Thursday, November 25, 2010

Homemade Bratwurst

Ahhh the humble Bratwurst.  One of the great food treats that come from America's beautiful immigrant history. Specifically given to us by German immigrants who settled into and around the Wisconsin area and popularized in Sheboygen County during the 1920's.
There are so many different versions and recipes of this great sausage that it took me quite awhile to nail down a recipe that was simple and as close to a Wisconsin style Bratwurst as I could get. Man, Delving into finding a recipe for this humble link was no easy task as I encountered literally 75 different recipes, All are very specific and of course no leniency in altering the recipe at all, or you will suffer the wrath of Bratwurst purists everywhere. Some recipes called for beef and pork or veal and pork, or a combination of all. Some had raw eggs in them. While others had potatoes and dry milk in them. Wow, it literally is spread across the ingredient spectrum.I mean even the Gods of Charcuterie, Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn in there book, aptly titled, Charcuterie have a Brat recipe that calls for eggs and cream.
So I really had to think of this for awhile and I tried a ton of experiments. I wanted to find the essence of the flavors that make a Brat well, a Brat.
As I listened to one of the quintessential jazz albums for inspiration, the 1957 album Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section and specifically the song Tin Tin Deo it came to me, like a perfect jazz free form melding of individual players coming together as the musicians on this album did one day in 1957, and in one take. Listening to this album and specifically that song, and the manic drumming of Philly Joe Jones you can smell rock and roll coming around the corner, Like running home for dinner on a Sunday afternoon and catching a whiff of your mothers cooking, man, you can smell it, but you don't know what it is, but you know it's gonna be good. So I came up with this recipe, clean, simple and it combines all of the Bratwurst flavors that I love.
Fresh ingredients are always the best way to go. I always wait until the local store has Pork Butt on sale. and I don't really know why this cut is called "Pork Butt", because it's actually from the shoulder.

With this cut you really don't have to add additional fat to it, as the Pork Butt cut, I have found usually has the proper amount already.

I bought a two pack of "Butts", for .99 cents a pound. After cutting off a huge hunk to make a pork roast with I was left with around 15 Lbs of Pork. the recipe below is for 5 Lbs of sausage as I didn't think anyone would want to make the large quantities I usually do. The recipe that follows is a two day event.

The first thing you have to do is cut your meat into cubes that will fit into your grinding machine. I use a Kitchen Aid , This is the most valuable tool you will have in your kitchen. You can see the fat cap in the above picture, You want to keep this as fat is the very most important ingredient in sausage making. You will have to cut away the connective tissues as they will not only cause Hell in your grinder , but aren't very tasty.
There is a bone in this cut, so be careful and cut around it. Your work will be amply rewarded. Remember good cooking is an art and takes time. This is a two day process. On the first day you will cut and clean your Pork meat and then grind it and season it. Then you will let it sit and let the flavors mingle together over night.
Then you will put the meat into casings.
And remember to roast off that leftover bone for your dog. As you can see Cali is a very happy girl.
Make sure that after you cut your meat into the desired size cubes and that you place the meat in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes. You have to keep the meat very cold as the continual grinding will start to heat the meat and melt the fat. we are not too much worried about keeping the meat cold for sanitary purposes right now. It's mainly to keep the fat from melting. If it does melt, then you could end up having a sausage that is very mealy tasting. No fat, No fun.

After you grind your meat, Back into the freezer for 15-20 minutes to firm up the fat. at this time you gather your spices together.

Then add the spices to your very cold ground pork. Do this by hand to get a good mix. Your hands will get extremely cold doing this, so make sure you can heat them up under warm water and dive in again. Now it's very important  to mix the spices in as evenly as you can.
Your mix should look like this when you have it all incorporated.

Ok, So now that you have your meat ground and your spices well incorporated. It's time for a test patty, or two, to be cooked off.

Remember that the spices will get more pronounced as the ground mixture sits for a night. Test here for texture and taste the spices. You can always add more in the morning, So I wouldn't add any today. you can always add you can't subtract.


 Add the 1 Cup of fresh cold water to your ground pork and mix in by hand. This will help moisten the meat and it will go through the stuffer much easier.
Test again the mixture by frying up a small batch. this is the time to adjust your seasonings and this is the place where a lot of people go wrong. Don't add to much salt, let the sweetness of the pork come through. I find the biggest problem with mass produced sausage is that the makers add tons of salt as a flavor and not as a flavor enhancer. In this case less is more.

I buy hog casings at my local butcher shop for .30 cents a foot. it's expensive but they are fresh. You can source them through the internet as well. You will need 10-12ft of casings for this recipe.

Load up your KitchenAid stuffer with your casings.

Tie a knot in the end of the casing. Ok let's get stuffing. I do this myslef, but you might want to have someone help you if this your first time. You must always have one hand on the sausage stuffer as you need to continually feed and fill the casing. Do not over fill!
Easy right? It will be after you do it a few times.And the results are outstanding! the best homemade Brat you will ever have! hehehe..I can't wait for the Brat police to knockwurst on my door.
Let the sausage roll off your stuffer in one link. After you are done, then go back and twist them into 6 inch individual links. There is actually a method of twisting these things that won't get you aggravated. I must say that I haven't mastered this twisting part yet.


5 lbs Pork Butt also called Shoulder
3 Tbsp Kosher Salt
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 1/2 Tsp grated Nutmeg
1/2 Tsp Ground Coriander
1/4 Tsp Celery seed
2 Tsp Fresh Gorund Black Pepper
1/8 Tsp Dried Marjoram
1 1/2 Tsp dried ground Ginger.
1 Cup Cold Water

10-12ft Hog casings

This recipe to me brings out all of the Bratwurstian flavors that mainly work off of the Nutmeg and Ginger.
I hope you enjoy it.



Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pickled Green Beans

Right now there seems to be an over abundance of fresh green beans on the market. Take advantage and pickle a few jars of them. They make great treats in a bloody Mary or just put a side out for an appetizer or snack. They are delicious. Sometimes I think we forget that we can make most foods at home, and make them better quality than what we can get off the shelf. This method I use is a cold pack method, no pasteurizing by boiling the jars for 20 minutes, just a very simple brine. If you follow basic kitchen cleanliness, you will have no problem at all.

As with all cooking, you should start with the freshest ingredients you can find. farmers markets are the perfect place to look for quality fresh produce. But you can get very good quality green beans from your local market as well. Just pick a few up and snap them in half, they should give a good pop when snapped in two. Also taste them, they should have good moisture and taste fresh with firm flesh.

You will need at least 3 quart sized Mason jars and lids. sanitize them by running them through your dishwasher on the "sanitize" setting. You can also achieve the same results by using a mix of water and bleach and scrubbing them in hot water.


1 to 1 1/2 Lbs of fresh Green Beans. Cleaned and scrubbed.
3 cups water
3 cups distilled white vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp Dill seeds
2 Tbsp whole black pepper corns
1 Tbsp whole Coriander seeds
1 Tbsp whole Mustard seeds
1 Tbsp Red Pepper flakes
3 cloves Garlic minced
3 bay leaves
3 Chili peppers. Jalapeno, Serrano. Your choice.

If you are using smaller or larger quantities, you can measure the amount of brine needed by first stuffing yoour jars with green beans and then adding water to the jars. Pour out the water into a container and measure the water used. This will give you an exact measurement of how much brine to use.

Add all ingredients into a large sauce pan and gently bring to a boil. Once you have reached a low boil, turn off the burner and let the ingredients steep for 5 minutes.

Stuff your jars with the green beans and place one of the peppers and bay leaf in each jar. Make sure that you place the peppers at the bottom of the jar, they will float to the top otherwise.
Pour the hot liquid over the green beans. Filling the jars almost to the top. Make sure you get a good amount of pickling spices in each ladle full as the spices will intensify in the coming weeks.

Seal each jar with your clean lids. And keep jars on your counter until lids seal. Your lids will seal themselves. It may take anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes, but they will form a vacuum and seal. You can test this. as you put the lids on the jars, you can press your finger in the middle of the lid and it will give way and pop up and down. When the lids form a vacuum seal, the center part of the lid will be sucked down. and will not give.
After lids have sealed, place them in your refrigerator and let sit for 2-3 weeks. As the flavors will mature and get really good.
They will last up to 3 months or more in your fridge.

This is a classic and basic pickling recipe that you can use on all sorts of veggies from Pickles to zucchini. 
Use your imagination and add or subtract ingredients to fir your taste.



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

San Diego Food & Beverage makers

Hola San Diego foodies!
I'm on a quest to find makers of high quality food and beverages in Southern California and want to tap into the vast foody wealth of knowledge of all my foody friends out in the blogosphere in finding them.
I want to start to change the blog over to covering the small but growing cottage industry of small makers in Southern California.
So if know of any small company that is handcrafting high quality foodstuffs, hit me up with their info and we will do an indepth article on them. 
It should be fun and I look forward with your help in identifying and bringing to the internet all of the locals who take pride in what they are making. Together we can make sure the current growth in small sustainable makers stays alive.
Please feel free to drop me a line or comment and any insight you might have on the local makers.



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