Some food, some drink.
For easy homemade bratwurst, lose the link- make it a brat burger!
Doing brats on the grill can be a high maintenance affair if you're looking for perfection. The ordeal usually involves a simmer in beer or a slow and low smoke, often followed by a quick sear to get those sexy grill marks that everyone loves to see. This totally flies in the face of the simplicity portrayed in all those cookout commercials that the wizards of the advertising world would have you succumb to; and I believe the root of the problem has everything to do with the casing that holds the sausage together. If I may make a suggestion, a homemade brat patty is actually more forgiving to cook than any link could ever hope to be, and those coveted grill marks are practically guaranteed. Using a quality locally-sourced pork and a homemade seasoning blend that contains readily identifiable ingredients might just elevate a brat burger to top sausage at your next cookout!
It really all started with a simple question:
"You want your ground seasoned?"
A bit of reference might help, y'all here, huh? The time: Last spring. The place: The meat locker. If you've had an entire critter processed, then you know that there's a bit of an interview that needs to happen so the butcher knows how to get you just the right cuts. When we got our hog processed, we were given the option to have the ground pork seasoned, or kept as-is. The locker's standard sausage seasoning is the eponymous sage and black pepper breakfast-style joint. If every night was pancake night this would be a solution, but given the volume of meat we were getting, it just didn't make sense to do it all that way. As I'm no stranger to concocting a seasoning blend, I figured I'd be able to throw something together. Unseasoned it is.
My wife has a thing for those bratwurst patties that they sell in the meat case at the supermarket; but y'know for what you get, they're a bit pricey, and a few of the ingredients make me scratch my head a bit (yeah I'm looking at you, propyl gallate). I was pretty sure I could do a bratwurst seasoning just as well. So while at the store on one occasion, I did a little recon, read a few labels, and cross-referenced the wellspring of knowledge that is the Internets. After an attempt or two, I now think I have a solid, scalable bratwurst seasoning formula that'll turn a little ground pork into an instant Oktoberfest for your backyard grill.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
With a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder, beat up the caraway enough so as to crack those achenes. Combine the caraway along with milk powder, Kosher salt, sugar, nutmeg and white pepper. Mix with the pork and let the seasoned pork rest in the fridge for at least 3 hours before forming into patties and cooking.
For the grill, shoot for a medium high flame (~ 450F) for about 4 minutes on each side until done to either your or the USDA's liking.
- The recipe as wrote seasons 2 pounds of ground pork. Scale accordingly for whatever volumes of meat you happen to be messing with.
- Although I got the tools, there's very little reason to even bother with griding my own cuts as I know it all came from a single beast anyway. But, if you're not buying a whole pig and you still want to single-source your sausage, by all means grind away. I reckon Boston butt would give you a good proportion of fat to meat, and it's probably what I'd use if had to do a DIY grind.
- Take that time to beat up the caraway seed a bit. It's pretty tough stuff, and really all you need to do is crack that achene open to liberate those essential oils and lessen the likelihood that you're gonna get any stuck between your teeth. A mortar and pestle, or a ceramic grinder (I really like this one) will work just great.
- If you don't work much with white pepper then know that it can get away from you real quick. If you wanna turn up the spice and/or heat, then I'd recommend adding an equal amount of cayenne to the mix before adding more of the white stuff.
- Nutmeg. Fresh ground, or don't even bother. Case in point: I had a little extra nutmeg that I had ground fresh that I put away for a rainy day. About 2 or 3 weeks later, I went to the cupboard to use it; and upon further examination, I discovered that my relatively freshly-grated spice had all the aroma and taste of pencil shavings. Trust me here, that Microplane is worth the cost of admission for fresh-grated nutmeg.
- There's a bit of curing and protein readjustment that goes on during the rest in your fridge. This is when the sausage will inherit it's trademark texture. Three hours' wait should suffice, but overnight wouldn't hurt either.
There's nothing difficult about seasoning your own sausage. But I think that a lot of folks don't because our reliance on seasoning packets and shakers has made the whole concept a bit of a black box (but not in this house, pal). However for you good reader, I've done the measuring and proportioning. All that's left for you to do is buy a few ingredients, shake 'em up and add them to your ground pork. I know there are people that have an aversion to a casing on a sausage, natural or otherwise. Even if you're not in that camp, these bratwurst burgers are an easy way to get all the flavor of a brat without having to fret over fractured forcemeat and the ensuing sausage shrivel. Bonus!
Be sure to check out the peach salsa recipe from a few weeks back for the best stuff you could ever hope to pile atop a pork patty!