Gunner’s Libation: Beer Brats
BEER BRATS WITH APPLE FENNEL SAUERKRAUT
Start to finish: 30 minutes
8-10 pork bratwursts, uncooked
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 large white or yellow onion, divided
2-3 bottles or cans of beer, whatever you drink
8-10 hoagie, pretzel or potato rolls
2 cups Apple Fennel Sauerkraut, warmed or other favorite condiments
Special Equipment: 5-8 quart Dutch oven Preheat the grill. Melt the butter in the Dutch oven or heavy duty saucepan. Cut the onion in half and cut into half-moon slices. Place in the bottom of the Dutch oven and let cook for about 5 minutes or until translucent. Add the beer and bring to a simmer. Set aside. Meanwhile, remove brats from packaging and set in the center of the cooking grate over indirect heat. Turn occasionally and let cook for about 20 minutes or almost cooked through. I like to cook them until they are a deep brown color. Remove from grill and place into the simmering beer and onion mixture. Bring the liquid back to a gentle boil. Immediately reduce the heat to very low and simmer with the lid on for at least 15 minutes. The brats are now ready to serve
In honor of Oktoberfest and those brave souls celebrating a Sober October, we’re serving up a different “libation” this week …
When I first moved to Chicago from North Carolina, I was amazed at the variety of sausages. There were polish sausages, bratwurst, bockwurst, Italian; sweet and hot, among others. At that time, the sausage that I knew best was knackwurst, which is smoked like a hot dog, only thicker and made from all beef. When I visited a German-style butcher shop in the city, I was intrigued by the uncooked, unsmoked sausages and couldn’t wait to taste the “beer brats” as they are called in Chicago and the Midwest. I thought that my sausage ignorance was just because I was from the South but often, even today, when I mention my love of beer brats, people respond with a “what’s that?” Back then, I worked with a woman who was from an old German family in Wisconsin and she schooled me on the correct way to make beer brats. She explained that you grilled the uncooked bratwurst first over indirect heat until the sausage was burnished brown and cooked through. Then you remove them from the grill and place them in a simmering pot of beer. She made sure that I understood that most people make the mistake of simmering the sausages first in beer and then grilling them. If you do that, the flavor of the uncooked sausages melts into the simmering beer leaving the sausages tasteless, and it is almost impossible to get good grill marks on the boiled sausages. Wanting to make sure what she said was correct, I tried it both ways and she was 100 percent right. Even though most people boil the sausages and then grill them, a taste test proves her theory right. You must grill first and simmer second for optimum flavor, texture and caramelization. Besides a better flavor, this method is more convenient. You can grill the brats in advance and keep them warm in simmering beer for 1-2 hours. You can even reheat any leftovers the next day or make them a day in advance for a tailgate. Just be sure to simmer the hot sausages in the beer right after you take them off the grill and then cool them and store them in the refrigerator in the simmering liquid.
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