By Mike Pound
CARTHAGE, Mo. —
Customers at the annual Carthage Maple Leaf bratwurst feed can rest assured that the road traveled from the farm to their plates was not a long one.
As it has for years, Cloud’s Meat Inc., West Fairview Road in Carthage, is providing the brats that will be served up by the Carthage Rotary Club. On Monday of this week, Mike Cloud said work for Maple Leaf weekend had just begun.
“We’ll make about 4,000 pounds (of brats) and we get about 4.5 brats per pound,” Cloud said.
Rotary Club members will sell brats from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 6:30 p.m. Friday on the Carthage square. Brats will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. The cost is $6 and includes a brat, chips and a drink.
Cloud said the rapidly growing popularity of brats has produced types and varieties of brats that didn’t exist even 10 to 15 years ago.
“It used to be that the Polish sausage was what people thought of when they thought about brats. The Americanized version of the brat is a smoked sausage but still with that great brat flavor,” he said.
Cloud said the traditional German-style white brat, while still available and popular, is no longer what most people think of when they think of brats. German-style brats are generally made with a mix of pork and veal, while in America most brats produced only use pork. The brats being made at Cloud’s for the Rotary Maple Leaf brat feed are made with pork raised at two local farms. The pork is combined with a special seasoning mix and then slowly smoked in the processing plant’s smokehouse. When they come out of the smokehouse, the brats are essentially done. Before being sold at the Carthage square, the brats will be gently boiled to heat them again.
Ingredients are the key to making good brats, Cloud said. Most brats start out with the same basic components. What makes a brat different, Cloud said, is what goes into it besides the pork. Cloud estimates that over the years his son Andy, who oversees the company’s brat making, has produced 40 different brat flavors. Some of the most popular, sold at both Cloud’s locations, are Andy’s apple, cheese and jalapeno brats.
“It’s amazing what you can put into a brat if you put in the right amount,” he said.
Certain sausages, and a brat at its most basic level is first and foremost a sausage, use different types of pork. Traditional chorizo, which is a Mexican sausage, for example, is made from pork jowl meat. The different types of pork, Cloud said, will influence a sausage’s flavor.
“It’s much like ham tastes different than pork chops,” Cloud said.
This weekend, the brats served on the Carthage Square, will be Cloud’s standard brat. When serving large crowds, Cloud said it’s best to stick with a proven winner.
“Everyone will eat a brat but only 30 percent might love a cheese and jalapeno brat,” he said.
Here are a couple of brat recipes that are sure to add flavor to any fall gathering.
Emeril Lagasse’s brats cooked in beer and smothered cabbage
8 links of fresh bratwurst
4 (8-ounce) cans of beer
8 ounces bacon, chopped
2 cups julienned onions
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small head of cabbage, cored and shredded
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
8 egg hot-dog buns
Preheat the grill. Place the beer in a saucepan, over medium heat. Bring the liquid to a boil. Add the sausages and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the sausages from the liquid, reserving the liquid. Set the sausages aside. In a large saute pan, over medium heat, render the bacon until crispy, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the bacon and set aside. Discard the all the bacon fat except for 1/4 cup. Place 1/4 cup of the fat back into the pan and add the onions. Season with black pepper. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender. Add the cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to saute for 4 minutes or until the cabbage is tender. Stir in the garlic, mustard and 2 cups of the liquid from the sausages. Bring the liquid to a simmer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Re-season with salt and pepper. Place the sausages on the grill and cook for 2 minutes on each side. To serve, place the sausages between a bun. Top each sausage with some of the smothered cabbage.
4 (12 ounce) cans beer
1 large onion, diced
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat. When hot, lightly oil grate. Combine the beer and onions in a large pot; bring to a boil. Submerge the bratwurst in the beer; add the red pepper flakes, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium and cook another 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the bratwurst from the beer mixture; reduce heat to low, and continue cooking the onions.
Cook the bratwurst on the preheated grill, turning once, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with the beer mixture as a topping or side.