today, the bratwurst is a popular food for people around the world. With several varieties and sizes developed over the centuries, it has been embraced throughout Europe, the United States (especially in Midwestern states like Wisconsin and Michigan), and several other countries. A delicious and ingenious creation, the bratwurst is still done best by those who first created it. When you’re feeling like eating a hearty handful of brat, be sure to stop by the closest traditional German restaurant or German hotel in your area.