Bratwurst, Wisconsin Style

My first attempt at making sausage was a mixed bag.  The Italians (made from the incredible book, Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn) were very flavorful but the texture was off because I had to finish them in a food processor after my meat grinder kept binding up. The texture was too fine so it compromised the juiciness of the sausage when cooked since the juices had nowhere to go but out of the sausage and into the fire.  Undeterred, I found a new blade for my Kitchen Aid grinder attachment and tried it out on Wisconsin’s favorite sausage, the bratwurst.  The blade fixed my binding problem and the thing is churning out ground up meat like a champ.

Most bratwurst recipes, including the one in Charcuterie, are for traditional German style brats made with veal and cream.  The sausages are emulsified, giving them the texture more like a hot dog than an Italian or Polish sausage. While I love those style of Bratwurst, I was looking for the bratwursts we primarly consume in Wisconsin. The ones you see simmering in beer or on every grill at Miller Park.  The ones every butcher in Wisconsin seems to make. Unfortunately,  there aren’t many recipes for this kind of bratwurst on the internet.

Thankfully I was able to find this very informative post and follow up from The Paupered Chef (not to be confused with everyone’s favorite pyramid scheme, Pampered Chef).  It is run by two guys from Chicago so. yes, I was getting bratwurst intel from south of the border.  They did all the work for me by consulting commercial brat makers and Dog Sohn, of Chicago’s most famous sausage joint, Hot Doug’s.  Several readers who commented on the original post also supplied them with information.  Showing way more commitment that I would put into a blog post, they put every bratwurst ingredient from a number of recipes in a spreadsheet  and eliminated the ones that were only featured in one recipe.  They also determined that most brat recipes had marjoram, ginger, coriander, and nutmeg so they created a Wisconsin-style bratwurst recipe that can be found on the Paupered Chef site.

I started with their recipe as my base.  I had a little more meat so I increased the spices by about 1/4. I also had a nice fat cap on the shoulder so I only added about 1/4 lb of additional fatback.   I made a small patty and cooked it until it was done.  The flavor was good but not as pronounced as I had hoped so I added what amounted to 1/4 more of everything which means that I pretty much used 1.5 times the amount of spices the Paupered Chef guys did. I also really like caraway in bratwurst so I added 1/2 teaspoon of caraway seeds, crushed lightly in a mortar and pestle and tossed into the mixture.

Sausage mixture before adding beer
In Charcuterie Ruhman and Polcyn recommend blending the ground meat when making sausages to distribute the spices and fat more uniformly.  They use different things for this stage such as red wine vinegar and ice water for the Italians.  I naturally decided to use beer as the liquid.  I added about 1 cup of very cold Leinenkugels Classic Amber and drank the rest. I made another test patty and the taste was really good so I started stuffing.
I’m slowly getting better at stuffing sausages
I grilled off a couple of them and they were very tasty and most importantly the consistency was perfect.  The only issue is that I am not sure the beer taste comes through so next time I’ll probably reduce the beer by about 1/2 to concentrate the flavors. Taking inspiration from Sean Paxton, the Homebrewed Chef I also may use malt extract as a substitute for the sugar and maybe a 1/2 teaspoon of hops (for 5 lbs) to really amp up the beer elements.
Grilled to perfection
My recipe (adapted from The Paupered Chef)
6 lbs of pork shoulder cut into 1 inch cubes, stored on a baking sheet in the freezer for 30 mins before use
1 cup of amber or other
1/4 to 1/2 lb of pork back fat (or more if shoulder is leaner)
4 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/4 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons of freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram (rub between fingers to smash it up and release oils)
1 3/4 teaspoons dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon of caraway seeds, toasted and lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
1 cup cold Amber beer
  • The night before you are going to make the sausage mix up all of the spices and rub into the cubes of pork and refrigerate overnight to let them permeate the meat.  This step is not required but many recipes recommend this for any sausage making.
  • Thirty (30) minutes prior to making the sausage you should spread out your meat on a large baking sheet and put it in the freezer.  You also should put your grinder attachment and the bowl you are grinding into in the freezer as well.  Keeping stuff very cold is extremely important if you want the right texture.
  • Slowly feed the cubes of meat through your grinder and into the mixing bowl.  When you are done add the ice cold beer and mix it into the sausage until it is fully incorporated.  If you have a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, the paddle attachment works great for this.
  • Take out a small amount of the sausage and saute it in a pan until cooked through then taste it to make sure your seasoning is correct.  You may need to add salt or other spices to get the flavor you want.
  • Now that you are done you can either put the sausage into casings or you can simply patty them up.

5 thoughts on “Bratwurst, Wisconsin Style

  1. Wow…the final product looks really good. After reading your post, homemade brats are something that I would like to eat, but not make! Great post!

  2. Was looking for a great Wisconsin Bratwurst recipe to test out here with our local brewery “Lucky Bucket Brewery”. Followed your recipe almost to the letter but we can’t get Leinenkugel’s Amber so I used a brew from Lucky Bucket called “Certified Evil”. This is a huge flavored malt beverage brewed with Brown Sugar, Molasses, Raisin Juice, Cardamon, and Orange Peel and aged in Wine Casks. Very dark beer and huge malted profile with hops galore….perfect for this Bratwurst recipe. I used 10oz. of the beer for a 5lb grind of Pork Shoulder. Taste was simply over the top and my new go to recipe for Wisconsin Brats! Thanks for the great Brat recipe….Mark

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