Homemade Sheboygan Brats

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It was Wisconsin where I first learned to love Sheboygan brats.

Bratwurst as a whole was a new thing to me, child of new Jersey that I am, but when I arrived in Wisconsin in 1992, Sheboygan bratwurst, or white brats, were as common as the Italian sausage I knew and loved was back home.

Hank Shaw holding Sheboygan brats
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

I was living away from the East Coast for the first time, going to college at UW-Madison. There I ate an awful lot of red brats from State Street Brats, white brats from there and other places, and, well, drank an awful lot of beer, too.

Later, I moved back to Long Island, and there I met a woman named Jen, who would ultimately become my wife for a time. Ironically, Jen was from Wisconsin, and when it came time to meet her family, I found myself back on familiar ground. It was Jen’s uncle Casey — Casimir Migacz — who first showed me how to make Sheboygan brats.

Casey was a gruff older man, probably in his sixties, a true blue collar, stand-up guy. Deer hunter, family man, lover of Friday night fish fry. One day he invited us down into his workshop/basement. It was time to make sausage. Brats, to be exact. And not just any kind of brat, the classic “white brat” made famous in nearby Shebogyan.

Sheboygan brats owe their origin to the classic German bratwurst, possibly the Nürnberger variety, which looks and tastes similar. No two recipes are alike, but they all tend to have marjoram, ginger, nutmeg, black or white pepper, and occasionally mustard seed, caraway and other spices. Many recipes have a bit of egg and or cream in them, too.

Several Sheboygan brats links made from turkey and pork
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Casey’s recipe had most of these ingredients, although no egg or caraway. We made a giant batch, easily 30 pounds, and it was made with the traditional mix of pork and veal. My recipe here is a turkey sausage with some pork. (Wild turkey is an excellent white meat for sausage-making.) I used trim off the carcass, as well as the thigh meat and some of the breast.

(If you are looking for another excellent sausage to make with turkey, use my recipe for pheasant sausages and sub it in.)

No matter what meats you use, Sheboygan brats are light in color, medium-coarse — somewhere between an Italian sausage and a hot dog — rich, and bright with that medieval spice mix, which feels like its been around for a millennium… because it has.

Grill your brats and serve them on a roll with mustard and sauerkraut or caramelized onions. There ain’t nothing better when the Badgers or Packers are playing. Of course, you can eat them rooting for another team, too, I suppose.

Looking for more German sausage recipes? I have recipes for braunschweiger, bockwurst, and weisswurst, too.

New to making sausage? You can find my detailed tutorial on how to make sausages at home here

sheboygan bratwurst recipe
5 from 21 votes

Sheboygan Brats

I like making this sausage with wild turkey because it gives me that nice white color -- veal would be traditional, but I don't use veal at home. You can do this with any white meat bird, too, such as pheasant or chukar or partridge. Of course an all-pork white brat is also pretty common. I do everything in grams here because you really do need some precision, especially with salt. If you don't own a kitchen scale, get one. You can alter the seasonings if you want, but this is a pretty fair re-creation of the Sheboygan brats I ate when I lived in Wisconsin, so try it this way first before you tinker.
Course: Cured Meat
Cuisine: German
Servings: 16 links
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 3 pounds turkey, pork or veal
  • 1 pound pork belly or fatty shoulder
  • 25 grams kosher salt
  • 2 grams black pepper, about a teaspoon
  • 1 gram dried marjoram, about a teaspoon
  • 5 grams ground ginger, about 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • 2 grams freshly ground nutmeg
  • 50 grams dry milk
  • 3 grams caraway, about a teaspoon
  • 2 grams mustard seed, about a teaspoon
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Hog casings

Instructions 

  • Get out about 10 feet of hog casings and soak them in warm water.
  • Cut the meat and fat into chunks you can fit into your meat grinder. Mix together the salt, pepper, marjoram, ginger and nutmeg, then mix this with the meat and fat until every piece has a little on it. Refrigerate overnight if you want, but let it marinate at least an hour or so; this helps develop myosin in the mixture, which helps the texture of the finished sausage. When you are ready to grind, put the meat in the freezer until it is between 30°F and 40°F. Put your grinder parts (auger, dies, blades, etc) in the freezer, too, and put a bowl in the fridge.
  • Grind one-third of the mixture through the coarse die on your grinder, and the rest through the fine die. This creates a more interesting texture. If your meat mixture is still at 35°F or colder, you can go right to binding. If it has heated up, you need to chill everything back down. Use this time to clean up the grinder.
  • Once the meat is cold, put it in a large bin or bowl and add the dry milk, caraway, mustard seed, egg white and heavy cream. Mix well with your (very clean) hands for 2 to 3 minutes — a good indicator of temperature is that your hands should ache with cold when you do this. You want to to mix until the meat binds to itself. You can also do this in a stand mixer set on its lowest setting, but I find you don’t get as good a bind as you do when you do this by hand.
  • You now have bratwurst. To make links, put the loose sausage into a stuffer and thread a casing onto it. Stuffing sausage is easier with two people, one to fill the links, the other to coil, but I do it solo all the time. Stuff the links well but not super-tight, as you will not be able to tie them off later if they are too full. Don’t worry about air pockets yet. Stuff the whole casing, leaving lots of room on either end to tie them off; I leave at least three inches of unstuffed casing on either end of the coil.
  • To form the individual links, tie off one end of the coil. Now pinch off two links of about six inches long. Rotate the link between your hands forward a few times. (This video shows how I make links.) Look for air pockets. To remove them, set a large needle or a sausage pricker into a stovetop burner until it glows (this sterilizes it), then pierce the casing at the air pockets. Twist the links a little and gently compress them until they are nice and tight. Repeat this process with the rest of the sausage.
  • Poach your links to set the sausage. Get a large pot of water to about 160°F, which is steaming. Gently poach your sausage in this for 20 to 30 minutes. Don't let the water get too hot. Take the sausages out and plunge them into a big bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.
  • Hang your links for an hour or so to dry. Once you’ve taken the links down, they can be refrigerated for up to a week, or frozen for up to a year.

Notes

I like serving these brats on a bun with sauerkraut and mustard, but you could roast them and serve with potatoes or put them in a stew. Mostly I like eating these on the grill at parties, though.

Nutrition

Calories: 102kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 27mg | Sodium: 758mg | Potassium: 205mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 144IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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62 Comments

  1. I’ve made these twice now, per the recipe, using a mix of pork and veal. They are perfect. I like them both simmered with sauerkraut or grilled. And the step by step instructions here, really true for every recipe on this site, are the best of anywhere. Thank you!!!

  2. I made with domestic rabbit (the other white meat bird at our house) and pork fat recently. What a treat! They turned out wonderfully!

  3. Hank,
    I just made this recipe but with pork shoulder and it was great. Been eating Wisconsin brats for years and finally took the plunge to make some from scratch. Thanks for the recipe!

  4. I love the sound of these, using turkey would be perfect, but what could you suggest in place of the pork fat since my pals eat kosher?

    1. Hank,
      I grew up visiting Sheboygan once a summer and always looked forward to the brats. Looking forward to trying this recipe as I haven’t been able to find anything close to them here in PNW.
      You wouldn’t happen to have the recipe for the hard rolls they serve them on would you? Also impossible to find here.
      Thanks for your great site and recipes.

  5. Do you ever just freeze them fresh or do you always poach them? What’s the difference in outcome? THanks

  6. Is using breast meat over thighs and legs going to require a different technique or cooking time at the end?

    Instead of poaching them in water for 20 or 30 minutes, could I use beer and onions? Is it going to change anything?

    1. Dave: Nope, and yep. No, using any meat will work just fine. And you absolutely can poach them in beer and onions — a very Wisconsin thing!

  7. My brats always turn out dry, and when I followed your recipie yesterday I added some really fatty pork shoulder to the feral hog meat I was using. They still turned out dry. I just read through the posts, which I probably should have done earlier. Apparently I am poaching them too long or at too high a temperature, right? I tried to keep it around 20 minuites but the temperature ranged from 140-180 while I was not watching it close.

    By the way, Jesse Ellis, we have a kind of bratwash in Texas, too. But it’s only used to numb the pain of a Cowboys game and the quantities are necessarily higher.

  8. Hank
    Absolutely loving your site! I raise rabbits and will try this recipe using rabbit meat this next week. Also, would you be interested in a rabbit sausage recipe I have been using for years that people really like both fresh and smoked?

  9. Hank, I didn’t realize you were a UW alum. I did some postdoc work there, and I’m from MN, so I understand the primacy of the brat. I thought you might appreciate this recipe for a bratwash, to go with your brats.

    “Bratwash
    Our friend Kevin sent sent us this classic Wisconsin recipe – his favorite accompaniment to grilled bratwurst, especially while tailgating at a Badgers, Packers, or Brewers game. Kevin says that sometimes he simply enjoys the wash, and forgets about the brats. For more than 4 healthy Wisconsinites, Kevin recommends multiplying the recipe by the appropriate factor.*

    1 Cooler
    3 Bags Ice (cubes)
    1 Case Beer
    Remove cans from recyclable cardboard holder. Place cans in cooler, intermingling with ice cubes. Chill 45 minutes and serve.

    There’s much more that goes into serving Kevin’s bratwash than simply intermingling just any beer and ice into just any cooler. Pick up essential points and tips on proper technique at Kevin’s beer page.

    (at https://www dot bratwurstpages dot com/brats.html) I’m not affiliated with them, but they do have some good brat-cooking tips.

  10. I have a freezer full of pheasant staring at me my husband just got me a sausage maker/meat grinder for my kitchen aid. All I can say is thank you for this wonderful article/recipe I am very excited to try it.

    1. Bushrat: The USDA is consistently full of shit when it comes to “safe” internal temperatures. I never follow their guidelines, nor does any chef worth his or her salt. If we did, we’d be overcooking things left and right, especially wild game. I mean, duck breast to 165?! Insane. That said, if you felt like taking the sausage to 165 degrees, it’ll still be OK, but it will lose a noticeable amount of moisture.

  11. Could you use pheasant in the brat recipe? I am trying to find recipes for summer sausage or jerky or brats I can make with some pheasant…do you know of any or where one could find some?

    1. Sure, you could use pheasant. Where can you get pheasant? I am assuming you are not a hunter. You can buy MacFarlane Pheasants in the freezer section of good grocery stores.

  12. Hank:

    Can you make this with the thigh and leg meat? I am using the breast and making your smoked turkey breast recipe.

    Thanks!

  13. Matt: That’ll work!

    Steve: I poach the brats to set the egg white and cream.

    Chris: I miss Sheboygan rolls!!!

  14. If it’s gonna be a Sheboygan brat, ya gotta serve it on a Sheboygan hard-roll! Sheboygan’s my backyard, Hank. Thanks for giving us cheeseheads props! (I’m a transplant but WI is home now)

  15. I grew up poaching brats in beer and onions too. Served on a rye bun, brat, onions and mustard along with lots of cold beer. These weren’t white brats, we lived “up north” in Eau Claire and bought ours from a local butcher who had his own recipe. Doubt there was any veal in these. The most interesting game brats I’ve had were made with bear meat and pork.

    The vacuum seal idea sounds great. I now know what I’ll be grilling Saturday night.

  16. Hank,

    Is there a reason you poach the brats? I don’t see that in your other fresh sausage recipes and am curious as to the reason. I assume it’s due to the heavy cream…

    On a side note, I made your Hmong Sausage recipe a few weeks back for my first sausage project. Turned out fantastic! Thank you for all you’re doing!

  17. The last time I made brats with some of the last wild boar I had, instead of poaching them in water, I took about two pounds of them and sealed them in vacuum bags with some beer and onions (to replicate the time-honored Wisconsin style of cooking them) and poached them in the water bath at 160. Worked like a charm, and I had self-contained beer brats I could bring tailgating.