The wurst is yet to come
GateHouse News Service We have relatives from Oshkosh, Wisc. I’m scared of them –– rather, I’m scared of grilling bratwurst for them.
When food cultures clash, there’s no winning. I anticipate a major food fight right here on our patio. I’m thinking maybe a few take-out pizzas would better demonstrate our local culinary bravado.
Not that bratwurst is not a big deal here in Ohio. Our still-robust German community sees to that. But in Wisconsin, where German immigrants allegedly introduced brats to the New World, the sausage is more than noble. It’s a cult.
My relatives have heard the claims. Imagine this: The upstart Ohio city of Bucyrus thinks it’s the “Bratwurst Capital of America,” and cements the fantasy with a three-day Brat Fest (Aug. 16 to 18).
Not to be undercooked, Madison, Wisc., has its own Brat Fest over Memorial Day, “The World’s Largest,” of course.
Add to that, almost one pig-out a weekend throughout the Midwest, all summer, all claiming brat supremacy.
Bratwurst: German for “to fry (brat) sausage (wurst)”.
Brat hot tub: An aluminum foil pan filled with beer simmering on a grill, serving as a holding tub for grilled brats.
Brat nutrition: Total fat is 25 grams, saturated fat is 42 percent and calories are 284, with 224 from fat.
I (heart) Bratwurst: Official brat-lovers paraphernalia, on license-plate frames, bumper stickers, refrigerator magnets and male and female underwear.
Ninja Bratwurst: Cartoon figure appearing on official brat-tenders’ aprons.
Was Ist Das
Bratwurst dates to the 1300s in a region that eventually became Eastern Germany. Farmers would make the fat-filled sausages in the morning. They’d eat them by noon, as they spoiled fast. That tradition continues in German cities, as many brats are consumed for breakfast.
The sausages can contain veal (“white” brats) or pork, plus copious fat –– so much that a large container of water is mandatory near the cooker to fight fat flash fires.
Brats are Germany’s fast food, often sold as snacks by street vendors. Taverns and beer halls offer brat platters. Although there are more than 40 regional styles, the most popular in America is made from fine-ground pork with hints of marjoram and coriander.Brats served in Germanic taverns come with sides of sauerkraut or German potato salad. Soft pretzels accompany street brats. A sweet mustard is required for all, and crusty rolls only for those who insist, mainly tourists.
If you travel Germany and ask for a beer brat, they’ll hand you a brat and a beer stein. In Madison, you’ll get a brat steeped in lager.
Nobody knows why brats are beer-cooked in Wisconsin. Perhaps a sausage fell into the grillmeister’s glass, and he pronounced it “ausgezeichnet” (excellent!). This led to parboiling the meat in beer and finishing it on the grill.
Brats Und Balls
In 1953, the first bratwursts rolled off the grill at Milwaukee County Stadium, introducing the King of Sausages to the national game. Slugger Duke Snider was so enamored, he took a case back with him to Brooklyn.
Stadiums nationwide soon were smoking, but Miller Park in Milwaukee still is the only hardball venue that serves more brats than hot dogs.
Cleveland is no less brat conscious. Great clouds of brat smoke pour out of Progressive Field, enticing fans. The word is the brats cooked under the outfield bleachers are the best. Imagine sitting there with all that enticing smoke curling around you. Sigh.
The sausage made the jump to football stadiums, but mainly at tailgate picnics. Ohio Stadium in Columbus is ringed with brat haze each game day. Some fans never make it to their seats.
In 1945, Ralph and Alice Stayer unveiled their butcher shop in Johnsonville, Wisc. They crafted a sausage from a family recipe of 19th-century Austria. God-given talents turned them into a principal bratwurst producer of the Midwest.
The company sponsors a tractor-trailer rig dubbed “The World’s Largest Grill.” It visited my town of Canton, Ohio, a year ago, cooking brats for downtowners.
The Johnsonville folks are behind the brat mania inflicting Wisconsin. Their video stars the definitive brat tender with hair permanently singed off his hands.
“Always grill brats before church or major medical procedures,” he advises.
Also, check your favorite butcher-store for custom-made brats.