I have been tasked (but what I should really say is that I VOLUNTEERED) with making sausages of various types for my dad’s upcoming Oktoberfest! It has turned into a biannual event down by the finger lakes in a gorgeous park full of winding trails and beautiful fall colors. Sitting atop a hill, he rents out a large pavilion and throws this bash!
I really shouldn’t call the structure a “pavilion”, I suppose it’s more of a lodge. It has a kitchen, bathrooms and large gathering room complete with a fireplace. The real star of this even however is not the location but the BEER that he brews! He is a wonderful brew-master! All of the beer is kegged with the taps set up on a station, easily labeled for those wishing to “over-serve” themselves (as one of his friends said, haha). People bring dishes to pass and my step-mom makes apple kugel (a glorious layered apple dessert with all the wonderful tastes of fall!). And there is of course gratuitous amounts of grilled sausage. This will be the first year that those sausages are not store bought! I am making all of them, even the hot dogs!
The “sausage” menu this year will be: Beer Brats, Italian Sausage with fennel and Riesling (from Dr. Frank’s, a wonderful Finger Lakes winery), Smoked Polish Kielbasa and Frankfurters (smoked and non smoked varieties). When my dad and I first talked about the menu it seemed as though I was making just a batch or two of each type (a batch is typically about 5 lbs or 20 links). But as the guest list has been growing and growing so to does the volume of sausage I need to produce!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a blast! I will honestly be a bit sad when this mass-production of sausages is over. It is my temporary purpose-in-life and I couldn’t be happier! LOL. Especially now that I ordered a shiny new vertical sausage stuffer (a LEM). It is awesome, awesome, awesome! I love my Kitchen Aid stand mixer but it is best left to baking projects, NOT sausage stuffing. I moved on and never looked back!
As I often do, I take on more than I originally planned. And by this I don’t refer to just the sheer volume of sausages (which has now reached to the point of needing to make enough to feed around 200 people… so over 100 brats alone), but the fact that I am also busy fermenting sauerkraut and am writing out recipes for homemade ketchup and mustards! Why not also make homemade condiments for these homemade sausages? My dad is making all of the rolls so it will really be something special when we finally takes the “fruits” of our labors. Oh and by the way the tomatoes I’m using for the ketchup are the ones I grew in my own garden! I have a plethora of them ripening all at once so it really couldn’t come at a better time! I plan to can 8 oz. jars of ketchup.
So here’s an update of what I’ve actually gotten done so far. I’ve made 20 pounds of bratwurt (and I still plan to make 10 more). This was the first time I used the LEM and i think I overstuffed the links a bit but that’s ok. They are adorable, plump little links. They have Saranac Oktoberfest beer in them and all kinds of spices. I wanted to use some of my dad’s beer but it wasn’t quite ready yet. We plan to grill these and then keep them warm in a beer, butter, onion, garlic broth so guests can take them as they desire and they will still be moist and warm. Nom nom nom.
I got to open up my fermented sauerkraut and give it a try with these brats as well! I fermented for a bit over a month so I was holding my breath! It was delicious. Crunchy and tangy and everything that it should be. I considered canning it after fermentation but the process of cooking the sauerkraut kills a lot of the healthy stuff found in it. Raw sauerkraut contains lactobacilli, Vitamin C and other helpful enzymes that help regulate and protect the digestive tract. Packed full of probiotics. Fermented food in general is wonderful for you and will help keep your tummy happy (and you taste buds). Cooked sauerkraut is also much softer. That is probably what most people are used to however, so I hope they are as receptive to my “raw” sauerkraut and I am!
Making sauerkraut is really quite easy. Add salt to cabbage, allow it to wilt, squeeze it for a while to release it’s juice and pack it in fermenting jars with the “brine” you just created. No need to actually create a separate brine at all. Then let it sit! I won’t go into explaining the process behind fermentation but if you are interested you can check out Nourishing Treasures for an AMAZING explanation of the whole process, along with links to a walk-through of the entire process using various fermentation vessels. This resource was infinitely helpful to me when I started learning about the whole process.
Yesterday I prepped all of my meat for kielbasa and got them stuffed and into the fridge for overnight curing. You need to add curing salt to these since they will be slow smoked. Oh my god I love smoked sausage… I am proud of these sausages. Just look at ’em, aren’t they peeerdy?
There is nothing quite like the smoky taste of one of these kielbasa. They are-precooked so they will just need a quite grill at the party for nice grill marks and to heat them back up! I can’t wait to see how they turn out after being grilled. Fresh out of the smoker they have an unblievably crispy skin and so much moisture inside. I have a favorite kielbasa at BBQ joint my dad and I often meet at for dinner and I’ve often wondered just how they got such a nice snap to the skin of their links. I think I have figured out the secret. 😀