Bratwurst (braht-vurst), better known as brats, are the official food of University of Wisconsin and Green Bay Packer fans. They are great tailgate food. UW is based in Madison, which calls itself the "Brat Capital of the World" and is home of the giant annual "Brat Fest" over Memorial Day weekend. In 2008 there were 191,712 brats served. Only slightly more modest, Sheboygan, an hour south of Green Bay, calls itself the "Bratwurst Capital of America". Nearby, in Mount Horeb, is the Mustard Museum (a must visit, pun intended).
Brats are pinkish sausages made from coarsely ground pork and/or veal. They often contain eggs, pepper, savory, bay leaves, nutmeg, celery salt, chives, or parsley and they are usually stuffed into natural casings. Buy plain brats, not those cheese-filled abominations. If you can get them, buy Usinger's or Klement's, both from Milwaukee.
Unlike hot dogs, brats are not precooked at the factory. In this recipe we take a classic Wisconsin technique and riff on it slightly. The brats are simmered first in beer, then grilled, then the beer is made into a sauce, and the brats simmer in the sauce. Touchdown!
This recipe is designed for cooking on a grill, but you can do them indoors on a griddle, in a frying pan, or under the broiler. Dave Hoffman, a.k.a. Fritz Boygan, tells me in Sheboygan, in the days before smoke detectors, the German settlers liked to cook brats on the indoor stovetop in a frypan. So when they cooked in the backyard, it became a "fry out" or an "outdoor fry".
Brat Tub RecipeYield. 6 sandwiches
Preparation time. 1 hour
6 nice buns (try for something better than pasty hot dog buns)
2 (12 ounce) bottles of regular American lager beer, like Old Milwaukee, nothing fancy
1 (12 ounce) bottle high quality German beer
2 medium onions, sliced in half rings
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Dijon-style mustard
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
About the buns. In Wisconsin they sell "sausage rolls" or "sausage buns" which are thicker, firmer, and have a more substantial crust than a hot dog bun. They make a diff.
About the ketchup. You can substitute Kansas City style barbecue sauce for the ketchup.
Optional. Try smoking the brats first or add 1/4 teaspoon of liquid smoke.
Caution. Wear your "Kiss the Chef" apron. Every time I make this dish I splatter myself with glop.
1) Set up the grill so there are two zones, one hot and the other medium hot.
2) Open the high quality beer and drink it while cooking. This is the way it is done in Wisconsin. Don't screw around with the recipe.
2) Most brats come curved. Bend and flex them so they are close to straight. Poke each brat 2-4 times with a fork so excess fat will drain and so the beer can get in. Use a pot or pan (you can use a disposable aluminum pan) for the brat tub. Dump in the brats, butter, hot sauce, and 2 bottles of American lager. Put the hot tub on the grill or if you have a fancy side burner you can use that. Simmer for 10 minutes, turn them over and simmer 10 minutes more. Be careful not to boil them or they may burst. Remove the brats and grill over medium heat until the skins darken and have grill marks. Be careful not to burn them. Roll them over so they are cooked on all sides.
3) Leave the pan with the beer and onions over the high heat. Add the ketchup and mustard, and stir. Add the brats. Cook it down to a gloppy sauce. This will take 20-30 minutes.
4) While the sauce is thickening, open the buns and place them cut side down on the medium side of the grill to warm and slightly toast. Go ahead, butter them first. When the buns are on, do not walk away. They can go from toasted to black in a minute. If a corner does burn, you can scrape it off easily.
5) Serve the brats on the buns with the onions and the sauce. Not too much sauce, you want to taste the brats. Serve a warm potato salad such as World's Easiest Potato Salad or German Potato Salad on the side. Serve warm sauerkraut with caraway seeds on the side too. Or pile them on the brat. And don't forget the beer. Put extra brats back in the sauce on a warm part, but not hot part of the grill.
Note. The beauty of this recipe is that you can boil the brats and onions in the beer and make the sauce at home, chill everything, and then heat the sauce and grill the brats at the game.
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