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Cooking with Fire: Oktoberfest & Bratwurst

You would think with a name like Oktoberfest, Germany’s most famous festival of food and beer would actually take place in… October.

Instead the festival starts on the third Saturday in September and ends on the first Sunday in October, which means this year’s festival will begin on September 17th. So you have one week to plan a celebration of your own Oktoberfest, and it helps to know its fascinating history.

The first of the now-annual festival held in honor of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in October of 1810. Now Therese was once on a list of possible brides for Napoleon, and the 1813 Oktoberfest was ironically canceled due to the Napoleonic Wars.

But we’re not to celebrate royalty or war… but food, and one food in particular… bratwurst.

Now bratwurst in America tends to be bought in freezer packs and it’s usually stuffed with jalapeños or cheese, and while there is nothing technically wrong with it, it pales in comparison to its German counterpart.

Bratwurst can be made from nearly any meat, as the name itself really means a sausage made from finely chopped meat. Beef, pork and veal are popular, and I myself am partial to bratwurst made from 100% black angus.

Join us as we explore the origins of both Oktoberfest and bratwurst on this week’s episode of Cooking with Fire.

Bratwurst Meatball Sub


... for the bratwurst:

  • 2 lb beef chuck, cubed
  • 2 lb pork butt, cubed
  • 1/2 cup Oktoberfest beer
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

... for the beer braised sauerkraut:

  • 4 cups sauerkraut
  • 1/4 cup brown mustard 
  • 10-12 fl oz Oktoberfest beer
  • 4 oz sharp white cheddar, shredded

8 sub sandwich buns

  1. Grind the meats twice through a 10mm die. Whisk the cold beer and egg together. Whisk in the salt, white pepper, ginger and nutmeg. Combine the seasoning mixture and ground meats in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix the sausage on medium for 1-2 minutes, until the mixture becomes very tacky and holds together.
  2. Form the sausage into roughly 1.5” diameter (2-2.5 oz) meatballs. Transfer to the refrigerator.
  3. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat (425ºF). Grill the meatballs, turning as they brown, until they reach an internal temperature of 160ºF. Remove and hold warm.
  4. While the meatballs are cooking, combine the sauerkraut and mustard in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add enough beer to cover the sauerkraut. Allow to reduce by half. Add the meatballs and cheddar to the mixture and continue cooking 3-5 minutes longer.
  5. Cut a wedge out of the top of the sub sandwich buns, making enough room for three meatballs to fit. Toast the buns on the grill. Top each bun with three meatballs and the sauerkraut mixture.

Makes 8 sandwiches

Josh Cary may be the eCommerce Director at All Things Barbecue during the day, but at night he takes on the mantle of an award-winning Pitmaster, who has cooked on the competition barbecue circuit under various team names including ATBBQ, Yoder Smokers and the Que Tang Clan.
All Things Barbecue Staff Chef Tom Jackson is a Kansas native, born and raised in Wichita. In 2008 he and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon, where he attended Oregon Culinary Institute. Tom studied both general culinary skills as well as baking and pastry while working as a cook in a variety of restaurants. After graduating from Oregon Culinary Institute he began working as a bread baker and pastry chef at the renowned Ken’s Artisan Bakery in northwest Portland. He spent more than four years honing his skills under James Beard Award winning chef and owner Ken Forkish. In that time he and his wife had their first child, and the draw of home and family grew stronger. Longtime friends of the Cary family, owners of All Things Barbecue, they returned to Kansas to help All Things Barbecue continue to excel in their cooking classes. Tom has been further developing and building cooking classes and private events at All Things Barbecue since March 2014.