How can you describe it − that smell, that aroma? The tender texture gradually reveals itself as you take a bite and chew, eager to discover more. The fine yet distinct taste of pork then finally hits the taste buds – clear, strong and full of character – combined with black pepper seasoning and perhaps a hint of garlic or cumin too.
You don’t need to explain this kind of taste revelation to the people of North Hessen, because most of them have grown up with it. Just like their ancestors. In North Hessen, “Ahle Wurscht” is far more than just a culinary delight; It’s part of the region’s cultural history. It’s a family recipe and a tradition passed down from generation to generation; it’s a custom and a way to help the neighbours. It used to be a constant companion for workers on the fields; to line the stomach while enjoying a cosy drink. It accompaniedpeople on their travels and eased the pain of homesickness for emigrants.
There is a lot of passion involved, as well as courage and a pioneering spirit. Pflüger, a trained electrician, studied a lot of butchers in North Hessen before uncovering an old recipe and setting to work on it himself. His restaurant now serves over 45,000 guests a year. Some travel from afar to experience Pflüger’s “Ahle Wurscht” after a long walk. In 2013, he was awarded the Hessen Tourism Award for his work.
The people of North Hessen – both young and old – know that you can’t make good “Ahle Wurscht” with speed and efficiency. The slow process begins with the pigs themselves; they need to be at least one year old and weigh at least 130 kilograms. “Otherwise the meat isn’t fatty enough to make good sausage”, explains Matthias Pflüger, who first learnt about the butchering business on his parents’ and grandparents’ farm. Good food has always been close to Pflüger’s heart. In 1989, his family had the idea of extending the farm to include a restaurant to serve the region’s hungry walkers with homemade specialities. The “Jausenstation” still stands on the edge of the idyllic village of Weißenbach at the foot of the Hohen Meißner, and it’s one of the best places in the region when it comes to homemade cheese, ham and, of course, “Ahle Wurscht”.
But what’s the secret behind their success? The answer is as easy as the operation is time-consuming. It’s the courage to focus on quality and the patience required to achieve it. When it comes to making good “Ahle Wurscht”, the key is to slow things down. The meat needs to age for a long time, says Pflüger. It takes three, four, sometimes six months before the sausage is good enough to sell. Unlike other producers, Pflüger doesn’t use any additives that would otherwise make the sausages ready to be sold after one or two weeks. This level of effort makes a real difference. The sausages need to be properly looked after during this long maturing process. The skin needs to be washed or brushed from time to time to ensure even drying and to allow the proper flavour to develop.
It’s no surprise people almost go dizzy with enjoyment when they taste the results. The ageing chambers in North Hessen are referred to as “Sausage Heaven” for a reason. “Anyone who has feasted in these places knows the range of flavours and the great pleasure of regional produce”, explains Pflüger. It’s one reason why he serves unfiltered organic beer from Witzenhausen in his Jausenstation restaurant, as well as liqueurs and spirits with no artificial colours or flavouring. Everyone who comes to explore the high-quality paths and enjoy the wonderful nature of the Meißner-Kaufunger Wald nature reserve should be able to enjoy natural produce too. And the taste speaks for itself.