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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Braunschweiger Sandwich

Certainly I love Japanese American food. Most of my blog is a testament to that. It is a food that ties me to my mother's side of the family, that never fails to bring me comfort, from the simple crunch of my favorite tsukemono to the gentle puff of the rice cooker it is warm and familiar.

But my mother's side is also German American, through my grandfather's family. Through this, I grew up loving the cuisine, although a lot of it I didn't even realize was German American, like potatoes pan-fried with onions. At dinner, we would be served an ungodly amount of sauerkraut with bratwurst, my mother boasting about its health benefits and vitamin C content. Even her favorite cookbook is largely German American, The Joy of Cooking. And I've already blogged about Pennsylvania Dutch pickled beet eggs, where German Americans added beets to pickled eggs for glorious pink color and flavor.

I even look more German American than anything and inherited his family's light coloring, compared to the Japanese and American Indian that allows my brother to tan. I would look more the part in a dirndl than a kimono.

So when thinking about all this, it came at no surprise that somewhere early in my childhood I was introduced to liverwurst and braunschweiger. It was, and still is, one of my favorite sandwiches. As a kid, I remember being teased during lunch because of it, friends saying that it was weird and smelly. I was so confused, thinking that eating a sandwich rather than Japanese snacks would make me fit in.

No seriously, it's delish!
I guess I should explain what liverwurst is, so you can understand why the children thought I was crazy for eating it. Liverwurst is a German spreadable sausage made out of pig's liver and veal that is gently spiced with a variety of ingredients such as black pepper, allspice, and marjoram. You can spread it on crackers, pan-fry it with potatoes, apples and onion, or make a sandwich with slices of it. Braunschweiger is a smoked version of liverwurst that typically has bacon added to it. Per wiki, "a typical commercial formula is about 40% pork liver or scalded beef liver, 30% scalded pork jowl, 20% lean pork trimmings and 10% bacon ends and pieces. Added seasonings include salt and often include white pepper, onion powder or chopped onion, and mace."

So in elementary school, if you can eat a braunschweiger liver sausage sandwich one day, and a snack pack of shiso katsuo ninniku, nori, and dried cuttlefish the next, you will be immune to embarrassment for your adult life. Seriously, the amount of teasing I got as a kid, I could now strut naked through the mall with a dried squid in one hand and a whole log of braunschweiger in the other without breaking a sweat. What bothered me as a child empowers me as an adult.

And when I finally convinced kids to try some spread on a cracker, guess what? They loved it. Its mild flavor and smooth texture wins everyone over, and I really don't think it smells at all now. My mother probably "forgot" to tell us what we were eating, until we were hooked.

Braunschweiger Sandwich

1 sourdough bagel or 2 slices of bread (rye, sourdough, or whole wheat)
3 slices of Braunschweiger liverwurst
2 slices of cheddar cheese
2-3 small gherkin pickles or cornichons
hot mustard, whole grain mustard, or thick honey mustard

You can make your own honey mustard like I did, by taking honey and stirring in some mustard powder. I find that commercial honey mustard is too liquidy and corn syrupy. Hot mustard and whole grain mustard are also solid choices. Toast the bagel or bread, and then spread both sides with mustard to taste (I am unapologetic in my excessive mustard-loving). Top one side with the two slices of cheese, then stack the liverwurst on top. Slice the pickles into thin slices, and place on top of the liverwurst. Place the top slice of bread/bagel on top, and serve with chips. You can also make it open faced, which I find actually makes it easier to eat, but it is not as portable.

See Also:
Breakfast Grilled Cheese with Hash
Pickled Beet Eggs



  1. I'm constantly amazed at the people who've never even tasted liverwurst or braunschweiger. It's one of my all time favorite sandwiches and cracker toppings. I learned to love it when visiting Germany in the 70's. Dark rye bread, a smear of cream cheese, nice hot mustard (sweet hot is good too), sliced sweet onions and a slice of swiss cheese to top it all off. YUM!

    1. Oooh I love your version. Cream cheese, hot mustard, and onions? Count me in!

  2. I have to say, that I haven't eaten "liver sausage" (as we called it .. same thing as liverwurst / braunschweiger) in a while .. but sure does bring me back to my roots growing up... we used to eat it all the time (mostly with just mayo and a spicy or hot mustard (just a little and pickles on the side..) sometimes my sisters & I would experiment with different things (like adding chips or saltines to it for crunch) but usually preferred it without, from what I remember. I think today is a good day to make a sandwich, and to introduce my own kids to it :)..thanks!

    1. It's one of those things I don't eat that regularly (surprising considering how delish it is) but when I stroll past it in the grocery aisle, I almost always pick it up with a nostalgic smile.

      I love it on crackers with cheese, if I want something with some crunch.