Sunday, April 15, 2012

Snacking State-by-State: Ohio III - The Sausage of Champions

Wisconsinites will proudly tout the bratwurst as their own - the well-known Johnsonville brats hail from Sheboygan, a city which proclaims itself to be the "Bratwurst Capital of the World".  But don't tell that to the residents of Bucyrus, Ohio, which touts itself as the "Bratwurst Capital of America".  Every August their Bratwurst Festival celebrates the Midwest's favorite German sausage, with arts, crafts, parades and (presumably) more than a few different preparations of bratwurst.

Official Name: State of Ohio
State Nicknames: The Buckeye State, The Mother of Presidents
Admission to the US: March 1, 1803 (#17)
Capital: Columbus (largest)
Other Important Cities: Cleveland (2nd largest), Cincinnati (3rd largest), Toledo (4th largest), Akron (5th largest)
Region: Midwest, Great Lakes; East North Central (US Census)
RAFT NationsMaple SyrupWild RiceChestnutCorn Bread & BBQ
Bordered by: Lake Erie (north); Michigan (northwest); Indiana (west); Ohio River (south); Kentucky (southwest); West Virginia (southeast); Pennsylvania (east)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: white-tailed deer (mammal), tomato (fruit), pawpaw (native fruit), tomato juice (beverage)
Some Famous and Typical Foods: typical Midwestern foods; city chicken (no longer common); ethnic European foods, particularly German (bratwurst, German potato salad, sauerkraut) & Amish foods, Polish, Italian and Irish; buckeye candies; Shaker lemon pie; Cincinnati chili, sauerkraut balls and (again) bratwurst

I have not eaten many brats in my life.  I admit that.  And yes, Midwesterners will gasp - gasp, I tells ya (sorry, y'all)!  I think my first one was in California, of all places, when a fellow grad student invited a bunch of us over to her house.  She was from Columbus originally, and was grilling up some brats outside in the warm Inland Empire air.  It was good, but I still hadn't gotten around to eating many more after this.

Fast forward to today, and I still haven't eaten many of these things.  It's something I will need to do more of, as I hadn't realized what I was missing.  But I wasn't sure exactly how to make these.  Again I turned to Eric, my Columbus born-and-raised ethnographic source on all things Ohioan.  He told me in preparation for this post that if you're not grilling them outside - which is what one typically does - you might cook them in a pan on the stove, usually in beer or water.  Sounds simple enough.  And it was one of those few times where it actually was as simple as it sounded.

The Recipe: Bratwurst

To prepare brats on the stove in this fashion, you will need:

* bratwurst (I got Johnsonville's Beer 'n Bratwurst version for about $5 at Harris Teeter)

I decided to be lazy, and instead of opening a bottle of beer I cooked these in water.  Next time I'll use beer.  Okay, honestly it wasn't really all laziness. I had to leave in an hour or two and I knew I would drink a good bit of that beer if I opened it.  So in the interest of safe driving, I held off on the beer.

Place the uncooked brats in water in a pan on the stove.  Fill the pan with enough water - or beer - to just barely cover the brats.  As you can see, there are already bits of things in the pan.  I cooked these brats while in the middle of another recipe (coming up next).  I figured it wouldn't hurt.

Here is the easy part: simmer, don't boil the brats until the water reduces down.  Once it does, they should be cooked through.

I was not quite sure how to eat them or with what.  I didn't ask Eric this.  But apparently people in Wisconsin get extremely particular about how to prepare and serve their brats.  I'm not quite sure if the same can be said for Ohio.  When I explore Wisconsin food (sometime around the end of the year) I will come back to bratwurst and see just how they do it up in the Badger State.  Apparently, at the very least, you eat them on bratwurst rolls with a non-yellow mustard (and not with ketchup either).  I ate them nekkid (the bratwursts were nekkid, I mean).

There are so many ways to prepare bratwurst.  Even though I realized they could be an ingredient in many recipes, it didn't dawn on me just how versatile the bratwurst actually is.  I explore what else to do with this delicious sausage in my next post.


Adams, Marcia. Heartland: The Best of the Old and the New from Midwest Kitchens. Clarkson Potter: New York, 1991.

Christina (blog author).  "Sauerkraut Balls".  Sweet Pea's Kitchen, posted February 5, 2012.  Copyright 2010-2012 Sweet Pea's Kitchen, all rights reserved.

Lowe, Cliff.  "The Life and Times of Chili Cincinnati Chili - Part Two" [sic].  In Mama's Kitchen, date unknown.  Copyright 2012 In Mama's Kitchen, all rights reserved.

"Ohio's Favorite: Buckeye Candy Recipe".  Recipe postcard, date unknown.

University of Akron Press.  "Akronisms: Sauerkraut Balls".  An Akronism, posted June 9, 2010.  Copyright 2012 University of Akron Press, all rights reserved.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "Ohio" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "Ohio".

Special thanks to Eric Randolph for making the buckeyes with me, for offering the use of his kitchen, and for giving me his advice in making buckeye candy and in preparing bratwurst.