Way of Life
Bratwurst is a compound German word - brat means fry, wurst means sausage.
Bratwurst is pronounced with a short A (rhymes with "lot"). A Madison TV station runs a promotion called
"Take your brat to work today." They're talking about bratwurst, not
In Wisconsin, bratwurst are served
virtually everywhere during "grilling season" which generally runs from May
through September. They are served at a myriad of outdoor events, as
well as in nearly every Wisconsin backyard. As you drive through a
Wisconsin town on a clear summer evening, you will see the haze from
backyard cookouts lazily wafting up into the sky. Stop, roll down
your car windows, and enjoy the heavenly aroma. If you follow the
aroma to its source and introduce yourself, you may be invited to join
the feast. Wisconsinites are friendly people.
Kevin sent sent us this classic Wisconsin recipe - his favorite
accompaniment to grilled bratwurst, especially while tailgating at a Badgers,
Packers, or Brewers game. Kevin says that sometimes he simply enjoys the
wash, and forgets about the brats. For more than 4 healthy
Wisconsinites, Kevin recommends multiplying the recipe by the appropriate
3 Bags Ice (cubes)
1 Case Beer
Remove cans from recyclable cardboard holder. Place cans in cooler,
intermingling with ice cubes. Chill 45 minutes and serve.
There's much more that goes into serving Kevin's bratwash than
simply intermingling just any beer and ice into just any cooler. Pick up
essential points and tips on proper technique at Kevin's
We strongly recommend that you
avoid driving, operating machinery of any kind, or getting into any discussions
about religion or politics during or after consumption of bratwash.
Tailgating is a Wisconsin phenomenon, and nowhere is it better
exemplified than at Lambeau Field before a Packer game. In 1990, I
thought I had landed on another planet when I entered the parking lot of
the Houston Astrodome before a Packers-Oilers game. I was
surprised and chagrined at the absence of any grill smoking in the lot.
At Lambeau Field, or Miller Park, or Camp Randall Stadium, you will see
hundreds if not thousands of grills loaded with brats, burgers, and
other meats. The aroma and sense of fan camaraderie is incredible
to those experiencing it for the first time.
Tailgating gets its name because it began
with a spread of food laid out on the tailgate of a station wagon.
Now, the food is likely to be laid out on a folding table set up in the
parking lot. Then and now, the main course mainstay for tailgating
See recipes for tailgating (pronounced
tailgaten) from the
How To Cook Bratwurst
As with all cooking, the key is to use quality ingredients
and proper technique. Buy good brats. Care about what you're doing.
Pay attention to the details.
One important point - don't ever boil
bratwurst! You may see recipes that call for parboiling or boiling.
What they mean to (or ought to) say is simmered in beer or water, usually with chopped
Simmering means bringing the liquid to the temperature at which steam rises from
the surface, but not so hot that it bubbles. Boiling will cause
the casings to burst.
Also, you may see or hear
the term "brat fry". The term is technically a misnomer. Bratwurst
can be pan fried, and you may see recipes that call for it.
Nevertheless, at a Wisconsin "brat fry", the bratwurst are cooked on a
grate over charcoal, usually on a kettle grill.
Authentic bratwurst is a
fresh sausage which must be cooked thoroughly before eating. You
may see pre-cooked bratwurst for sale - they do not look, feel, or taste
like fresh bratwurst.
OK, let's get down to
techniques for preparing bratwurst the Wisconsin way.
Actually, there is more than one way to do it, depending on personal
preference and/or which part of the state you live in.
BratwurstPages Grilled Brats with Savory Beer Sauce, is my
favorite. It's a 3 step recipe, first simmered in a beer and
onion marinade, then grilled, and held in a savory sauce.
Version 2 is the Sheboygan Purist
method. The purists say that beer is for drinking, not for
cooking brats. Version 3 is the classic
"Beer Brats" recipe, with the brats
grilled over charcoal and then held in "batter". Some folks
add the first step of Version 1 to this method. Version 4,
Persnickety Bratmeister Beer Brats,
is a method for those who are particularly obsessed with the idea of
grilling the perfect bratwurst.. We'll leave it up to you to
decide whether it's worth the extra work.
To make your party complete, we
have recipes for classic Wisconsin
accompaniments (a/k/a sides) for your bratwurst. My American
Potato Salad (which will have your guests beside themselves with
pleasure). Authentic German Potato Salad. For those of you
who don't have easy access to Brat Buns or Sheboygan Hard Rolls, we've
included a recipe for Bavarian Semmel Rolls, which can be shaped and
baked to either form. And don't forget
Learn More About Wisconsin
Sites selected for rich content
about life in the Badger State
Wisconsin Tourism, an extremely
cool and user-friendly site.
Taste of Wisconsin, by noted Wisconsin cooking teacher and writer
The Cheese State Index, a nice
portal to Wisconsin related sites.
Wisconsin.com, another nice
Wisconsin State Historical Society,
lots of stuff for the Wisconsin history buff.
recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records as the "World's Largest
Outdoor Music Festival."
Wisconsin, this site is so big you'll never get it in the boat!
Wisconsin State Journal/Capitol Times,
the Madison daily papers. The State Journal is conservative.
The Capitol Times is liberal.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the
Milwaukee paper. The conservatives call it liberal. The
liberals call it conservative. Guess that makes it a hybrid, eh?
Watertown Daily Times
Green Bay Press-Gazette
Ashland Daily Press
(unincorporated, population miniscule) has a web site. Small-town
Americana meets high-tech, eh? As far as I know, Rome, London, and
Leipzig; which are also within a short drive of the Bratwurst Pages HQ,
do not have websites. It's only a matter of time, no?
The Bubbler, family-friendly
Jefferson's Gemuetlichkeit Days.
There is no single English equivalent of this German word. Loosely
translated, gemuetlichkeit means "feel really good because you're
drinking beer and are surrounded by people you know who are also
drinking beer and listening to German-style music and now you're ready
to march to the town five miles down the road and conquer them."
Milwaukee's Germanfest, the
largest German festival in the United States. You'll also see many
ridiculous-looking guys in lederhosen and many cuties in
Chain Saw Carving School,
the only state licensed chainsaw carving school in the U.S.
Wisconsin Association of
Convention and Visitor Bureaus
Brats are served on a bun,
dressed with condiments, and accompanied by classic side dishes.
There are rules to be followed, and if you break them in the presence of
a Wisconsin bratwurst connoisseur,
you will be considered a culinary pissant (sorry to get stuffy here and
use words derived from French, but that's the way it is).
Rule #1: Do not serve bratwurst on a hot dog
bun! Brats are eaten on a brat bun, or in Sheboygan, on a Sheboygan hard roll,
which is based on a Bavarian semmel roll. Brat buns resemble hot dog
buns, but are larger and more substantial and chewy, and are designed to
hold a single brat. Sheboygan hard rolls are moderate-sized round
buns, suited to the Sheboygan-style double-brat sandwich. In Sheboygan, most
folks put two brats on a round roll. In the rest of Wisconsin, they
put one brat on a brat bun. Both types have a golden brown surface and
are substantial enough to hold onto the brats, condiments, and for most
folks in Sheboygan - lots of butter (This is not low-calorie cuisine).
For those of you who live outside Wisconsin, it can be nearly impossible
to find a proper brat bun or Sheboygan hard roll, so you'll have to take
matters into your own hands. Here's a
Rule #2: Do not put yellow mustard on a
brat! It is an abomination.
mustard for brats is a brown Wisconsin German-style
Düsseldorf, medium to dark in color and pungency, slightly sweet-sour and
sometimes flavored with herbs. Dijon is also nice.
Beyond those two rules, which are widely
accepted in Wisconsin, there are differences of opinion, especially
between Sheboygan (self-proclaimed Bratwurst Capital of the World), and
the rest of the state.
Typical condiments outstate include any combination of
chopped onion, sauerkraut, ketchup, and mustard.
In Sheboygan, brats are typically
dressed with "da works" - ketchup, mustard, chopped onion and pickle.
Saurkraut as a topping is frowned upon.
It should be noted that some folks
consider ketchup on a brat to be an abomination; similar to how connoisseurs
of hot dogs feel.
I sometimes eat my brats dressed
simply with my Savory Beer Sauce and mustard.
Typical sides include
German potato salad or American potato salad, pickle, and baked beans.
How to Eat Brats
What, protocol involving a food as intrinsically casual
as bratwurst? Well, we're certainly not going to advocate getting
stuffy about it, but certain activities seem to go hand-in-hand with eating
First off, bratwurst are usually eaten outdoors. It's
not at all unusual to eat them standing up, or even while strolling.
Brats are social food. You surround yourself with people you like, pop
some beers, grill some brats, and mill around conversing with your friends
as you eat. That's the protocol. No knife and fork, nor cloth
napkins, are needed - in fact such finery would be considered rather weird.
For your potato salad and other sides you'll need a paper plate and plastic
fork. Some folks use napkins; others use their shirt sleeves.
Along with good friends, brats are usually accompanied by
good music. There's no required style of music - play what you and
your friends enjoy. Of course, the traditional musical accompaniment
is polka, but these days you'll see brats enjoyed
to the music of Hank Williams, The Rolling Stones, Eminem, and everything in
Brats are rarely consumed with white wine or similarly
pretentious beverage. Brats are nearly always washed down with
beer, a/k/a "bratwash". Eating brats is meant
to be a relaxed, social activity - part of the celebration of an
all-too-short summer in Wisconsin.