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  • A Guide to Brats

       June 10, 2005

    As regular readers know, 1/2 of our staff, as well as many of our readers, hail from the great state of Wisconsin. While Wisconsin is justly famous for its beer and cheese, we're also the home of the sausage whose reputation over the last few years has grown to almost mythical proportions: the brat.

    Laura, one of our contributors, grilled some brats the other day and admitted she didn't get what the big deal was. I suspect that's the reaction of a lot of people outside the state. But, you can't simply throw a brat on a grill and expect to get a taste of Wisconsin. Nope, there's a method behind the madness. I'll quote my brother on the proper way to prepare brats:

    First they are cooked, not boiled, preferably in a mixture of beer and water with lots of onions. You want the water just below boiling. Then, they are grilled to add the flavor of grilling. The best brats are typically bought at the grocery store's own meat section or at a meat market. The buns should be brat buns, not hotdog buns. Brat buns are harder than hotdog buns, more like a french bread roll. They should be served with baked beans (or pork'n) and potato salad.

    Some other tips:

    • Under no circumstances should you purchase pre-cooked brats
    • But, you also can't just buy something labeled "brats". Outside of the state, you can't assume your meat section will know what a brat really is, so I'd suggest you look for a nationally-known brand like Johnsonville
    • Purists claim brats can only be topped with onions, kraut, relish and mustard, but feel free to add ketchup or otherwise fancy them up to your taste
    • Remember don't boil your brats. You'll break the casings
    • You will probably not be able to find brat buns outside Wisconsin. Earth Grains makes various rolls that are reasonable facsimiles. The brat bun is traditionally much larger than the brat.
    • You may also want to try a hoagie roll if you can't find brat buns
    • If you preheat your grill, the brats will be very quickly, as all you're doing is browning them.
    • Although, brats are best enjoyed with ice cold beer and sunshine, they also make a great pregame meal. Some families even have brats for Christmas (mmmm....Christmas brats)!

    Even with all of these tips, brats still may not translate outside Wisconsin. Perhaps a brat is more than just a brat...it's a state of mind.


    Posted by at June 10, 2005 09:08 AM

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    Comments

    #  June 10th, 2005 10:22 AM      james
    i dont know what all this "dont boil" your brats stuff is all about, that is terrible advice. of course you boil brats.  
     
    #  June 10th, 2005 10:24 AM      kris
    You simmer, but just don't let them get to a boil.  
     
    #  June 10th, 2005 10:27 AM      james
    boil then reduce to a simmer.
     
     
    #  June 10th, 2005 10:27 AM      kris
    Heh, maybe we should sponsor a brat cook off  
     
    #  June 10th, 2005 10:29 AM      james
    no way is anyone putting anything other than mustard and kraut on any brat coming off my grill.  
     
    #  June 10th, 2005 10:53 AM      BVBigBro
    Kraut should not be put on brats for all the same reasons kraut should not be put on ice cream.  
     
    #  June 10th, 2005 10:54 AM      aphahn
    If you speak "Sheboyganese" then you eat brats on a hard roll.  
     
    #  June 10th, 2005 10:56 AM      kris
    Could I just have a plain brat then or would you MAKE people put that stuff on them?

    For whatever reason, we've never been kraut eaters.  
     
    #  June 10th, 2005 10:57 AM      james
    #1 result for "how to eat a brat" on google.

    (links open in new window)


     
     
    #  June 10th, 2005 11:28 AM      Laura
    This'll kill you, but remember that this is the south, and mayonaise is mandatory.

    We actually had our brats with mayo, yellow mustard, and ketchup. But I'll try it your way next time.  
     
    #  June 10th, 2005 11:30 AM      kris
    I'm afraid of mayo and any other opaque condiment-type thing other than ketchup. But even if I liked mayo, I couldn't imagine it on a brat.

    You crazy southerners  
     
    #  June 11th, 2005 11:32 PM      mbrlr
    My Northern wife's adjustment to the South was difficult at times, due more to the North/South part of it than to any overt prejudice or problems due to her ethnicity. She had trouble with the accents and words that seemed to mean nothing --- "tump" comes to mind --- and the entirely different rules on manners, but the hardest thing to adjust to was the Rule on Ice. Ever since ice became available on a regular basis, it's expected that you put ice in all coke drinks and Southerners always refrigerate coke cans and bottles (note that all soft drinks generally are referred to as "cokes", certainly all colas. All the folks I know tell horror tales of walking into stores and asking for a coke, only to have the young person behind the counter ask "Is a Pepsi okay?" Southern youth have been corrupted by modern media. O tempora o mores). It's mandatory. Not doing it is illegal or ought to be. She just couldn't figure out *why* this ice and refrigerator rule was of such importance and why her mentioning the lack of refrigeration up North resulted in shocked silence from friends and relatives, but she eventually converted and the coke now sits proudly in the fridge. I'm still working on her concerning the absolute necessity of blasting the air conditioner at full blast in the car at all times.

    And I always feel guilty when I don't put mayo on a corned beef sandwich...okay, I usually do put mayo on, just don't tell anyone else.

    "Brat buns"? Yankees are weird, weird folks.  
     
    #  June 12th, 2005 1:07 AM      Walleye
    As a native son of Wisconsin, I had the rare pleasure of living in Mississippi for two (long) years. I can confirm that Johnsonville Brats are the only reliable way to access proper brats (in that part of the south at least) and that deli rolls had to suffice for brat buns (a reasonable substitute). We (my lovley wife, a native daughter of WI) had a hard time re-learning English and also ran into the intense love affair with ice, but came away with a serious addiction to sweet tea. Not the stuff you mix from a Lipton container, but no kidding home brewed sweet tea. We noth now prefer sweet tea to soda (a.k.a. pop, or coke) when it is available.  
     
    #  June 12th, 2005 1:16 AM      BVBigBro
    Yeah, it's a north - south thing. I use ice, tea and mayo exactly never.  
     
    #  June 12th, 2005 6:23 AM      BrianH
    I didn't realize Illinois was THAT far south. It never occurred to me to drink hot soda (except when we run out of the refridgerated stuff). I guess the aversion to ice must have to do with the winters being too long and not wanting to be exposed to the nasty stuff any sooner than say August. 8*)

    Seriously, we have good brats, iced tea with or without sweet, mustard or mayo, Y'all or youse, Coke and Pepsi or soda and pop. But then we're a long border state connecting Wisconsin to Kentucky. Maybe we get culture creeping in from both sides and get to keep the best of it. 8*)  
     
    #  June 13th, 2005 8:13 AM      JohnTant
    I like to slice a slender V out of the brats (like Subway used to do with their bread until they stopped for some reason) then stuff them with slices of cheese and dill pickle. I then wrap the whole shebang with a slice of bacon and secure it all with butcher's twine. They then hang on the grill for a bit. When it's done, just cut the twine off and serve in a bun.

    By doing this, I paid for my doctor's new boat.  
     

     

     


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