January 02, 2012
How to make bratwurst

Any vegetarian friends might want to stop reading now.

I made bratwurst a couple weeks ago and it turned out well. I decided to make more and document the process. For those unfamiliar, a bratwurst is a German sausage, popular in the American mid-west for it's rich and distinct flavor. A staple of cookouts and tailgate parties, it's often simply referred to as a 'brat'. I love 'em.

My sausage making guide is Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. If you don't have this book, get it. It's wonderful.

The basic recipe for bratwurst in the book is this.

Finding pork back fat is hard. I don't care what the book says or what people on the interwebs say, you can't buy that stuff anywhere. As a result, I buy extra pork shoulder and ask for them not to trim the fat. Also, I couldn't find veal shoulder anywhere. So I substituted ground veal instead. "soy protein concentrate" sounds nasty, so I left that out as well.

Here is the pork shoulder as I prepare to dice it. Look at all the fat. That fat is one of the main things that make the sausages taste good. I tried to work fast so that the fat wouldn't start melting. You want to keep as much of this fat in the mix as possible.

Here is the pork diced, ready to mix with the veal and spices.

The three main spices, white pepper, ginger, and nutmeg are key to the recipe and responsible for the distinct bratwurst flavor. Here I'm holding a whole nutmeg. I slice off an end and use a micro-planer to shave into a ramekin. Don't skimp on the spices. If they aren't fairly fresh, you're wasting your time.

After mixing the meat and spices, the bowl goes back into the fridge. This is the Kitchenaid setup with the meat grinder attachment. There are dedicated meat grinders that handle volume better, but this setup gets the job done slowly. The bowl of ice is to keep the ground mixture as cold as possible. Keeping the fat from melting is important. Any time I'm not working with the meat, it's in the fridge.

Here is the grinding setup as I get rolling. This part of the recipe takes the longest. Grinding 5+ pounds of meat with a small machine takes time. Serious sausage makes use much bigger grinders and can mount them on a working table.

One trick I've learned is running bread through the grinder to help clean it. You still need to clean and sanitize it all by hand, but it makes the job much easier.

Defining ingredients for bratwurst include eggs and heavy cream. You whip them together and mix with the ground meat. The paddle blade is used to bind everything together.

After one or two minutes, the texture of the sausage changes and it now sticks together. You could shape them in your hand here and then cook them, but we're going to stuff. them. Back in the fridge again, while I prepare to stuff.

I use a 5 pound sausage stuffer. The Kitchenaid attachment for this sucks. Use a real dedicated stuffer. I picked up the sausage casing at the butcher counter when I bought the meat. It's real hog intestine, cleaned by the pros, and works well. If you are going to eat meat, you need to know what you are eating. Patience is key here as sliding the casing on takes time to prep all ten feet.

Stuffing begins. If you can't bolt down the stuffer, it's a two person job. Goes quickly when two people are working together.

I twist into links, cut into manageable strings, and their ready to go. I made these for a New Year's Eve party and everybody loved them. Well, my vegan friend didn't love them, but the omnivores did.

Posted by michael at January 02, 2012 01:47 PM