It was a staple at my home, and as a child, I simply hated it – leberwurst (prounounce ‘labor-woorst) or, as you might also know it, liverwurst. I didn’t care for the flavor, for the texture, nor – and that was probably the biggest problem, the smell, and the grayish color. It didn’t help that one of my friends in school brought along liverwurst sandwiches for mid-morning breaks; her mother had made them lovingly and, I think, always added a slice of gherkin. Mind, I liked my friend, and I liked fried beef liver with roasted onion rings and mashers very much – just not liverwurst.
Was it that the lady behind the deli counter in our favorite supermarket gave me a taste of something new (she knew about my food adventurousness) or that – even more likely – my mother tried out a new kind of leberwurst? Suddenly I found myself liking it very much. That is, the very smooth kind with a pink color to it – calf liverwurst. It was an opener to the immensely versatile world of leberwurst. And no, we hadn’t any variety called Braunschweiger (pronounce ‘brown-shvy-gah, meaning from the German town of Braunschweig) – that’s a different kind of sausage in Germany. Only in America, Braunschweiger is a specific kind of smoked liverwurst!
What IS liverwurst anyhow? It’s a cooked sausage in the first place, and it usually works like a spread. It is a by-product of butchering pigs, but there have been other varieties or mixed in meats, as well. The amount of liver in the mix lies between ten and 40 percent; it is mostly pork liver, by the way, as beef liver tends to lend a bitterer flavor. Add fat, cheaper meats that wouldn’t render a meal in themselves, lots of herbs, pepper, onions, whatever the specific recipe demands – and fill it into natural or artificial casings. Or into a jar. Or can it. As a matter of fact, you can find recipes on the internet to create your very own variety, finely or coarsely ground. I have never done so, as I am the only eater of liverwurst at home.
Of course, over the years, I have tried liver pâtés galore – from ducks, geese, pheasant, boar, and chicken. Of course, liver pâté is a bit more sophisticated than liverwurst – at least, it sounds like it. But trust me, I return to the simple coarse kind that is called leberwurst, every time.
When did I become adventurous as to leberwurst? It probably started with easy family hikes during my late teenage years and early twenties. Our destination usually was some pop-up tavern in a rural area where they served home-made sausages. A Vesperteller (pronounce ‘fespuh-teller, meaning snacking plate) usually contained at least one slice of leberwurst, one of blood sausage, and one of brawn with a garnish of gherkin and a few slices of rustic bread. Thick slices of sausage, large slices, by the way – that snacking plate was basically a meal.
Only at another friend’s home did I encounter the version of hot leberwurst on a so-called Swabian Schlachtplatte (pronounce ‘shluht-pluttah, meaning butchering plate). This version is very soft, and you squeeze it out of the casing to eat it along with hot (also very soft) blood sausage, maybe even hot, soft brawn, boiled potatoes or mashers, and sauerkraut. I fell in love with the dish and often recreated it at my bachelorette home just for myself.
So what is it about the German idiom “beleidigte Leberwurst” (pronounce ba-‘ly-dicktah ‘labor-woorst, meaning miffed liver sausage) for a pouting person? Indeed, the idiom as well as the leberwurst itself have made it into a song of their own in the Palatinate region:
Why the connection? For a long time, the liver was deemed the origin of all body juices, which again were deemed to determine emotions – at least that is Wikipedia’s explanation. Honestly, I rather explain it with my own childhood memories of leberwurst being gray, smelly, unappetizing – nobody likes being around somebody who is miffed, either. Or am I wrong?