Anticipating the Wurst The Magic Power of Bratwurst on the
By: John Shepler
In Charles Dickens classic novel, "A Tale of Two Cities,"
he opens with this intriguing line: "It was the best of
times, it was the wurst of times." Clearly, Dickens is describing
the period between late spring and early fall in the midwestern
USA. It is a region where native campfires produce an uninterrupted
haze of charcoal smoke laden with the sweet smell of cooking
sausages. Aromatherapy for the masses. Mmmmmmmm. You can just
lay back in the hammock and soak in the healing properties of
this ground fog if you haven't the energy to create your own.
For the most effective treatment, though, you'll need to actually
consume the medicinal bratwurst.
No, I'm not a doctor and I haven't played one since childhood.
But I can witness to the revitalizing properties of brats on
the grill. Just last weekend, the Labor Day holiday, I was engaged
in a major repainting of the house trim. After several hours
of up the stepladder, down the stepladder, I found myself laying
flat on my back in the grass, a victim of too much anti-sedentary
behavior. Barbara suggested a refueling might be in order at
the Cub Food Supermarket outdoor brat stand just up the street
a mile or two. Oh, my gosh. Two crispy charcoal grilled bratwurst
with ketchup, mustard and chopped onions and I was a new man.
Paint the entire town red? No Problem!
What was the magic in those things? I had to know. The people
working the stand all testified that what we were eating were
Wisconsin bratwurst. I knew that there must be something important
in that message. Thus began my quest to discover the truth behind
the mystery of the bratwurst and its ilk.
Barbara did some in-depth research on the Internet and uncovered
some fascinating information. For instance, the two cities that
Dickens was referring to are most likely Sheboygan and Johnsonville,
Wisconsin. The wurst of the wurst of times would then have to
be Bratwurst Day, actually a two day celebration of all things
bratwurst that is held every year on the first Friday and Saturday
of August in Sheboygan. But why Sheboygan? Why Johnsonville?
Why Wisconsin for that matter?
history of bratwurst actually begins in Germany. In the mid-1800's
many Germans settled in Wisconsin and brought with them their
skills in making and preparing fine sausages. The German immigrants
came from ten different regions of Germany, and many settled
in the Sheboygan County area close to Lake Michigan. Their communities
each had their own meat market. Butchering and sausage making
was also done on most of the farms. Many still have cook houses
and summer kitchens. In 1945, Ralph and Alice Stayer opened a
butcher shop which they named after their hometown of Johnsonville,
Wisconsin, near Sheboygan. Their sausage recipes were handed
down within the family, going back to 19th century Austria. If
the name of the shop sounds familiar, it's because Johnsonville
is now a major company in the sausage business.
So what actually is in a bratwurst? This German sausage is
made from ground pork and veal, and seasoned with a variety of
spices including ginger, nutmeg and coriander or caraway. It's
filled by shooting it into a casing to create links of curved
sausages. Generally, bratwurst is not cooked as part of the processing,
so it must be cooked thoroughly before consuming. The two most
popular preparations are grilling and parboiling. In parboiling,
you place the sausage links in a heavy skillet and immerse them
in water or perhaps beer. The boiling mixture cooks and permeates
the sausages for 10 to 15 minutes. Lagers are said to complement
the sweeter sausages especially well. Onions can also be added
to the mix for additional flavor.
grilling or "frying" is the classic art of cooking
bratwurst, but it must be done with a skilled tong. The grill
should be pre-heated with the grate set six inches from the coals.
The grill should be painted with oil to keep the brats from sticking.
Bratwurst should be placed with at least a half inch of clearance
between them and turned every 5 minutes for 25 to 30 minutes,
until golden brown. Never puncture the casing with a fork or
the flavors and the magic will escape.
Now, slip those cooked brats into a hard roll, one each, or
two for a classic "double with the works" topped with
pickles, ketchup, onions and stone-ground mustard. And now, Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
There you have the secret to tapping the magic energy source
of bratwurst any time you feel the need. This is potent magic,
so use sparingly, only as required. That reminds me. Tomorrow's
a work day and I could use a boost. Any left for breakfast?
Books of Interest:
Sausage by A. D. Livingston. Mmmmmmmmmm. You'll almost
want to stick a fork in the pages just to get to these tasty
Born to Grill; An American Celebration by Cheryl Alters
Jamison, Bill Jamison. From the James Beard Award-winning authors
of Smoke & Spice comes this all-new collection of 300 fantastic
grilling recipes, packed with grilling lore and technique tips.
While the Jamisons go well beyond the ususal burgers, steaks
and sausages, they didn't forget them. Their chapter "Hot
Burgers and Haute Dogs" will get even the most sophisticated
griller's mouth watering.
Also visit these related
National Hot Dog and Sasusage
Council - Learn all about hot dogs and sausages, with recipes,
facts and trivia. Thanks to them and Michael Latil for his (c)
1996 photograph of sausages on the grill.
Cute Chipmunk Oktoberfest - Looks like this adorable funny chipmunk has found a large mug of German beer and is in the midst of celebrating Oktoberfest this September or October. Join him in the party festivities and have some fun.