Wisconsin Beer Brats with Pickled Sweet Onions

Wisconsin Beer Brats with Pickled Sweet Onions

If there’s one thing you should know about a Sconnie bratwurst is that they are nothing like the ones you find in Germany, or anywhere outside the Midwest, for that matter.  The great ones, like you’ll find at a brat fry in Sheboygan are the shorter, stubbier and spicier cousin to the long, pale versions you’ll find in Bavaria.  Every supermarket, big or small, and butcher shop throughout the state has their own recipe and people are pretty proprietary about their favorite.  Both the German and Midwest versions certainly have their merit, though I’m sure the Europeans would scoff at the notion of adding cheddar or jalapeños to their beloved tubed meat.  But hey, this is ‘Merica and we break the rules.  Speaking of the U-S-of-A, the 4th of July is right around the corner and if there ever were a day more mandatory, almost religious for grilling, it’s this one. In Wisconsin, no matter what the menu is, no matter how fancy or exotic, there will always be the obligatory brats, lest you piss off Grandpa!  If you don’t see them on the grill, you can pretty much bet the host is an imposter, most likely a FIB from some fancy Chicago suburb like Winnetka.

Serves 6


For the Pickled Sweet Onions:

1 sweet onion, such as a Vidalia, thinly sliced

1 cup white wine vinegar

3 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp salt

2 sprigs thyme, leaves chopped

For the Brats:

6 fresh bratwurst*

3 cans of beer

1-2 cups water

1 tbsp Worcestershire

1 onion, chopped

2 bay leaves

Salt, to taste


Hard rolls or pretzel rolls



Whole grain mustard


Heat the grill so that one side is very hot and the other is cool.  If you are using a charcoal grill, natural briquettes are your best option and wood chips can be added too for extra smokiness.

While the grill is heating, make the pickled onions.  In a small bowl, add the onions, vinegar, sugar, salt and thyme.  Mix well and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.  Afterwards, these onions will keep in the refrigerator indefinitely.

Once the grill is hot, put the brats on the cool side of the grill.  Make sure the vents on the bottom and lid of the grill are slightly open.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes.  Flip the brats, cover and cook another 10 minutes.  It is important to cook the brats over low heat so that you do not split the casings, which would result in a dried out sausage.

While the bratwurst are cooking, prepare the beer bath.  In a medium pot bring the beer, water, Worcestershire, onion, bay leaves and salt to a simmer.  Cook over for 10 minutes or until the onions are soft.

In a medium pot, heat the sauerkraut with a splash of beer.

Once the bratwurst are done, transfer them to the beer bath and simmer over low heat for another 10 minutes.

Butter the rolls and grill until toasted.

To serve, place a brat on a buttery grilled roll, top it with sauerkraut, pickled onions and a smear of mustard.  Prost!

*My bratwurst of choice are from Sheboygan Bratwurst Company, Miesfeld’s, or Nueske’s.  If you happen to live in WI, every supermarket has their own recipe and the ones from Sendik’s in the Milwaukee area are the bomb!



Creamy Sausage Gravy on Toast with Tomato Relish

I think we all can agree that we have been eating loads of food other than butter and jam on toasted bread long before the food cognoscenti decided that 2015 was the year of “toast”.  I realize that as I write this, fancy “toast” is probably out and crostini is back in.  How do you say toast in German, toastbrot?  Maybe that’s what we’re supposed to call it now so we sound really, really forward and cool.  SNL, can you please resurrect Dieter and maybe in the skit he and Arnold Schwarzenegger are eating toastbrot covered in caviar?  I hear the old man has a movie coming out soon, just a thought.  All I know is that this here toast is awesome and this is a recipe for all you out there craving sausage gravy but don’t feel like making biscuits.  The tomatoes and scallions brighten everything up and if you want to really be hip, slap an egg on it!

Serves 4


1 tbsp butter

1 lb. breakfast sausage

8 sage leaves, chopped

3 tbsp AP flour

3-4 cups milk, more if you like it loose (heehee)

Dash hot sauce

Salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

Sliced bread, toasted

2 tomatoes, sliced

2 scallions, sliced


Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat.  Add the sausage and sage and cook until all the sausage has browned and the fat has rendered, about 5 minutes.  Make sure that you break up the sausage into bite-sized bits as you are cooking it.  Add the flour to coat the sausage and soak up the oil and cook for another 2 minutes.  Using a whisk, slowly add the milk, making sure to scrape up all the tasty bits that are stuck to the pan.  Cook, whisking continuously, until a creamy gravy forms, which should just coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.  If the gravy becomes too thick, just add more milk.  Stir in the hot sauce and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, top each piece of toast with a hearty spoonful of gravy.  Top with some sliced tomatoes and scallions.

You made toast. I'm as happy as a little girl!

You made toast. I’m as happy as a little girl!