The name is German, derived from Old High German Brätwurst, from brät-, which is finely chopped meat and Wurst, or sausage. Though the brat in bratwurst described the way the sausages are made, nowadays Germans associate it with the German verb “braten”, which means to pan fry or roast. Bratwurst is usually grilled or pan fried, and sometimes cooked in broth or beer.
Bratwurst is a common type of sausage in the United States, especially in the state of Wisconsin, where the largest ancestry group is German. Originally brought to North America by German immigrants, it is a common sight at summer cookouts. Wisconsin is also the origin of the “beer brat”, a regional favorite where the bratwurst are poached in beer (generally a mixture of a pilsner style beer with butter and onions) prior to grilling over charcoal.
The bratwurst was popularized in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin in the 1920s. In general, each local butcher shop would take orders and hand-make bratwurst fresh to be picked up on a particular day. The fat content of the sausages was substantial, making daily pick up necessary to avoid spoilage. Much of the fat was removed during the cooking over charcoal. Usually one kept a pan of cold water handy to the grill, so it was easy to dip one’s fingers in and fling the water onto the flames caused by the burning of the excess fat.
The bratwurst (or “brat”) also became popular as a mainstay of sports stadiums after Bill Sperling introduced bratwurst to Major League Baseball in Milwaukee County Stadium in 1953. The bratwurst were such a hit, Sperling said, that Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers took a case back to New York. Currently Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is the only baseball stadium that sells more bratwurst than hot dogs.
The town of Bucyrus, Ohio (known as the “Bratwurst Capital of America”) has held the three-day Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival annually since 1967.
Every year, during the Memorial Day weekend, the city of Madison, Wisconsin hosts the Brat Fest. which is billed as the “world’s largest bratwurst festival.”
I learned this from my brother-in-law (shout out), the best way to prepare Brats is to boil them in beer with sliced jalapenos and onions (you can get these canned at the grocery store) then put them on the grill. Use the jalapenos and onions as a topping with your hoagie. Yummy!!!