I’m a big fan of bratwurst. And I’m an equally big fan of Philly cheesesteak sandwiches. This recipe combines the two into the perfect backyard grilling food. To me, the best texture for brats comes from a mixture of pork and venison. I prefer a 50/50 blend, but you can go as high as 60/40 venison to pork and still get a nice texture.
For the classic cheesesteak flavor, we added diced bell peppers and onions to the sausage. For the cheese component, we simply chopped some string cheese from the grocery. The denser string cheese holds up to the heat from the grill better than block mozzarella or cheddar.
If you happen to have a little high-temperature cheese from a batch of summer sausage making, you can definitely substitute it for the string cheese.
Every cheesesteak lover knows the peppers and onions need to be grilled before being added to the sandwich, so we went ahead and gave ours a quick sauté in the Lodge cast-iron skillet before adding them to the sausage mixture. They will continue to cook a bit as the sausages grill.
Don’t be intimidated by the natural pork casings. You can find them at most large sporting goods dealers or butcher shops, or you can order them from multiple sources. To prep the dried casings, carefully unroll the length your recipe requires and rinse several times in cold water to remove the salt. Next, cover the casings in fresh water and let them soak for at least 30 minutes. Dump the water and find an end to one of the casings. Open up the casing and run cold water through it to flush any salt from the interior. Cover the casings once again with cold water. For every cup of cold water covering the casings, add one tablespoon of white vinegar to further soften the casings. Now they are ready to stuff.
Store the fresh sausages in the refrigerator for up to four or five days, or vacuum-seal in meal-sized portions and freeze for long-term storage.
2 1/2 pounds trimmed venison
2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder
2 bell peppers
2 large yellow onions
1 cup cold beer
1/2 cup cold milk
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning blend
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon savory
6 to 8 feet of brat-sized salted natural pork sausage casing
Dice the string cheese, bell peppers and onions into 1/4-inch bits. Sauté the onions and peppers in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until just softened. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the onion and pepper mixture to cool.
Mix all dry spices and seasonings together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Start the meat by cutting the venison and pork into 2-inch cubes. Grind the meat through a quarter inch plate. Mix the two meats thoroughly and run the mixture through the grinder a second time.
Add the blended spices to the milk and beer, then add the liquid to the meat mixture. Next, add the pepper and onion blend and the diced cheese. Pour over the seasoned liquid. Use your hands to mix everything thoroughly.
Now it's time to fill the sausages. You can use a dedicated stuffer like the Weston Realtree Stuffer, or a stuffing attachment on your grinder. Find the end to a section of rinsed casing, and tie an overhand knot into it. Slide the opposite end over the stuffer tube, and bunch the length of casing onto the tube until the tied end reaches the end of the tube. Slowly fill the casing, being careful not to overfill it and cause it to split. Once you reach the end of the casing, tie it in an overhand knot.
Come in from one end about 6 inches and pinch the casing. Hold the pinch between two fingers, move down another 6 inches, and pinch again. You should have a length of sausage between your two fingers. Twist the sausage to separate the links. Move down another 6 inches and pinch again to start the process over. Move down the length of the casing, twisting between each link.
You can cook the sausages any of several ways including pan frying, simmering in beer, or grilling them.
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