Homemade Bratwurst

     Ever since I got my meat grinder, bratwurst has been on my “to-do” list. It’s one of those sausages that pretty much everybody is familiar with, usually sold under the name Johnsonville (although most grocery stores have their own brand, at least here in Dallas). After our trip to Germany back in August, I was even more motivated to try and make my own.

Grinding up the sausage

     After looking around the internet, searching out recipes and comparing them, I decided to try out Warren R. Anderson’s recipe from Mastering the Craft of Making Sausage. Since I have a copy of the book, I might as well try out their recipe first and see how it works out.

That’s about what 12 lbs of ground pork look like

     I’m not going to go into much detail about how to grind up your meat. I’ve covered all that before and if you would like to read more about it, you can refer back to my posts on Texas Hot Links or Kasewurst where we went into more detail on that topic.

Spices for the brats, bourbon for the cook.

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs of pork shoulder and 1 lb of lean veal (beef, chicken thighs or turkey thighs may be substituted), or 5 lbs of pork shoulder, cubed (2,270 g)
  • 5 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp ground mustard (packed in spoon)
  • 1.5 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 1 tsp sage (packed in spoon)
  • 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 4 eggs
  • hogs casings for stuffing

Mixing wet and dry ingredients together

Directions

  1. Grind the meats using a 3/16 inch or smaller plate. Refrigerate the ground meat for about 30 minutes.
  2. Whisk the dry milk and water together, then add the remaining ingredients, except for the meat, in a large mixing bowl. Refrigerate this seasoning mixture for about 15 minutes.
  3. Add the seasoning mixture to the ground meat and knead it until it is thoroughly mixed and uniform, about 3 minutes.
  4. At this point, I like to make a small patty and fry it up as a taste test. Adjust seasonings as needed.
  5. Freeze the meat and seasoning mixture while the sausage stuffer and hog casings are being prepared (about 30 minutes).
  6. Stuff the sausage paste into the hogs casings and twist into 6″ lengths.
  7. Refrigerate the links overnight in a covered container or zip-lock bag to permit the seasonings to be absorbed by the meat.
  8. Sausages that will not be eaten within two days should be frozen.

Adding wet ingredients to pork

     I have to apologize for not getting any pictures of us stuffing the casings. Our stuffer (a Kitchener #12) is pretty much a two person operation and we didn’t feel like stopping to take a picture once we got started. As you can see in the picture below, we got 3 bags of links, one large spiral (we didn’t twist it off into links, it was a bit overstuffed and we were afraid the casings would burst if we tried to twist it) and one package of uncased sausage (we ran out of hogs casings at the end, not sure what we are going to do with that bag).

Stuffed and ready to freeze for later

     Now that your sausage is all prepared, its time to cook some up and enjoy the fruits of your labor. There are many ways to cook fresh sausage, from pan frying it, cooking it in the oven, using a beer bath with onions, beer and butter, warming it up in sauerkraut to straight up grilling it. I’m not going to debate the proper way to cook them or which is the best method, but I will say that you want to cook them over a moderate heat. If you cook the brats too fast, you risk a blow out in the casings and all the juice and flavor will leak out leaving you with a dry, bland sausage. So cook the brats over a moderate heat source and cook until the internal temperature reaches 160F.

Onto the Egg at 350F with some applewood chips

     I decided to grill my bratwurst (I know, you didn’t see that coming, right?). I fired up my new Mini Egg (which is fast becoming my favorite grill) and got it stabilized at 350 F. I added some apple wood chips for just a hint of smoke.

Almost done

     You may notice that in the first grill shot, that the links are still connected (and that the one on the far right had a blow out on one end, just ignore that, not sure what happened there). In the second shot, the links have been severed. I like to keep the links connected until they are about halfway done, then cut the casings between them with a pair of kitchen shears. This allows you to move them around to better take advantage of any hot spots you may have on your grill and get them to cook evenly.

Almost done

     Not sure how long these brats took to cook….a few cold adult beverages for sure. Make sure to flip and rotate the sausages every once in a while in order to keep them from burning and prevent the casings splitting. The brats will be done when the internal temperature reaches 160F. Do NOT overcook them, or you will be left with dried out brats and that is not good eats. This is where a good, reliable thermometer comes in handy.

Done…allow to rest for a few minutes

     Once they are done, give them a few minutes to rest. They can be eaten whole, sliced up as a snack, eaten on a hot dog bun with a good quality mustard or served along with some sauerkraut. I’ll let you decide how you want to eat them.

Sliced and ready to eat

     Once again, and I can’t stress this enough, the key is to not let the skins burst or all the juices will leak out. Cook it over a moderate heat and cook it until it just reaches 160F and you will be rewarded with a juicy, flavorful bratwurst.

Mmmm…juiciness!!

     I was really pleased with this batch of bratwurst. It had a great flavor, was juicy and the hogs casing gave it a nice snap. It was a bit different from Wisconsin-style brats that most people are familiar with, however. It had a richer flavor and a finer texture as it had been ground finer, where as Wisconsin-style brats are chunkier and do not contain eggs or milk. I will admit that I had more ground pork then the recipe called for. I ended up using about 6 pounds where the recipe only called for 5, but I wasn’t sure what to do with the extra pound and didn’t want to let it go to waste. I can only imagine that if I had used 5 lbs, it would have had even more flavor. Next time we make it, I am also going to try harder to find a pound of veal as that would be more traditional. I tried, but just couldn’t find any while shopping for the rest of the ingredients.

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