In the late 1600’s, my father’s family migrated to America from Germany.  (Apparently some of my ancestors beat William Penn to the punch.). My mother’s family also migrated to America from Germany and both sides of my husband’s family are also of German descent.  I mean, can you think of a more German last name than Ernst?  Maybe it’s my lineage that makes me feel German.  I don’t own a Dirndl, but I’m thinking about it…..but I do love German foods.  Sauerkraut, pretzels, bratwurst, Viener Schnitzel, strudels and streusels.  Or, maybe that’s the Americanized version of German foods? Either way, bring it on.  It’s on my bucket list to travel to Bavaria for Octoberfest someday.  But, for now, each October, I try to recreate the flavors of this German Holiday.

And obviously, no Octoberfest celebration could happen without sausages and/or bratwurst.

But what is the difference between sausage, kielbasa and bratwurst.  After all, aren’t they are all sausages?  The main differences lie in the herbs and seasonings used for flavoring.  Bratwurst is a specific type of German sausage, made with pork or veal or a combination of the two.  It can be subtly seasoned, most likely with caraway, coriander, ginger or nutmeg.  Kielbasa, or Polish Kielbasa, is usually made with pork or beef and is either smoked or only lightly smoked.  It will likely have a strong garlic flavor along with pimentos, cloves or marjoram.  Kielbasa is often paired with sauerkraut.  That’s probably more information than you needed or wanted, but maybe it helps to explain the differences.  I like all 3, and will probably continue to substitute either in most recipes and forget all of the details listed above.

And sauerkraut, it’s also a given.  This recipe slow roasts the kielbasa and the sauerkraut together.  The result is a sauerkraut that is browned, almost caramelized, and delicious.  It smells pretty heavenly too.

Beer Braised Bratwurst with Sauerkraut

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 bottle of bock style beer (or any kind of beer, I think I used a lager)
  • 1 lb. Kielbasa, Bratwurst or Italian Sausages 
  • 2 cups Beef Broth
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups Sauerkraut, drained on paper towels
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat a tall sided skillet or wide, shallow pot over medium high heat.
  2. Add onion, beer, and bratwurst. Simmer, turning sausages occasionally, until beer is reduced to a syrupy constancy and onions are caramelized-about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove sausages and add beef broth to the pan, scraping the bottom until mixture is fully incorporated.
  4. Add sausages back to the pan and simmer until fully cooked, about 10 minutes more.
  5. Remove sausages and bring broth to a full boil until reduced to syrupy constancy, watch that it doesn’t reduce too much and burn off.
  6. Lower heat to medium low and melt the butter, scraping up the caramelized bits in the pan.
  7. Add sausages back to the pan.  Place sauerkraut around sausages and cook until heated and somewhat crisp.  Turn sausages and stir often to mix sauerkraut with caramelized onions so it doesn’t burn.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste-depending on the flavors of your sauerkraut and sausages you may not need extra seasoning.
*To the best of my ability, I have tried to indicate all ingredients, products and equipment that are available at Johnnies in Bold Print.  
Recipe found and adapted from www.chaosinthekitchen.com

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