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After forty-two years in the sausage making business, Mike Sloan of the Wurst Haus in Hermann has started offering classes for those who want to make their own. I attended one along with twenty-two others, some local, but most from other parts of Missouri, Kansas, and Illinois. We learned about natural casings, carrot fiber as a meat binder, and that thirty percent fat is ideal when making sausage. Five teams made bratwurst, and each made sample patties of their mix for an iron chef-type competition at the end. Team Mighty Brat learned that in sausage making more is better on the spices. Like, a lot more.
The teams made flavor choices. The list: sauerkraut, blueberries, cranberries, hot pepper cheese, wine, smoked beer, pepper relish, pizza seasoning, hash brown potatoes, and the clear favorite: bacon. In fact, when Mike called out, “Does anybody need some bacon?” Not only did a resounding “yes!” echo off the walls, but Charlotte on my team grabbed the bacon bucket. If you try your own bratwurst, or simply make a mix for burgers, consider garlic, onion, paprika and more. This is the time for creativity people. Why not add apples and cinnamon, or hot green tomato relish?
Throughout the class, Mike imparted meat facts. When you are around someone with a long history with meat, you learn about summer sausage. Did you know that encapsulated citric acid is what keeps today’s summer sausage soft? The old ways of curing this type of sausage called for a reliance on natural fermentation to become shelf stable, of hanging sausages in a smoke house with minimal air movement so the sausage would dry slowly, from the inside out. It was typically summer before it was ready. And inflexible.
One tip Mike mentioned was to increase the spices in your brat mix if you plan to cook the meat in liquid: “You’ll lose about twelve percent of the flavor.”
Wurst Haus is offering a class on bacon November 2. He’s got so many interesting bacon flavors your head will spin: hickory, apple, pecan, bourbon pepper, sundried tomato, and more. I’m guessing that class might be in high demand.
Bratwurst (or Bratburgers)
1-1/2 pounds pork butt, cubed (or purchased pre-ground)
½ pound beef or veal, cubed (or purchased pre-ground)
¾ Tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon ground caraway
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon nutmeg powder
½ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon mace
½ cup nonfact dry milk powder, or ½ cup carrot fiber as a binder
¼ cup water
For Bratburgers: Grind the meats in a meat grinder (or, purchase the meat already ground and mix by hand). Add the spices. Mix thoroughly. Make into patties and cook.
For Bratwurst: After all the ingredients are mixed together, place the meat mixture back into the grinder and grind again to emulsify the meat. It should feel sticky to the touch when it is emulsified (you can do this in small batches in a food processor as well). Dip a natural casing in water to open its end and slip it on a meat press. Once on, press out the remaining water and tie off the end. Crank the press to insert meat mixture into the casing. Tie off and twist individual sausage links to length desired, cut apart. Set aside ½ hour and then cook or refrigerate.
Nina Furstenau teaches food writing in the Science and Agricultural Journalism program at the University of Missouri. She is the author of Savor Missouri, River Hill Country Food and Wine and Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland, She writes “A Spiced Life” column for the Columbia Tribune and blogs at www.missourilife.com/blogs/savor-missouri.