Wisconsin: Sheboygan Bratwurst

Restaurant: Doggie Diner (at AT&T Park)
City: San Francisco, CA

I went to the SF Giants vs Arizona Diamondbacks game last night with a few coworkers. No ball game is complete without ballpark food! Hot dog, garlic fries, and beer stands are everywhere at the ballpark.

I had the Johnsonville Sheboygan Bratwurst, with grilled onion and sauerkraut. I added deli mustard on top (relish, ketchup, and regular mustard were also available). It was tangy, sweet, and crunchy in every bite, but messy as I got mustard all over my hands. But totally worth it, especially when you’re watching a losing game. Let’s go Giants!!!

sheboygan bratwurst

Sheboygan County is well-known for its bratwurst. Although different history books give it different paths, the wurst eventually found its way to the German city of Trier and shortly after, throughout the rest of Germany. Sometime in the mid-19th century, the little sausages immigrated to Sheboygan with the German settlers. To celebrate the city’s 100th anniversary, Bratwurst Day was born on Thursday, August 13, 1953. The Sheboygan Jaycees sponsor Bratwurst Days, an annual fund-raising festival that includes the Johnsonville World Bratwurst Eating Championship. (Wikipedia & Brat Days)

Here’s an excerpt about the bratwurst, from New York Times:

A few old-fashioned butchers and markets in and near Sheboygan make their own brats. Most add salt, pepper and nutmeg to the ground meat that is stuffed into natural casings to form sausages; some use mace, garlic, sage or ginger. But the little guys have been eclipsed in volume, if not quality, by Johnsonville Foods, now partly owned by Sara Lee. The enormous Johnsonville factory, rising from the farmland west of here like an auto assembly plant, cranks out millions of brats a year and sells them nationwide.

Once cooked, a Sheboygan brat must be served on a split hard roll called a semmel, which is rugged enough to hang together under attack from the torrents of savory juice released when you bite into it. The classic accompaniments are brown mustard, preferably coarsely ground; dill pickle slices, ketchup and raw onions, though some nonconformists opt for relish or sauerkraut.

”A few people do that, I suppose,” said Charles K. Miesfeld III, a fourth-generation bratwurst manufacturer, with the air of a priest discussing a wayward parishioner. ”But it’s not traditional, not the Sheboygan way.” Even worse: at Milwaukee Brewers baseball home games at Miller Field, and at tailgate brat fries before Green Bay Packers football games at Lambeau Field, brats are often served, not on semmel rolls but on brat buns, which are downsized versions of squishy hot dog rolls.

”What can you expect?” Mr. Miesfeld asked me when I brought this schism to his attention. ”You’re in Milwaukee and Green Bay, not Sheboygan.”

Since this is Wisconsin, the dairy state par excellence, the cut sides of the rolls are slathered with plenty of butter before the sausage is inserted. And since the German-Americans who dominate the local population are big eaters, two bratwursts are usually squeezed into one roll, side by side.

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