Au revoir Josette

Our original inspiration to gather, cook and learn from each other, came from our French friend Josette. At a young 85 years of age, she left for milder weather and sea level altitude on the east coast. We made promises to meet again in the spring 2012.

We got together this past week to celebrate our bratwurst and sauerkraut creations and to say farewell to Josette.

We sampled the bratwurst and sauerkraut. The taste test results were as follows:

Two members found the bratwurst to not be fatty enough and too mild. My husband who has eaten his fair share of brats in his life thought they were just right.

Two members’ sauerkraut results were foul, two turned out fabulous and two members found that they were not fans of sauerkraut anyway! I canned my sauerkraut yielding four quarts from four cabbages.

The homemade pretzels and mustard were a hit (see post of October 31,2011). We had a scrumptious apple strudel for dessert  and of course lots of beer and wine.

Cheers to Autumn and to the end of another cooking endeavor. Au Revoir Josette! Until we meet again.

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!

Oktoberfest 2011- Sauerkraut

The morning hour has gold in its mouth

Oktoberfest 2011 officially started yesterday in Munich, Germany and lasts until Sunday October 3rd, which is German renunification day. This German annual event was first celebrated when Crown Prince Ludwig threw a huge party to celebrate his wedding to Princess Therese on October 12, 1810. Everyone liked it so much they had the party every year.  But why does Oktoberfest start in September?  Better weather and the brewed beer is ready following the harvest.

The Fearless Cooking Club got started preparing our menu for this event. The preparation and waiting time for the foods we chose to tackle are lengthy so we broke out our cooking and celebrating over the months of September and October. 

Sauerkraut was our first challenge. My husband’s grandparents were German immigrants  who settled in Wisconsin. He grew up eating homemade sauerkraut. My mother-in-law told me that the family would go to the fields and glean the end of the harvested produce from the fields. Cabbage was bountiful. She would keep the fermented cabbage in a crock with a wooden lid and draw out sauerkraut when she needed it for dinner. A common practice I discovered when I went to an antique market. I bought a crock from a woman who told me her father-in-law, from the Ukraine, used to make sauerkraut in the very crock I purchased. has a fabulous Homemade sauerkraut step-by-step blog with great pictures. Check out a German recipe if you want to spice it up.

Amazingly, there are only three ingredients to making sauerkraut:

Cabbage,salt and time.


The members of the cooking club made their own supply to take home with different containers. 





Key take home points:

1. Clean non-metallic container.

2. A lid and a weight. This is to keep the water that is drawn out from the cabbage to stay submerged because cabbage floats! My weight is a water filled quart-sized canning jar. Char used brick wrapped in plastic-wrap for her weight.

3. Fermentation takes time.  Ideally, fermentation takes four to six in a 75 F degree environment. My cabbage container is in a closet in the basement, out of smell range from the rest of the house. It has been submerged and fermenting for two weeks now. It smells like sauerkraut, tastes a little like sauerkraut, but still looks like shredded cabbage. I understand that “scum” can float to the top. I haven’t seen it yet but when I do, I will scrape it off and toss it.

4. When is it ready? Tasting it is the key. My husband is my official weekly taster. He said mine needs more time. I plan on canning mine when it is ready. It can also be refrigerated or frozen.

5. Flavor as you wish. It can be served “as is” or be spiced with juniper berries, caraway seed or mustard seed.  I may try several varieties when canning it.


Now you can’t get a group of women together without partying right? So we held our first of two Oktoberfest celebrations. Today we served, chicken sausages, homemade Bavarian red cabbage, sauteed onions, spaetzle, German Riesling wine and Paulaner beer

The next installment of The Fearless Cooking Club will be our making of homemade sausages and bratwurst to go with that sauerkraut. Stay tuned and Happy Oktoberfest!