Jerky may be undergoing a gourmet renaissance and adding all manner of new tastes, but it isn't the only non-perishable-protein alternative to nuts or trail mix. The next time you go hiking, try spicing up your snack inventory with a Landjäger, a chewy rectangular-shaped air-dried sausage. Made with equal amounts of beef and pork, it combines the meaty savory taste of beef jerky with the juicy flavors of pork salami. Though it's been around since the 1700s, the sausage, which is always sold as a connected pair, is increasingly finding its way to the bartop beer nuts jars at indie-drinks joints like Brooklyn's Sycamore or Portland's Prost!, as well as becoming a mainstay on menus at German and Austrian restaurants like Schmidt's in San Francisco and Loreley in New York.
Named after the hunter-policemen that patrolled the rural German-speaking countryside and made the sausage their staple, Landjäger originated in the Tyrol and Voralberg regions of Western Austria in the 18th century. Its popularity soon spread throughout other German-speaking regions of Western Europe – Bavaria, Switzerland, and Alsace (where it's referred to as gendarme, or, policeman). Its long shelf life, inexpensive cost, and substantial amount of calories (516 per pair, to be exact) made it the perfect meal-on-the-go back then, but also today.
"It's the ultimate mountaineering food," says Eduard Frauneder, the chef and co-owner of Edi and the Wolf, an Austrian tavern at the eastern end of New York's Alphabet City. The sausages, which consist mostly of pork, beef, lard, and spices (crushed cumin, pepper, and coriander), are cold-smoked at 20-25 degrees Celsius for one to five days, and then dried for a couple of weeks. This curing process preserves the meat for several months. Plus, the Landjäger can even be left out at room temperature and withstand several hours of heat on a long summer hike.
Like the stateside Slim Jim, Landjäger is anything but haute cuisine and usually can't be ordered in traditional restaurants in Austria, but it can be found in local mountain wine taverns, or heurigen. "It's a shared food that hikers eat with mustard and bread in mountain huts," says Frauneder. At Edi and the Wolf, Landjäger is served on a slate board with mustard, pickled cabbage, and carrots. "This combination makes sense, because you want to balance the fat from the sausage with the acidity of the pickled cabbage," says Wolfgang Ban, another co-owner and chef at the restaurant. The need for balance is also what makes the sausage such a good accompaniment with wine and beer, in case you find it at your local bar (or just want to sneak it in).
More information: New York's Schaller & Weber has been producing Landjäger stateside since 1937 and now sells it to restaurants and retailers across the country, including Dean & Deluca and Van Nuys German Deli, in Sepulveda, CA. Vacuum-sealed packages of 10 pairs of Schaller & Weber Landjägers are sold for $26.29 from GermanDeli.com, while Hartmann's Landjäger can be found in select Wegmans stores or on the Hartmann's Sausage website [$5.75 per pair; HartmannsSausage.com]. It is also made in Madison, WI by Bavaria Sausage [$1.99 per pair; BavariaSausage.com].