Bratwurst is a sausage usually composed of veal, pork or
beef. The plural is Bratwürste.
The name is German, derived from Old High German brätwurst,
from brät-, which is finely chopped meat and -wurst, or
sausage. Though the brat in bratwurst describes the way
the sausages are made, it is often misconstrued to be
derived from the German verb "braten", which means to pan
fry or roast. Bratwurst is usually grilled and sometimes
cooked in broth or beer.
A grilled sausage is first
described in the 8th century B.C. in Ancient Greece by
Homer in book XX of the Odyssey as a simile for the
tormented Ulysses: but he tossed about as one who turns a
paunch full of blood and fat in front of a hot fire, doing
it first on one side and then on the other, that he may
get it cooked as soon as possible. It is also mentioned in
Ancient Rome by the 1st century novelist Petronius and
appears in the 4th/5th century in book II of the cookbook
De re coquinaria by Apicius.
The first documented evidence of the Bratwurst in Germany
dates back to 1313 and can be found in the Franconian city
of Nuremberg, which is still an internationally renowned
centre for the production of grill sausages.
Nürnberger Bratwurst with
sauerkraut and mustard, as served in the Nürnberger
Bratwurst Glöckl in Munich.
Recipes for the sausage vary by region and even localitiy;
some sources list over forty different varieties of German
bratwurst, many of the best known originating in Franconia
(today for the most part situated in Northern Bavaria but
still culturally quite distinct), its northern neighbour
Thuringia and adjacent areas. How the sausages are served
is also locally different but most commonly they are
regarded as a snack served with or in a Brötchen (white
bread roll made from wheat flour) and eaten with hot
As a pub dish it is often accompanied by Sauerkraut or
potato salad and sometimes served with dark, crusty
country bread made predominantly from rye flour, less
commonly with a Brezel. It is a very popular form of fast
food in German-speaking countries, often cooked and sold
by street vendors from small stands.
United States of America
a common type of sausage in the United States, especially
in the state of Wisconsin, where the largest ancestry
group is German. Originally brought to North America
by German immigrants, it is a common sight at summer
cookouts, alongside the famous hot dog. It is also
the origin of the "beer brat", a regional favorite where
the bratwurst are poached in beer (generally a combination
of a pilsner style, with butter and onions) prior to
grilling over charcoal.
The bratwurst was popularized in Sheboygan County,
Wisconsin in the 1920s. In general, each local butcher
shop would take orders and hand make bratwurst fresh to be
picked up on a particular day. The fat content of
the sausages was substantial, making daily pick up
necessary to avoid spoilage. Much of the fat was
removed during the cooking over charcoal. Usually one kept
a pan of cold water handy to the grill, so it was easy to
dip one's fingers in and fling the water onto the flames
caused by the burning of the excess fat.
The bratwurst (or "brat") also became popular as a
mainstay of sports stadiums after Bill Sperling introduced
bratwurst to Major League Baseball in Milwaukee County
Stadium in 1953. The bratwurst were such a hit,
Sperling said, that Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers
took a case back to New York. Currently Miller Park
in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is the only baseball stadium that
sells more bratwurst than hot dogs.
The town of Bucyrus, Ohio (known as the "Bratwurst Capital
of America") has held the three-day Bucyrus Bratwurst
Festival annually since 1967.