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Posted By: Joe Ames
Date: Thursday, May 11, 2000 at 3:37 p.m.

BRATWURST for Oktoberfest and tailgating

TAILGATE PARTIES, post-game cookouts and an Oktoberfest weekend. It all means one thing—brat­wurst. Now, what is a bratwurst? Actu­ally, the name can be translated as “fry sausage.” One can easily spark a debate as to what an “authentic” bratwurst is. For the most part, it is an uncured sau­sage, fine-chopped or coarse-ground, fresh or precooked. In the German for­mularies (collections of formulas), you can find references to a smoked and cured farmer-style bratwurst, but such references are rare.
Fresh bratwurst is popular in many parts of the U.S. Today, it is a coarse-ground fresh pork sausage stuffed in a 28-30 mm hog casing or equivalent fresh sausage collagen. It is usually fairly lean, with about 25 percent to 30 percent fat as the optimum fat content. This, of course, will vary with market preferences.
In most strong bratwurst markets color is critical. This means good par­ticle distinction and no smearing are important factors. To achieve these qualities, you need to follow good stuff­ing procedures—low temperature (25°F-28°F), short stuffing horns, minimum stuffing pressures and stuff­ing equipment that is well maintained.
For meat raw material; pork shoulder cuts, blade meat, belly trimmings, etc., will give the most intense red color. Ham and loin trimmings might include some of the paler muscles and are less desirable. Trimmings or cuts need to be fresh and properly handled to maintain as much “color life” as possible. If you have access to pre-rigor pork, you have a raw material that will give you the longest desirable red color life. In a highly competitive market, you may want to look at a source of pre­rigor fresh pork.
As with any fresh sausage, the choice of flavorings can be crucial. The best color is achieved when oleoresins of spices are used, as opposed to natural spices. The tradeoff here is the loss of the "Old-World" look—spice particles visible in the product.
There are some precooked versions of the typical coarse-ground bratwurst.
A formula for one of these is included in this article. For this type of product, we would choose steam-cooking before water-cooking, since it gives a whiter finished product. Proper showering at the end of the cooking cycle is also cri­tical to maintain a bright appearance.
Since this is an uncured product, shelf life is limited. And because it is a cooked product, you can include phos­phate, which is recommended to help maintain flavor stability. Rancid flavors can develop rapidly when cure (nitrite) is not in a cooked product. Speaking of rancidity, we would definitely recom­mend the use of antioxidants in fresh bratwurst.

Cooked Bratwurst (Coarse)
100 lbs. pork trim (30% fat)
20 lbs. ice or water
2 lbs. salt
3 1/2 oz. ground white pepper
3 1/2 oz. ground nutmeg
3 1/2 oz. ground marjoram
0.3 lb. alkaline phosphate

1. Grind pork through 1/4-in. plate and pre­blend with the salt phosphate and one half of the water.
2. Chop one-third to one-half of the pre­blend with the remaining ice or water to a fine emulsion (not over 45°F).
3. Add spices and remainder of preblend and chop a few more revolutions to mix and reduce to desired particle size.
4. Stuff in appropriate casings (approxi­mately 30 mm).
5. Steam or water-cook at 170°F to internal temperature of 155°F

Now to the other version—the fine cut, emulsion-type bratwurst. In effect, this is a “frankfurter without cure or smoke.” It is an emulsion of pork (and sometimes veal). The seasoning is rather delicate; therefore, the meat ingredient needs to be in the best possible condi­tion. The addition of an alkaline phos­phate is definitely recommended.
Oftentimes, dried parsley is included as a visible seasoning, and some Euro­pean formulations include lemon rind.
Once again, because of the lack of cure, you have a highly perishable product. There is always some concern when you think of a cooked-but-uncured pro­duct in a vacuum package. Without the nitrite to inhibit Clostridium botulinum, you have to depend on spoilage organ­isms making the product inedible before the Clostridia have a chance to grow, if the product is temperature-abused after packaging. This is something to think about.

This article is another in a series on the manufacture of processed meats written exclusively far Meat & Poultry by Prof Robert Rust and Dr. Dennis Olson, faculty members of Iowa State University.


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