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Making Brats: Spices and a Hand Job

August 7, 2011

Man, I can stuff a lot of sausage!

We were having a fundraiser here at my little farm in the city and needed mountains of brats. Being overly crafty and mildly delusional, I decided to make them from scratch. Actually, I was supposed to be making them with someone who knew what he was doing, but a series of unforseen events prevented him from participating, so I was on my own. But seriously, how hard can it be? This is peasant food, meaning it requires no special scientific understanding. It is stuffing meat into a casing – I understand both the science and the metaphor there.

I went online to find a recipe. To my horror, after reading nearly a dozen recipes, I could find no agreement. They varied widely, which fueled my individual determination to just make something up. My recipe was built around two things: 1) What was already in my spice cabinet and 2) Nutmeg, which was the only ingredient that was in every recipe that I read. Of course, I started with sustainably raised local pork belly and pork butt from my local butcher shop, and a heaping helping of advice from Butcher Bob who assured me I could do it. He did not wink when he said that, but I like to think he did.

I made 100 brats, but many of them were quite small, so I’d say this should have been about 50 brats. If you want to make half, use Teaspoons instead of Tablespoons, and you’d be great. They freeze well, so make too many and have them later!

INGREDIENTS

  • 7 1/2 pounds pork belly (fat on, bones out.)
  • 7 1/2 pounds pork butt
  • Natural hog casing (you can get these at any butcher shop these days.)
  • 4 T sea salt
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 T paprika
  • 1 T white pepper
  • 1 T mustard powder
  • 1 T onion salt
  • 1 T celery seed
  • 1 T nutmeg

HOW TO

  1. Cut all the meat into smallish cubes. Do NOT remove the fat, it’s delicious.
  2. Mix all the spices together, well.
  3. Toss the spices over the meat until it’s all coated and let it sit for a while. I did it overnight because that’s how my schedule was working out, and it was great, but I’d think an hour or so would suffice.

GRIND IT

Stick it in, grind it good.

WHEN YOU START GRINDING, you should also start soaking your casings. They will come in a small tub, completely covered in salt. They are weird-looking, like alien worms, and it’s impossible to imagine they will really hold your sausage. But soak them until they are soft, 15 minutes to an hour, and they’ll work. I promise.

I used the meat-grinder attachment for my Kitchenaid. If you don’t have one, get one (I’ve been grinding my own meat for burgers etc…. for ages. It’s useful and you get way better quality.) You’ll also need the sausage stuffing nozzle, which is essentially a giant tube that  you cover in casing and pushes the meat into the casing. You can also get counter-mounted hand cranking gridners / stuffers and I’m sure they work great, since that’s what people have used for centuries.

Grind all the meat before stuffing it. Just run it through your grinder, pretty simple.

PREPARE THE CASING

Lots of casing, and a little meat, on the shaft.

This is the weird part, and the practice makes perfect part. (And the outrageously sexual part. And the painful reminder that I cannot give a good hand job to save my life. And unlike sex, none of my “please don’t make me give you a hand-job because I suck at that” tricks could be employed here, so I was forced to use my hands.)

Remove the cutting blade from your grinder, leave the holes that it squeezes through and attach the stuffing shaft.

  1. Find one end of a piece of casing that has been soaking. Roll it around between your thumb and fingers until you find opening, and try to slide your finger into the opening until it stays open for you. You should slide your finger in it to keep it open.
  2. Hold the opening under water, or under running water, and get some water in the casing, like a little water balloon. You don’t need much, but this will lube it up so that you can slide it on easily, especially if it’s a long one. (See what I mean?)
  3. Holding the casing and the water-pocket up to the tip of the nozzle, gently work it over the tip and begin to slide it on. Use your thumb and fingers to slide it all the way up to the base of the shaft. If you have a long piece of casing, there will be a lot of it bunched up along the whole shaft.
  4. Leave an inch or two hanging off the tip, and twist it off, as this will be the end of your first brat. I tie a not in it, but I don’t think you have to.

STUFF IT

Now comes the part where you need patience and grace.

  1. Slowly start pushing the meat through the grinder and into the casing. As it comes out, you will be massaging it into the casing to remove most of the air bubbles and make sure the meat fits well in the casing. Your best bet is to hold your hand open, under the sausage and let it almost rest there so that your fingers can stroke the top of it and you are applying solid and consistent pressure on the whole sausage.
  2. Let it get bigger than you think you want it, (oy,) because it will SHRINK when it gets hot. (Phew.) As the fat renders out, the sausage gets smaller. (I suspect that if you buy sausage that doesn’t do this, it’s because there are grain-based fillers and stabilizers in it. Ick.)
  3. When it is the size you want it, pinch the casing and twist it tightly, and that makes the separation between your links. Eventually you’ll be able to do this without stopping the flow of meat.
  4. Repeat, BUT, the next time you have to twist off a link, twist in the opposite direction! This is IMPORTANT because otherwise you will untwist your last link and be very sad.
  5. Keep going until it’s all done.

THANKS FABIEN!

The BEST secret tip? Invite a friend to help….  it really is easier with two people. One grinding the meat and one stuffing the sausage.

AND VOILA! Lots and lots of brats. We made about 100, but they shrunk a lot, so it was really more like 50. But practice makes perfect, and they were delicious.

Grilling for friends - PERFECT summer day!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2011 8:39 am

    You did indeed stuff a LOT of sausage … that was some fine weinerage though! I could have easily abused my bratwurst privileges and just kept eating them.

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