After a recent trip to Madison for a visit to the Dane County Farmer’s Market, I have been longing for food from my home state. We sat across from the market at the Old Fashioned sharing cheese curds and Lazy Susan #6 filled with smoked trout, salami, herring, Merkts and other meats. It reminds me how well made food doesn’t need to be fancy. There does not need to be a handmade label with “artisanal” scrawled on it.

When I had a few hours to spare in the kitchen, I thought of making something with the flavor of bratwurst, but with different texture. Something simple and familiar, but with a twist. I had a number of ideas, but settled on trying making rillettes in the still of bratwurst. I started the mimicry of the bratwurst flavors by adding ginger, marjoram and aromatics to pork stock, then adding heavy cream and beer to round out the bratwurst flavors.

After poaching the pork, I strained the liquid from the solids. Then I whipped the solids in a stand mixer by emulsifying them with liquid and a bit more marjoram until it would take no more liquid without breaking. After I packed the emulsified bratwurst into the jars I set them gently into the fridge noticing three Radlers which were going untouched. I had a Radler outside on a 90 degree day and mistook them for something drinkable. Radlers are lost on me. To me, they are Summer Shandy with skinny jeans, so I heated a can gently with a little honey and dropped in three and a half sheets of gelatin.

While the Radler jelly cooled, I spooned a quarter cup over one of the jars of rillettes and the rest in a jar. When the stock and the fat separated in the fridge, I melted the fat down and capped the remaining emulsified bratwurst. The next day I cracked one of the jars and ate the rillettes with pimenton socca, Radler jelly and relish mustard (which is just relish and mustard mixed together). The pork spooned easily likely due to poaching in cream and fat and the flavors of bratwurst are everywhere. These flavors aren’t those from the hard-grilled brats, but rather the brats poached in beer – special occasion bratwurst.

Even if they always were special occasion brats, there was no fanciness about them. No one takes a second look at these special occasion bratwursts. They are sold in grocery stores and butcher shops and taken to cook outs and family gatherings. The brats are made with care by people who have been making them for year. My bratwurst rillettes were not fancy, but they were delicious. I’d be happy to bring them to a family gathering.

Bratwurst Rillettes

  • 750 grams fatty pork shoulder, cut into 2″ cubes
  • 250 grams lard
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves, reserving one tablespoon for final stir in
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pint pork stock
  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • salt
  • pepper

Step one: Cut the pork into 2 inch pieces and aggressively salt and pepper them. Refrigerate them for 24 hours.

Step two: Heat lard in a enameled cast iron dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook for ten minutes.

Step three: Add the remainder of the ingredients (reserving a tablespoon of marjoram) and bring to a boil. Lower heat to low, cover, and cook for three hours.

Step four: Remove bay leaves. Move pork to the bowl of your stand mixer and, with the paddle attachment, shred the meat.

Step five: With mixer still shredding, slowly add broth/fat/beer/cream mixture until the meat will hold no more. The mixture should be a little soupy, but I only used a little more than half of the broth/fat.

Step six: Add emulsified rillettes to jars and tamp them down to eliminate air pockets. Chill overnight. Add melted lard (or Radler jelly) to cap the rillettes. I chilled the remainder of the broth/fat, remelted the fat layer and used that to cover the rillettes.