The first time I tried making these it was a disaster. I came across the idea in a book about American BBQ and decided to bust it out at a mate’s shindig last weekend having given the recipe next to no thought whatsoever; pretty much the opposite of the way I usually approach things. This, combined with the fact we were extremely full from ploughing through a plate of summer rolls, a pile of razor clams and two gigantic bone in rib eyes meant my poor dawgs didn’t stand a chance. We didn’t even get around to tackling my tub of Boston baked beans. Criminal.
I never give up on a recipe though unless I know it’s a total dud. This could never be a dud because THE SAUSAGES ARE SIMMERED IN BEER. Last night, I decided, was the night to conquer the wurst so I went out, bought 2 kinds of sausage, hooked up my umbrella over the BBQ and started paying some damn good attention to detail.
The first time, I’d used bratwurst from LIDL (recommendation from Twitter) and, although I’m no stranger to the delights of Mystery Meat, I think it’s fair to say they weren’t for me. I decided to settle on a comparison of a different bratwurst (Sainsbury’s, still mysterious but somehow tastier) and traditional hot dog – the wurst emerging as clear winner for it’s ability to suck up much more beer. A standard hot dog tastes the same no matter what you do to it, apparently. It needs to be dark beer, by the way, no lager or cider; the latter I tried the first time, with rubbish results. I used Newcastle Brown as that’s all they had in the local shop; you don’t need to go using Brewdog Tokyo or anything, but it would be fun to experiment.
Sauerkraut and onions flavour the sausage and are then strained and caramelised, themselves sticky and saturated with booze. The snap of the wurst is followed by their delicious sweet and sharp balance. A bobbing scotch bonnet left a tantalising tingle on the lips; the Peckham influence. An artful squeeze of mild French’s mustard to finish. Unless you want to add ketchup too of course – I did and I highly recommend it.
BBQ brats simmered with beer and sauerkraut
4 bratwurst (I found the ones available in Sainsbury’s to be perfectly acceptable but I’m sure there’s a whole world of wurst waiting to be discovered)
1 onion, sliced in half moons
6-8 tablespoons sauerkraut
3 tablespoons brown sugar
A splash of white wine vinegar or other vinegar
1 bottle dark beer of your choice (I used Newcastle Brown Ale but be as adventurous as you like)
Hot dog buns
French’s mild and sweet or similar American-style mustard
You will need a disposable foil tray to cook the brats on the BBQ; these are available in supermarkets or hardware shops.
Get your BBQ hot. When the flames have died down and the coals are grey, it’s time to cook your brats. Prick them several times to allow the beer to penetrate. Put them in the tray with 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the sauerkraut, onion and beer. Put the tray on the BBQ then put the lid on and let cook for 15 minutes, turning them halfway through if not completely submerged in the beer mixture.
After this time, remove the brats from the liquid and put them directly on the BBQ grill to get some char. While they are charring, carefully remove the tray and strain the liquid into a bowl. At this point I tried to caramelise the onions and sauerkraut back in the tray on the BBQ but then gave up as it took too long (and it was raining). I chucked them in a saucepan with the remaining tablespoon of sugar and the vinegar and let them sizzle while I toasted the buns. I got the boyfriend to watch the brats on the BBQ. Makes them feel useful, innit.
To serve, dollop a heap of sauerkraut and onions into each bun, followed by a brat. Squeeze mustard and ketchup on top. Stuff into face.