Currywurst, its Story and Authentic Recipe
Over 850,000,000 are eaten every year in Germany, with an estimated 70,000,000 consumed in what, according to a sometimes disputed Currywurst legend, is its birthplace, the country's capital Berlin.
Herta Heuwer, a shop assistant at the KaDeWe Berlin's biggest store, was one of the many Truemmerfrauen, 'rubble' women, who throughout Germany used little more than basic tools and their hands to clear away wreckage left behind by war.
In her Charlottenburg kitchen Herta used typically British ingredients she had been given from the armed services NAAFI, (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes and Britain's equivalent of the PX, BX and NEX), to create a special recipe for the first Currywurst. In 1949 Charlottenburg was a part of Berlin's post war British military sector.
Not just ketchup with curry powder, through trial and error she turned Worcestershire sauce, spices and ketchup into a mixture that, when blended with cooked tomatoes and onions, became a warm sauce for covering deep fried sliced Knackwurst (Knockwurst).
A touch of the colorful and exotic combined with the familiar, which brightened up a life where all meals were influenced by post war rationing.
Herta then bought a stall on the corner of Charlottenburg Kant and Kaiser-Friedrich-Strasse, a commemorative plaque marks the spot, and from September 4, 1949 offered a "Currywurst" for 60 pfennig, at the time about 50 US cents and 6 UK pennies, to everyone from construction workers rebuilding the devastated city to passersby.
Currywurst became so popular that soon she was serving 10,000 a week so had to employ staff, and before long being seen enjoying this new snack food became a photo opportunity for celebrities, from presidents to film stars.
Herta had patented her recipe under the name "Chillup" at the Münchner Patentamt, but kept the twelve spices and ingredients a secret that she took with her when she died in 1999, although thousands of "copycat" Currywurst providers appeared throughout Germany.
A German snack food had become part of its culture.
The iconic Currywurst appears and is used as a prop in TV programs, Herbert Groenemeyer a popular German actor and singer had a huge Top Ten hit singing in praise of a Currywurst, while many books and films, covering an entire range from cold war spy stories to present day romances, somehow manage to include one, or more, in the proceedings.
Being photographed eating, or at least holding, a Currywurst is one aim almost everyone from tourists and film stars to US Presidents and German chancellors seem to share in common.
Since 2009 a Disneyesque Currywurst Museum has been open alongside the monument to Checkpoint Charlie, but this will close in December 2018. Although not because Berliners have fallen out of love with the Currywurst, through rising rents.
For non-German nationals in the days of a Berlin Wall, and divided Germany, Checkpoint Charlie was the border crossing point into an East Berlin where currywurst were also enjoyed.
Although unlike in the West the sausage had no casing in the East, so it was a "Currywurst ohne Darm" as for whatever reason at the time it seems there were none available on that side of the wall. And this remains the most popular way of serving them there.
Now Currywurst are found everywhere. As take out food served on Currywurstschale, traditional recyclable paper or pottery dishes from Currywurstbude, (currywurst stands), or Schnellimbisse, (fast food stands), in restaurants using vegetarian sausages or a standard featured on children's menus, and they cost about Euro 3.50.
Five star hotels with views of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate and up market bars offer them priced at around Euro 25 each, or served together with a glass of champagne for Euro 45.
It is unlikely that any two Germans will agree as to what is a perfect Currywurst, and different regions also have their own idea of how it is served, although not many would think of "Currywurst und Schampus" as an ideal combination.
Nevertheless fries or bread, mustard, onions, very spicy, not so spicy, Bratwurst, a mixture of pork and beef, or Knackwurst, similar to a short fat frankfurter, are just a few of the alternatives; and for many Germans a world without Currywurst is unthinkable whatever way it is served.
However there is one thing most agree upon, although the recipe can have ketchup as a base there should be so many other ingredients that this is unrecognizable, because an authentic Currywurst is never served with ready made ketchup.
A genuine Herta Heuwer Currywurst is something I never had the opportunity to try, and even her husband had no idea as to the ingredients in the sauce, but a friend in Berlin who enjoyed them many times gave me this curry sauce recipe as being the taste that is the nearest to the original of their memories.
THE RECIPE - A perfect, spicy and nutritious Currywurst Sauce that can be used for all types of dishes
2 large red or yellow onions chopped very finely
2 400 gr (14 oz) cans tomatoes with juice
250 ml (8 fl. oz) ketchup
1 tablespoon mustard
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon paprika powder
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon oil
Warm oil over medium heat
Put onions in pan and cook over medium heat until soft, 8 to 10 minutes
Add curry powder, paprika powder, chili powder and continue to cook while stirring, for one to two minutes
Add tomatoes and juice to pan and crush thoroughly, stir through
Stirring add ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper to taste
Bring to boil and lower to simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened. 20-25 minutes.
Puree mixture in blender and strain through a sieve.
Makes at least 500 ml of sauce. (2 cups/1 pint/16 fl. oz)
Grill sausages, which can also be the vegetarian tofu based variety, slice and cover with warm sauce.
To the sauce covered sausage add some additional Paprika powder, Salt, Pepper, Chili Powder, Curry Powder, Mustard or finely chopped onion to taste.
Serve with fries, and if serving in a bun slice before putting it in place.
You Should Also Read:
Ostalgie and Nostalgic Recipes
Truemmerfrauen, Post War Heroines
The Berlin Diaries, 1940-1945
Editor's Picks Articles
Top Ten Articles
Content copyright © 2018 by Francine A. McKenna. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Francine A. McKenna. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Francine A. McKenna for details.