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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Currywurst Mit Pommes

Currywurst mit Pommes
The first time I tried Currywurst was just over six years ago on the streets of Germany in my teensy-tinsy kitchen.  I was in the throws of a lounge-chair-vacation (tell me lounge chair doesn't sound better than lawn chair), issue 101 of Saveur in my hands.  If I remember right, it was just a small article, probably only a one-pager.  But that small article was my introduction to the most popular German fast food, Currywurst.

The thought of sausage sitting in a pool of curried tomato sauce, alongside french fries, would haunt me for days.  Until I finally made it.  It continues to haunt me.  I will get random cravings for Currywurst a few times a year.  And no, they don't just go away.  I have to actually make a batch.

I've tweaked that original recipe here and there over the years to find one that is perfect (in my mind).  But the thing is, I've never tried any Currywurst but my own.   But I know in my heart of (German) hearts that it's the real deal.

Currywurst Sauce
However, that doesn't stop me from dreaming of a trip to Germany, where 17 million orders of Currywurst are sold every year.  Many (most? all?) Germans think that Currywurst basically defines Germany.  It is a rustic, no-frills, everyman's dish.  And while I love it washed down with a good, cold beer - there is even a restaurant in Berlin that serves small bottles of champagne alongside their Currywurst.

While there are arguments of where Currywurst got its humble start, the most popular (and most widely accepted) tale is that of one Herta Heuwer.  Heuwer was a German housewife who served wursts to construction workers back in 1949, after the end of the war.  Getting bored of the regular old sauce, she decided to add some curry powder that was left behind by British soldiers, to tomato paste, worcestershire, and some other ingredients.  10 years later, she registered a trademark for her popular sauce, calling it Chillup.  Supposedly Kraft tried to buy it from her, and she refused.  There is a plaque honoring her on a wall in Berlin where her original Imbißstand (food stall/snack stand) once stood.

Now, in Hamburg, they claim that Lena Brücker (an invented name from a book) developed Currywurst two years earlier.  But that's one of those stories...ketchup in one arm, curry powder in the other...trip and fall down, mixing the two.

Whoever the true inventor was - thank you.  17 millions Berliners and I can't be wrong.  There is even a whole museum dedicated to Currywurst in Berlin.  And you know it's good when people sing songs about it!
Currywurst mit Pommes
So, until I can actually take the Currywurst Trail vacation of my dreams, I will continue to make it in my own kitchen.  You can use Weisswurst (a veal sausage), Frankfurters, or Bratwurst...heck, I suppose its really up to you which type of wurst you like best.  Boiled or steamed and then sliced into 1-inch pieces and served alongside French Fries or Brötchen.  And always smothered in the sauce that lends it its name.

Hmmmm...  On further thought, maybe I should open my own Currywurst Stand.  Park it right near campus on weekends and during home games...

Currywurst mit Pommes
Pork or veal sausage and french fries in an irresistible curry-infused ketchup. Make this popular Berlin street food at home!
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Currywurst mit Pommes
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Keywords: entree sauce dairy-free nut-free soy-free potatoes spice sausage tomatoes German

Ingredients (varies)
  • Weisswurst (veal sausage), Frankfurters, or Bratwurst
  • French Fries (hand-cut or frozen)
for the Currywurst Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 small yellow onions, peeled & sliced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon curry powder, storebought or homemade (recipe follows)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 pound (~2 cups) whole, peeled tomatoes (w/ their juices if using canned)
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked sea salt
to finish:
  • extra curry powder
Start by making the Currywurst Sauce. You can move on to the rest when it has just about finished, or after it is done.

making the sauce (yield: ~2 c.):
Heat the oil in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until they are soft and beginning to turn golden, 10-12 minutes. Scatter the curry powder and smoked paprika over the top, and cook for another minute, stirring.

In your hands, crush the tomatoes into the pot. Add the brown sugar, vinegar, and smoked sea salt; stir well.  
Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat so that the liquid is at a gently simmer. Cook for 25 minutes or so, stirring and mashing a bit with a wooden spoon from time to time, until thickened.

Transfer to a blender and (carefully) blend until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the fridge, once cooled.

Putting it all together:
Plan on using about one sausage and one big handful of fries per person (adjust according to appetite).
Steam your sausages until they are cooked through. Cut them into thick slices, then fry/saute them up so that they are a little golden on the outsides.

In the meantime, fry or bake your french fries until crispy on the outside.

Place the sliced sausage and the french fries on a plate (or something) and slather with Currywurst Sauce. Finish by sprinkling with another good smattering of curry powder. Enjoy!

Easy Homemade Curry Powder (yield: ~ 1/4 cup):
I like to grind whole spices in batches and store them in airtight jars. Most of the spices (everything except the turmeric) were toasted and cooled before being ground.
  • 1 heaping tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
Combine all of the ground spices into a zippered baggie, and shake well. Pour into a jar with a lid and store in a cool, dark spot.
Currywurst mit Pommes