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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.

 

Required Equipment

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.

Sausage Pricker

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

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.

How to Make Bratwurst

Prep Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 2 hours

Yield: 10 Pounds

Serving Size: 1 sausage

How to Make Bratwurst

Bratwurst is the king of all sausage in my book. Meaty, sweet, and perfect for any season. This recipe will give you the basis to make your own version which will be enjoyed by friends and family for generations.

Ingredients

  • 6# Pork Shoulder
  • 2# Pork back fat
  • 2# Veal Shoulder
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1c Heavy Cream
  • 6g Mace
  • 80g Kosher Salt
  • 12g Ground White Pepper
  • 10g Ground Ginger
  • Pig Casings - 32/35mm

Instructions

  1. Place grinder components and grinding plate in the freezer
  2. Soak casings in lukewarm water for at least 30-45 minutes
  3. Cut pork, back fat and veal into 1/2" chunks or small strips
  4. Place meat on sheet tray in freezer for 20-30 minutes until firm to the touch
  5. Prepare spice kit in separate bowls and then combine in larger bowl
  6. Remove grinder components from freezer and prepare for use
  7. Remove meat from freezer and combine in large bowl with spice kit - mix by hand (using latex gloves) or with large mixing spoon
  8. Grind meat into separate large mixing bowl (or two depending on bowl size) working in small batches and being careful to not overstuff grinder
  9. Add eggs and cream into ground meat (farce) and mix in Kitchenaid or other mixer using the paddle attachment working at medium/low speed. Work in batches to avoid overloading mixer.
  10. Make a thin sausage patty and grill or pan fry to test for taste - adjust seasonings if desired
  11. Work casing onto sausage stuffer or Kitchenaid attachment - tie end of casing and poke holes into end to remove air as sausage is stuffed
  12. Stuff sausage working in small batches (use a cutting board for stuffed sausage that is slightly wet to keep sausage from sticking to surface)
  13. Turn sausage into ~ 6" links by pinching off desired length, then twisting 4-6 times away from your body, then, by pinching off the next two links and twisting the 3rd link towards your body - continue, alternating until you reach the end of the string
  14. Prick sausage to remove air bubbles with sausage pricker
  15. Place sausage on sheet tray in refrigerator, uncovered, for 2 hours in order to develop pellicle
  16. Separate sausages by cutting links
  17. Vacuum seal (if you have a Food Saver or the like) or package in 1 quart Ziplock bags and freeze
  18. Sausages will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months - but they likely won't last that long!
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How to Make Bratwurst

Bratwurst Grind

The ‘farce’ or ground meat that will be mixed and cased

 

Bratwurst Grind Egg

Adding both eggs and cream are essential for a good bratwurst to give them body and a silky texture

 

Bratwurst mixed

The farce has now been blended in a large mixer using the paddle attachment – for many other sausages, this step is completed by hand. You can tell when you are done when the fat is bound to the meat and there’s a thin sheen of fat on the sides of the mixing bowl.

 

Bratwurst patty

It’s always important to test out the blend prior to casing

 

Bratwurst stuffer

The stuffer – loaded and ready

 

Bratwurst stuffed ring

A beautiful ring of bratwurst pre-linking

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 with Pricker

The links must be pricked to remove any air bubbles that are a haven for bacterial growth

 

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!