Any well-raised Wisconsinite could tell you that a barbeque without bratwurst is like a Saturday night without cow tipping. I remember Sunday afternoons, the Green Bay Packers pulling ahead at Lambeau and the unmistakable smell of grilled meat wafting into the house. Although I no longer can claim Midwestern residence, throwing pork onto an open fire remains an instinct on weather-permitting Sunday afternoons.
While sitting on a deck in Brooklyn, standing over a hot Weber grill ($100 at any Ace Hardware), a friend asked me, “What’s the difference between bratwurst and sausage?” Making sausage at home from scratch requires grinding equipment, a food processor and exact temperature control. Although feeding the raw ground pork into pig intestines is a hoot, I suggest a trip to the butcher shop instead. Typically, bratwurst are made with pork, veal and a blend of spices. The meat to fat ratio is what gives the wursts their texture.
As I rolled the links from side to side, to check for doneness, an East Coast native remarked that they’ve had difficulty finding bratwurst at their local grocery store. Many butcher shops will special order bratwurst upon request and now, Boar’s Head carries their own prepackaged brats, which are truly delicious. Johnsonville will ship them overnight, for the serious meat lover. Although the lovely links can be thrown directly on the grill, I recommend poking them with a fork, sinking them into a pool of pilsner and cooking them halfway, first. Then toss them onto the grill to finish them off. Accompany them with plenty of Dijon and stewed onions. There’s really no reason to settle for less.
Bratwurst and Onion Sandwiches
3 bottles Pilsner
8 slices of rye
1 small onion
Start up the grill. In a large pot, combine the brats, beer and onions. Bring to a simmer. Strain the onions and reserve. Place the brats on the grill. Once they brown, flip them and brown the other side. A little charring will only enhance the flavor. Remove them from the grill. Quickly toast the rye on each side on the grill. Watch out, it burns easily. Slice the sausages diagonally in one inch rounds. Spread four slices of bread with Dijon, smother with onions and pile up the slices of bratwurst. Close the sandwiches and serve. For flavor consistency, offer everyone a cold pilsner.