Oktoberfest 2011- Homemade Soft Pretzels

The Fearless Cooking Club’s Adventure into Oktoberfest ends with the pretzel: soft, homemade, chewy and great with mustard and beer!

This author had the privilege to meet Alton Brown at a book signing several weeks ago and this recipe came from his new book Good Eats 3. He spoke to a crowd of 250 people for thirty minutes and signed books and posed for pictures for two hours. Very gracious!

My family loves soft pretzels so they were excited to see these roll out. I was intimidated because the recipe in the book didn’t give me the full picture of putting it together. So I watched the Good Eats Pretzel Logic Yeasts on YouTube. It helped quite a bit to visualize the entire process. The sock puppets posing as fungi were LOL entertaining as well.

After two batches of pretzels the keys points of the trial and error process were as follows:

1) Rolling the pretzels took some practice. The book and video indicated to wear gloves on an oiled surface. That didn’t work for me. I oiled the dough after the rising process but rolled it on a dry cutting board.

2) The dough was divided into eight parts. Each portion of dough was rolled from the inside outward to 24 inches in length.

3)  The pretzels were formed into a “U” shape, then folded over like arms crossing.

4) The pretzel dough was boiled for 30 seconds in a water and baking soda bath. The mixture provided a positive ion ph base, coating the dough to enable the browning process when baked.

5) Scooped from the water and back onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, they were brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with a coarse salt.  Baked to a golden brown for 16 minutes at 450 degrees.

I also made homemade mustard to go with the pretzels. The homemade mustard is in the Part 2 of Good Eats Pretzel Logic Yeasts episode.

The Fearless Cooking Club met today to eat the bratwurst, sauerkraut, pretzels and homemade mustard. It is hard to believe that this was a seven week process of food preparation!  On my next entry I will post that celebration and report on the sauerkraut, sausage tasting and member updates. Cheers to the end of Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest 2011- Bratwurst


The Fearless Cooking Club’s Oktoberfest adventure Part II was the making of the sausages.

I have to admit that I was pretty scared at stuffing meat so I had to do my research.

First I read two blogs from The Paupered Chef website on making Wisconsin bratwurst  and how to stuff sausages. The pictures were great for step by step directions.

I found that there are three steps to making sausage: the casings, meat preparation and seasoning, and stuffing the sausages.


Now out there in the world are hog casings and synthetic casings.  A friend’s spouse, who has butchered wild game in his basement, told me that he only liked the collagen casings. He said he always had trouble with the hog casings breaking. Then I talked to two butchers who stuff and sell sausages and only use hog casings.  Hog casings are stored in a salted water solution. When you are ready to use them you must soak them in water. Pliability of the casings is the key. 

Hog casing are cheap and any butcher will sell them to you by the foot. Casings come in different forms but all are not edible so do your research if hog casings make your skin crawl.  I started with three feet of hog casings soaked in water for 30 minutes. Then I knotted the end and put about a teaspoon of water in the end before slipping it onto the sausage stuffer. Again, it’s all about pliability.

Joy had an attachment for a meat grinder and sausage stuffer for her KitchenAid mixer. Lucky for her she got all the attachments at a yard sale for about $5 or $10. Otherwise you could buy them online at the KitchenAid website.

Next the casings have to be slipped onto the sausage stuffer (pictured below). It’s  like rolling up hosiery before putting them over your feet.

The picture above was the second batch of sausage stuffing. As you can see it was air tight and it blew out air instead of sausages. A little phallic eh?

Meat preparation and seasoning.

The actual making of the sausage was the easy part.

4 lbs of pork shoulder

4 TBSP seasoning  (1TBS per one pound of ground pork)

I had the butcher de-bone the pork shoulder at the market. I’m sure if I didn’t have a meat grinder at home, he would’ve ground it for me at the market as well.

Seasoning  the sausage varies to specific tastes. In the Pauperchef Chef blog, mentioned above, had a traditional Wisconsin bratwurst seasoning.  Penzeys Spices, also a Wisconsin-based company, came out with a Bratwurst seasoning this year that I also tried. So we made 2 lbs with the homemade seasoning and 2 lbs with the Penzey’s bratwurst seasoning

Stuffing the sausages.

Now comes the fun! We figured out the casings, the pork is ground and seasoned and now it’s time to stuff!

Key points on stuffing the sausages:

1.WEAR GLOVES. Slippery endeavor.

2. Figure out the length of your sausages, then twist. When you get to the next sausage length then twist the opposite way. The second batch was funny because the lengths were all different.

3. Do this with a least two people, one to run the machine and one to twist the sausages.

Four pounds of pork yielded 15 sausages.

The Fearless Cooking Club is getting together at the end of October to eat our bratwurst with our homemade sauerkraut (please see the 9/18/2011 blog post). My sauerkraut is currently five weeks into the fermentation process. I am hoping to can it this weekend.

Auf  wiedersehen! Froher Oktober!