Sausage Making 101: The Bratwurst
Perhaps no other sausage or meaty confection carries the same weight among culinary consumers than the bratwurst. Whether you are tailgating in the frozen tundra of Green Bay or watching the Cubbies lose at Wrigley – ‘brats’ can always be found. A mixture of sweet and rich fat create the most delectable tube steak known to man. And when made well, they are undeniably good.
I’ve tried my hand at making a fair share of different sausages – some by recipe and some my creation. But time and time again, the request from friends and family is always for bratwurst. They are the perfect guest at a backyard BBQ as well as a lovely main course for dinner in winter. Dress them with caramelized onions, some sweet and spicy mustard and you have heaven on a plate.
Grinders and Stuffers
If you’ve never tried your hand at making sausage then the first time is both the most traumatic and rewarding. Things can go wrong but not horribly. It’s more the mess and the fear of the unknown that may hold you back. Nevertheless, if you (like most home cooks these days) have access to a Kitchenaid mixer with a grinder attachment then you are well on your way. It’s how most home sausage makers start out and while it’s less than an ideal setup it will do.
I find the Kitchenaid to be a bit cumbersome and it’s difficult to use. This is due to the grinder not being powerful and the chute which you load the meat through is quite small and pieces of meat and fat can get stuck if not cut to a very small size. Some of the older Kitchenaid components were made where the grinder housing was plastic which makes it challenging to cool to a low enough temperature (generally below 42 degrees Fahrenheit) required to grind the meat without it smearing. This happens when the grinder components are too warm and the meat essentially smears/partially liquefies vs. being ground as desired. This has now been corrected in newer versions which are made of metal and can be kept in the freezer prior to grinding.
All that being said, this is the most accessible way for many people to start making sausage before going ‘all in’ and buying both a separate grinder and stuffer. The Kitchenaid grinder also doubles as a stuffer so you can effectively stuff your casings while grinding the meat. While not ideal (as you won’t have the opportunity to mix and bind the farce separately) it will do if you are just starting out.
Stainless Steel Bowls
Two large stainless steel bowls are needed to make this recipe. Bowls should be refrigerated so that the meat stays cold once it is ground and ready to be mixed.
This handy little tool is necessary for sausage makers as it removes any small air pockets left in the casing as a result of the stuffing process. A sausage pricker will generally have about 10-12 small tines that will puncture small holes in the casing removing air bubbles without breaking or rupturing the casing to the point where it breaks.
Grinding plates come in different sizes and can be used to make fine or coarsely ground sausage depending on the recipe. For bratwurst, we use a 3/16″ grinding plate as it’s a finely ground sausage that will be mixed using the paddle attachment with liquid ingredients to make a nearly emulsified texture.
The Bratwurst Recipe
And now we get to the fun part – sausage making! I tend to make sausage in 10# batches. It’s a bit of a time-consuming process and to make less just doesn’t seem worth it. The recipe below is based on a 10# batch but can be cut in half by simply doing the math.
[amd-yrecipe-recipe:4] How to Make Bratwurst
Here you can see a great video on how to make sausage links. There are a few ways to do this and you can find other videos out there. I tend to make links in a straight line but this method works as well. Don’t worry – after doing this a few times you’ll get the hang of it.
Bratwurst can be cooked immediately and eaten or stored in the freezer for up to 6 months. I generally use a FoodSaver to vacuum seal my sausages. However, you can also package into quart sized Ziploc bags or something similar and freeze that way.
If you enjoyed this recipe and would like to learn more about Charcuterie – check out the section of The Hungry Dog Blog for more!