Food Feedback: Life is much better with braunschweiger
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Pittsburghers have a bond with braunschweiger, as you can see from the reaction to our story last month by Marlene Parrish: "Braunschweiger: The Forgotten Pleasure" in Food & Flavor, March 22.
My grandmother, Dodie McNally, was put on a bland diet by her doctor. She gave me a shopping list and I said to her, "You're not supposed to eat this." She replied with what has become one of our family's famous quotes:
"Life isn't worth living if you can't eat braunschweiger!"
We loved your article.
I grew up in a home where braunschweiger was a staple. It was my Irish dad who ate it, not my German mom. We would normally get a pound of it, sliced about 1/4 inch thick, at the grocery store each week. It was normally gone in about three days. I still love it to this day and occasionally bring some home for myself. I had a hard time, and missed it greatly, when I was pregnant because the doctor said to avoid soft meats and cheeses. I had my husband run out and buy some the day I was released from the hospital after my son was born.
Now being married with a small child, I have tried to share my love of it with my family, resulting in curled noses and cries of "stink meat." My husband cannot be convinced of the yummy goodness of a few slices on plain white bread (I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to my braunschweiger sandwiches), and my son has joined him in his protests. Still working on winning over the short one, but hubby won't budge.!
The next time you are near Greensburg, do check out Bardine's Country Smokehouse in Crabtree, Westmoreland County (bardinemeats.com). The tastiest, creamiest braunschweiger ever. It is a shame it was not included in your poll as I have a hard time believing it would ever lose.
JOANI BEGGS McCORMACK
When my sister and I were little girls going to Resurrection School in Brookline, our mother often met us on the Boulevard on Tuesdays after school so we could go to the Bargain Night Double Feature at the Boulevard Theatre. This would have been in the late '40s.
Mother would stop at a bakery for a loaf of white bread, at the German butcher shop for a pound of sliced braunschweiger, and somewhere for cartons of chocolate milk for Mary Lou and me and some beverage for herself.
We would proceed to the movie where Mother would hide all this food under her large coat and smuggle it in.
Once inside she would make sandwiches for us -- no mayonnaise, maybe pickles (I can't remember). We would settle in for a fun night of munching and watching.
To this day I love braunschweiger and always think of chocolate milk when I eat it.
My two kids turn up their noses at my fondness for braunschweiger. I remind them of the newfangled uncooked things they like.
NANCY RYAN BARKMAN
It was great to see a focus on a humble meat like braunschweiger. I have a perfect Pittsburgh braunschweiger memory.
Every Christmas we felt that Santa would be tired of the standard milk and cookies, so we left him a braunschweiger sandwich and an Iron City.
There was an extra Iron in the fridge in case he was still thirsty. He always was.
JENNIFER JACKSON BERRY
Oh, what a great article and the photo was divine! Following is a recipe given to me in 1992 by a colleague at work, Keith Mills, of Weirton, W.Va. Keith knew I loved bourbon and braunschweiger.
- 8 ounces braunschweiger
- 2 tablespoons grated onion
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 3 ounces cream cheese
Mash braunschweiger, add onion, lemon juice and bourbon. Form into a log and chill at least 6 hours. Mix last 4 ingredients and frost log with that. Chill until serving.
I serve this with rye Triscuits.
In the 1960s in Carrick, my father, George Senich Sr., would make his Saturday shopping trip to Chuck Martin's butcher shop on Brownsville Road. My brother and I liked to accompany him because visiting the butcher shop meant making impressions with our shoes in the sawdust covering the black and white tile floor, seeing the hulking, wooden butcher block where Mr. Martin would deftly wield a cleaver, and hearing the high-pitched metallic whine of the electrical saw blade as it made short work separating short ribs. Sometimes Mr. Martin would invite us to go behind the glass and white enamel display case to peer into the meat locker, seeing sides of beef and pork hanging from hooks. It was there that my dad purchased strange foods like braunschweiger, a pinkish-brown pate sewn into a sleeve of white pig skin; head cheese; blood tongue; veal kidney and liver. I can't believe we ate this stuff!
Not only was braunschweiger a mouthful to eat, it also was difficult to pronounce, so, as kids, we called it by its own nickname, "brunsey." We ate it spread thickly on white bread, probably Braun's Town Talk. My dad, a first-generation Slovak-American, liked his braunschweiger topped with sliced, raw onion. I haven't touched braunschweiger since my childhood, and my daughter has grown up in a household devoid of these organ meats, except for Thanksgiving when we try to figure out what to do with that packet of gizzards, heart and liver that's snuggled inside the turkey.
Thank you, PG food writers, for your explorations of local cuisine quirks, such as the "city chicken" story of a few months ago.
BARBARA SENICH MILLER
From the ages of 4 to 12, I was a huge fan of braunschweiger. Every Sunday growing up, my brother, sister, mother, father and I would go to my German grandmother's house. We would arrive around 8 o'clock in the morning. My grandmother would make each of us our personal breakfast and then we would walk to church. After Sunday school and church we would go back to her house, where we would play in the alleys and work up another appetite. She would call us in for a quick lunch. On the menu was either Isaly's chipped ham or my (at that time) favorite, braunschweiger on white bread with ketchup (paired with a cream soda). I loved it! Unfortunately, once I became old enough to know what it was made of I quickly switched to the chipped ham sandwiches. I am now 30 years old and after reading your article and no longer fearing foods for what's in them or what they look like, I'm going to pay tribute to my gram and buy some braunschweiger, only this time I'll pair it with a Yuengling.
Pittsburgh's Allentown neighborhood
My dad used to call it liver puddin'. Max's Bavarian reminded me of Stouffer's "Old Heidelberg" -- braunschweiger on rye, with onion, bacon, dill pickle and Thousand Island Dressing. Maybe lettuce but no tomato and for certain no egg!
NANCY L. JACOBS
McKees Rocks ("just down the hill from Silver Star Meats)
I grew up in Pittsburgh in the late '50s, early '60s. My lineage is "three-quarters German, one-quarter Irish," as I was always told. It was from my Millvale-born dad that a few German food memories remain. He gave me the love of braunschweiger, but I'm afraid mayo on the rye bread would be a no-no! Dark mustard, please! My dad was also a fan of an awful cheese called limburger; but that would be another article for you.
MARY HELEN HUTCHINS
P.S. I had to teach my Droid "braunschweiger"!
Love the food, love the response. But if I have to spell "braunschweiger" ONE MORE TIME, I'll have to quit my job.
As a young girl, I was a very picky eater, but for some reason, I loved braunschweiger. Something that your article didn't mention is that braunschweiger can have a very distinctive smell. As an adult, I packed a braunschweiger sandwich one day for lunch and put my lunch in the lunchroom refrigerator. Unbeknownst to me, that morning someone was cleaning out the refrigerator, took one whiff of my lunch, thought it was spoiled and threw it away! When I went to get my much anticipated lunch, I found my empty lunch bag on the top of the refrigerator. No one had known it was mine and didn't check with me about the contents.
I continue to treat myself to a sandwich of braunschweiger from time to time. I just get one of the deli brands (Kuhn's or Sugardale), eat it plain on white bread or sometimes toast. I must admit, the sandwich from Max's Allegheny Tavern looks scrumptious and worth a try!
The second I saw your article, I had a vivid memory of the best sandwich I ever had. When I was growing up, my mother often served braunschweiger sandwiches, and I remember my German father eating it out of the casing with a knife. So it had its roots deep in the recesses of my childhood. Three years ago I went to the German fall festival in Harmony. I had lunch at the bar in the Harmony Inn. They had a special German menu of items for the festival. One was a braunschweiger sandwich. I had forgotten it even existed and thought I'd try it. It was divine, served on thick slabs of rye bread, so fresh it seemed baked that morning, with mustard and a thick slice of Bermuda onion. It was simple but perfect. I demolished it savoring every bite with a large mug of dark beer. The memory lived with me, and the following year I went to the festival salivating at the thought of having that sandwich again. Alas, it has not been back since. Since reading your article, I will be visiting McGinnis Sisters in Cranberry and making my own version.
I highly recommend the braunschweiger made at Wright's Meat Packing, 689 N. Camp Run Road, Fombell, Beaver County. I would suggest a telephone call (724-368-8571) prior to traveling there as many times I find they do not have it in the store. It is a sausage that requires a certain taste. The first time my wife tasted it, she did not like it, but now she enjoys it very much.
LELAND M. JOHNSON
Great article. It brought back memories from my childhood in Philadelphia. My father would eat liverwurst on Jewish rye bread with jelly. I used to eat it with mayo. Matter of fact, once a week my mom would pack my school lunch with the braun.
It's interesting how in Western Pennsylvania, some look at this food the same way some look at scrapple. A lot of folks out here don't realize how good scrapple is with syrup.
Well, as with any good food, you need to eat it in moderation. Thanks for the memories.
Growing up we would have in the fridge's lunchmeat bin Dubuque chipped ham, jumbo and braunschweiger. There were many varieties of braunschweiger, most cased in plastic, but the one that stood out as the best had this stitched pigskin casing and was aptly branded "Luger."
When I was very young, we lived in Crafton, and Mom would buy it wrapped in this weird, thick white open-ended casing from Strimmel's Butcher Shop. I think you could also buy it like that at some grocery stores. Then, when we moved to Mt. Lebanon, Mom would buy a tube of it at Giant Eagle, probably every week (I forget the brand name), and we would eat it on crackers or make sandwiches on toasted Wonder Bread. It was a staple of my childhood -- right up there with bologna. I don't eat processed meats -- or any red meat for that matter -- anymore, but reading your article brought a smile to this ex-'Burgher's face!
I grew up in southeastern Minnesota, nearly in the shadow of Hormel Foods, in Austin, so Hormel's braunschweiger was all I knew growing up in the '80s. There remains a great little bakery in Spring Valley, Minn., that has amazing Snowflake Rolls -- white, sweet, small and perfect for a snack-size sandwich. A thick slice of braunschweiger with butter on a Snowflake Roll is as close to a slice of my childhood as you can get!
That said, since I moved here, I had all but given up on my braunschweiger sandwiches. Then one of my co-workers recently pointed me in the direction of Smith's braunschweiger out of Erie. I have to say that they put Hormel's to shame! If you haven't tried theirs, do; I definitely think they'd be in the running! My co-worker went to high school with one of the Smith family members. She remembers that at all of her birthday parties, they served their Smith's hot dogs and sausages. Her theory was that if their hot dogs were good enough for their own family, they were good enough for hers!
I'll make a point to try the winner, Usinger's. next time I'm near McGinnis Sisters. Thanks again for the walk down memory lane.
I just read your article about braunschweiger and really enjoyed it.
I love liverwurst and agree with everything you said about it. I grew up in the '50s, and my Mother and I loved a good liverwurst sandwich for lunch. She would buy the liverwurst in one piece, and it was so creamy that we could scoop it out of the skin and spread it with a knife.
Also, I remember the flavor was more intense than any I have tried recently.
When I get the craving for liverwurst, I usually get a few slices at the supermarket deli, but it never meets my expectations. Thanks for the suggestions; I will have to try Usinger's at McGinnis Sisters the next time I get a craving for liverwurst.
MARY ELLEN DUDICK
When I was a kid in school, whenever my mother put braunschweiger sandwiches in my lunch box it was a real treat! Thanks for the article. Now there's another thing I miss about my hometown of Pittsburgh
Good article. While growing up, my mom who was half German, would make us (sunny-side-up eggs with fried braunschweiger for breakfast with toast. I was still buying her braunschweiger -- always "in a piece without the skin" from the deli -- until she passed away last summer. I also remember a PX while in the Army that would make a grilled braunschweiger sandwich with American cheese. It was very popular back than in 1966 and sold for 15 cents!
I grew up in a home where braunschweiger was always in the refrigerator. As an adult, I'm the only one in my house who likes it. I buy two slices at the supermarket deli and eat them before I even get home from the store. Braunschweiger never makes it to a sandwich.
Thank you for the great story. I'll be getting two slices tomorrow when I do the grocery shopping.
BARBARA STURNI LONG
I loved your article because I am a big fan of braunschweiger and liver products. My favorite B. in Pittsburgh is Hatfield. It is available at most of the big Giant Eagles; I get mine at Edgewood Towne Centre or at the one next to Target in Monroeville. The other B. I really like is at Bardine's Meats in Crabtree (bardinemeats.com). I haven't had a bad product from them, and their B. is better than Hatfield, just farther away.
After a rough party, have the next morning a simple breakfast of braunschweiger on rye with a dill pickle and a large glass of chocolate milk over ice. It always hit the spot.
An article devoted to braunschweiger -- wow!
I learned to eat braunschweiger at my mother's knee.
The spreads that I find in my area are sharp, not the smooth taste that I remember from childhood. I'm buying Hatfield at my local Giant Eagle, but will stop at McGinnis' when I pass one. I don't know where Silver Star is carried.
I eat my sandwich with bread and butter pickles open faced, yummy. I've also started to put onion on, but then no pickle.
But, imagine my surprise when I tell people that I love braunschweiger and they make faces at me.
They don't know what there missing.
I'm going grocery shopping today and I will be buying brauschweiger.
Thanks for a great read.
NORA M. VAN TOL
Great article! The few memories that I have as a 4- to 5-year-old of my father -- who died when I was young -- are of sitting in his lap and eating either braunschweiger or limburger cheese (a possible future article?) on rye crisp crackers while watching the "Wonderful World of Disney" and then "Bonanza" (with my boyfriend, Adam Cartwright). Life was very good. My otherwise perfect husband fails to share my appreciation of those fragrant specialties and has been known to walk out of the room when my sister brings out the limburger when we go to visit her in Chicago.
MARY KENDALL RAGO
First Published April 5, 2012 8:45 am