Sausages are the ultimate expression of the frugal, farm-centric determination to never waste any part of an animal once it's slaughtered. Braunschweiger sausage is a fine example of that ethos, a sort of liverwurst that's stuffed into a casing like other, muscle-based sausages. Unlike most forms of liverwurst, which are heavily spiced, braunschweiger gains its distinctive flavor from being smoked. It's best when freshly made, but freezes and thaws well for long storage.
The Braunschweiger Basics
Braunschweiger can be made from several kinds of liver, including pork liver -- the most traditional version -- or beef or chicken livers. The chopped liver is spiced and them mixed with enough fat to form a smooth emulsion, or paste. The mixture is usually stuffed into a large 2-inch casing, then poached gently until it's cooked throughout. The sausages are cooled quickly in cold water to prevent the fat from separating and settling to the bottom, then the links are cold-smoked to give them their distinctive flavor. Braunschweiger is usually sliced and served cold, though it can be gently reheated as well.
Freezing Your Braunschweiger
Like other liver sausages Braunschweiger is rather rich, and a little goes a long way. If you find you've purchased more than you can conveniently eat in a meal or two, freezing the remainder is the best way to preserve it. Cut your length of Braunschweiger into portions that make sense for you, and wrap each individual section with plastic film wrap. Place the sections in a large, heavy-duty freezer bag to provide additional protection, and place them in a section of your freezer where they'll remain undisturbed until they've frozen completely. Braunschweiger is soft, so it's easily squashed or distorted until then.
Thawing Your Braunschweiger
Braunschweiger will remain food safe for as long as your freezer runs, but in practical terms, it only retains its best flavor for a month or two. When you want to thaw and use a piece of the sausage, it's best to pull one from the freezer a day ahead of time. Let it thaw overnight in your refrigerator, which has the dual advantages of keeping the sausage at a food-safe temperature and of protecting the delicately balanced emulsion of fat and liver that gives the braunschweiger its texture. You can thaw it in an hour or less as the impulse strikes, but you should never thaw braunschweiger in your microwave. Microwaves create hot spots, which will coarsen and dry the sausage.
Depending on how often you nibble at it, you might not need to freeze your braunschweiger at all. Store-bought brands are available in packages small enough for a meal or two, and can last for weeks before passing their expiration date. Once the package is opened -- or if you've made your own from scratch, once the sausage is cooked -- it's good for up to a week in the refrigerator. That's usually plenty of time to use up a modest-size portion.
- Garde Manger: The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen; Culinary Institute of America
- Still Tasty: Braunschweiger Sausage (Smoked), Commercially Packaged -- Opened
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service: Sausages and Food Safety
Fred Decker is a trained chef, former restaurateur and prolific freelance writer, with a special interest in all things related to food and nutrition. His work has appeared online on major sites including Livestrong.com, WorkingMother.com and the websites of the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle; and offline in Canada's Foodservice & Hospitality magazine and his local daily newspaper. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.