While the concept of sausage is simple, thousands of variations can be found throughout the world. Sausages can be fresh, cured, smoked, or cooked. They are made of beef, pork, veal, chicken, and more. And they can include myriad ingredients, from spices and herbs to fruits, vegetables, and cheeses—and even liquids such as beer, whiskey, or blood. Our “Sausage in Profile” series aims to introduce you to different types of sausage—their flavor profiles, histories, and uses—from familiar favorites to unique finds.
Knackwurst is a pudgy, medium-textured link. Traditionally made of a pork and beef blend, they are well suited to being served on a bun with sauerkraut or cooked onions, or with tangy-sweet sauerkraut in a casserole. They are fantastic whether grilled, broiled, or gently pan-fried.
What’s in a Name?
Knackwurst (sometimes Americanized to “knockwurst”) is a German style of sausage. “Knack” is the German word for “crack,” referring to the cracking or popping noise that the natural casing makes when you bite into it, releasing a burst of juicy, meaty sausage.
The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread
There is another way to enjoy knackwurst besides slathering it in sauerkraut.
Visit Virginia and order yourself a “sailor sandwich.” Specifically popular in Richmond, this sandwich consists of a grilled and sliced knackwurst piled on rye bread with hot pastrami, melted Swiss cheese, and hot mustard.
The New York Deli in Carytown lays claim to inventing this unique sandwich during World War II to feed hungry seamen from the University of Richmond Navy V-12. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
“The deli was a popular eatery for the trainees, who would fill its booths when they got their paychecks on the 1st and 15th of each month. Around 1943, someone at the New York Deli … created the sailor sandwich to satisfy the appetites of the aspiring Navy officers. When presented with requests for the novel dish, the owner’s wife would alert the kitchen by shouting an order for ‘another sandwich for the sailors!'” Source
What is your favorite way to enjoy knackwurst? Have you ever had a sailor sandwich?