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It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.
Any way you look at it, this recipe is a project. A delicious, delicious project. But you can break it down into stages to make it more doable:
On day one, get your spice mixture ready.
On day two, grind the meat.
On day three, stuff the sausages.
On day four, grill and poach your brats.
These homemade bratwurst, finished off Sheboygan-style in a beer-butter-herb bath with braised onions, are completely worth the time investment. The beauty of the beer bath method is that you get all the charred flavors and browning of grilling, but you don't have to rush to have all the brats grilled off at the same time. Keeping them in the beer bath not only adds flavor, but it also keeps the brats moist and warm while you grill the brats in batches if you need to. This gives you more leeway in terms of cooking time and ensures that all your guests get the brats at their peak. The beer and butter-braised onions are a bonus.
Makes about twelve 4-inch sausages
For the Brats
1 1/2 pounds pork butt, fat trimmed and discarded
1 pound veal shoulder or beef hanger steak, fat trimmed and discarded
1/2 pound pork fatback
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon caraway seed
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic, optional
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, optional
One 5-foot piece natural sausage casing
Cut the pork butt, veal or beef, and fatback into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes and chill thoroughly. It helps to have the meat partially frozen to prevent the fat from smearing.
Grind the meat in small batches using a meat grinder fitted with a 3/16-inch plate.
Combine the meat in a bowl with the spices. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate.
If the sausage casings are salt-packed, rinse and soak them for 30 minutes. Slide the casing onto your sausage stuffer's tube. Put the beef-pork mixture into the stuffer and run the motor (or press the mixture, if using a manual stuffer), pushing the mixture until it begins to emerge from the sausage stuffer. You want to start pushing meat into the casing before tying off the end to make sure no air is trapped in the casing.
Tie the casing into a knot and start extruding the meat into the casing, slipping more casing off as necessary. You want the casing to be tightly packed with the sausage mixture, but not so full that it bursts. At first, this can seem tricky, but as you go you'll get the hang of it. Now you have one long sausage. Gently twist it into 4-inch lengths. Cut apart or leave in a string and refrigerate until ready to cook, no more than two days. To store longer, freeze in zip-top bags with as much air squeezed out as possible.
For the Beer Bath
6 cups beer, preferably a German lager, pilsner, or ale
1 cup butter
1 large onion, grated
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, optional
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, combine all the ingredients for the bath and bring to a low simmer.
Prepare a medium grill fire. Brown the brats evenly, off to the side of the coals, turning frequently. When the brats are browned, remove to the barely simmering beer bath and let sit for 15 minutes or longer.
Serve the brats in good crusty buns with the braised onion slices on top. Have sauerkraut, whole-grain mustard, and ketchup on hand.
Photos by Megan Scott