It was about a year ago that Amy’s sister Donna, who now lives “up north,” stayed with us. She had been instructed by her husband to bring back some honest-to-goodness Braunschweiger, which, like honest-to-goodness Mexican food, cannot be found in their vicinity.
The particular brand that Barry was craving was Kemen, but try as we might, we could not find it in the deli cases at several Racine supermarkets. I was surprised, because Kemen seemed like a familiar name to me, although I don’t know much about liverwurst, or sausage in general. I haven’t paid enough attention to have strong brand preferences.
Searching the Web turned up no Kemen presence whatever, which was even more baffling. I expect every business in this day and age to have at least a basic Web site that turns up in the first page of Google results. Eventually, however, I was able to determine that Kemen now belongs to Silver Creek Specialty Meats of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Even today, I do not see that information on their Web site, nor in their listing on Savorwisconsin.com, but I am pleased to read this much:
Our products are best known for what isn’t there rather than what is. You won’t find any mechanically deboned poultry, only high quality beef and pork. Nor will you find any non-meat extenders, flours, starches, phosphates, MSG (monosodium glutamate), or HVP (hydrolyzed vegetable protein).
Found: Kemen Braunschweiger
Eventually, to Donna’s delight, we did locate Kemen Braunschweiger at the Piggly Wiggly on Durand (4011 Durand Ave, 262-554-8681). We also bought a couple of competing brands, plus crackers and bread, and headed home for a taste test.
Donna and Barry were absolutely right. Kemen Braunschweiger is far superior to the rubbery, pungent liverwurst that many people rightfully avoid. It is creamy, spreadable, mellow and clean, with no disagreeable aftertaste.
I was an instant convert, and started reading more about liver sausage, liverwurst, and Braunschweiger. Apparently. “liverwurst” is an Americanized corruption of the German “leberwurst,” which is also known as “Kentucky pate.”
One liverwurst article by Brad Edmonds was particularly informative and entertaining. In it, he describes an Irish pub in Florida which serves a German-style sandwich featuring one pound of the meat product on hearty rye bread with raw white onions and mustard, plus a free beer (see the McGuire’s Liverwurst Sandwich picture). I have since assembled a similar (but less weighty) sandwich. It was alright, but the onion and mustard were distracting.
My favorite liver sausage platform is much simpler: either a crisp, thin cracker like Stoned Wheat Thins, or else a slice of sourdough toast. I like to spread the liver thin. You can have too much of a good thing.
Comparison: Kemen Liver Sausage
In recent weeks, some of Amy’s other sisters insisted that we had still missed the pinnacle of liverwurst delight, which would be the Kemen Liver Sausage in the white wrapper as opposed to the Kemen Braunschweiger in the yellow. The same Piggly Wiggly store does carry both, so the other day we bought some of each along with some Win Schuler’s® Rye Snack Chips (tasty and crisp, but as it turns out, not neutral enough for testing purposes), and put our palates to work.
According to that Brad Edmonds story, Braunschweiger is a more spreadable sub-variety of liverwurst, often incorporating milk and eggs. The Kemen product does include dried skim milk, but both Kemen Braunschweiger and Kemen Liver Sausage are equally spreadable and delicious. As far as we can determine, the Braunschweiger includes slightly more spices and onion and perhaps a smokier flavor, whereas the Kemen Liver Sausage is more purely liver. The difference is very small, however, and otherwise the products are identical.
Our taste test has resulted in a tie. Either Braunschweiger or liver sausage is fine, just as long as it’s in a Kemen wrapper. It’s a great Wisconsin food product, and a perfect snack for a January afternoon.
The comments below were posted via a previous comment system. They are included here for readers’ information.
Date: January 30, 2007
Just put in Kemen sausage into the search and came up with this. Very interesting, my grandfather Jack Kemen was the founder of Kemen Sausage in Kenosha, Wi. My father and Uncle ran the business for well over 30 plus years. We sold the business but the original recipes have stayed the same. We have a few stores here in Kenosha that still carry Kemen sausage items, not sure but I think the brats are also being made, yummy!!
Date: February 1, 2007
Hello, I’m Janet’s brother and during several high school summers, I helped make the Kemen liver sausage that is so nicely written about here. My Grandfather, Jack Kemen started Kemen Sausage Co. in 1932 but in about 1960, my father and uncle began manufacturing liver sausage in Kenosha WI. The product was designed to be a spreadable, almost pate type, delicacy and I am happy to hear the taste and consistancy is still popular in 2007 ! Regarding the Kemen bratwurst, that has served at the Brat Stop on Hwy 50 in Kenosha since 1960 as well and that product is still available there today. Enjoy foodies ! Gary
From: Sandy Mannix
Date: April 1, 2008
I totally agree, Kemen liver sausage is the best! You can buy it in cut-to-order sizes in the deli dept. at Sentry stores in Racine and Burlington and recently I bought it at Woodman’s in Kenosha. I found it in small individual sticks in the self-service cold cut counter there. It freezes very well too, but freeze it in smaller chunks to thaw quicker so you can enjoy it whenever the urge strikes. Yum!
From: Judy Cuchetto
Date: July 11, 2008
My husband and I had stopped in Racine everytime we went up to Wisconsin for a fair or to visit friends. That was the only place to buy Kemen Liver Sausage – which we love. We would buy it by the whole stick and sometimes two at a time. The last time we went to the place we used to get it – the whole place was gone.
I have such a craving for it that I decided to look it up today. Thanks for the info!!
From: Dawn Ritz
Date: August 21, 2008
My first taste of Kemen braunschweiger was over 50 years ago and I love it as much now as I did then. I was unaware that it was available in grocery stores until I looked it up just now. I have lived all my life in IL and when I was growing up my father used to take the family on little weekend jaunts to various parts of WI. We always started the trips going through Lake Geneva and Dad discovered a little cheese store called “The Cheese Box” that became a MUST stop. They sell the Kemen’s braunschweiger and as far as I knew (up until now, that is) that was the only place you could get it. They sell the whole sticks (they’re usually about 2-2 1/2 lbs.) but will also sell you a smaller piece cut to order. They also do mail order and will ship the braunschweiger packed in dry ice. Their website is www.cheesebox.com I am glad to know that I don’t have to cajole my husband into trips through Lake Geneva “just buy liver sausage” anymore!