Sheboygan was founded in 1846, though people had been coming to the area since the 1830's. Prior to American colonization, the region had been home to the Chippewa, Winnebago, Menominee, Ottawa, and Pottawatomie tribes. Sheboyan is thought to be a Chippewa word, referring to the passageway between the lakes, that was mangled over the years.
After the city of Sheboygan was founded, it became home to a large German immigrant population, though many Irish and Dutch immigrants settled there as well. During the 1970's, the city welcomed a large group of Hmong, or Laotian refugees, who relocated there.
Interesting Factoid: The United States's first Socialist party officeholders were Fred C. Haack and August L. Mohr. They were elected as Aldermen for the city of Sheboygan in 1898.
Another Interesting Factoid: Sheboygan is home to an annual bratwurst festival. This is appropriate given what I made for the meal...
Why Sheboygan? You are probably asking me this right about now. Well, for one, it's a fun word to say. But the real reason is that it was mentioned in one of my all-time favorite movies, and I'd never heard of it before then. It was a fun part of the movie, so I always associate the city with it.
Polka King of the Midwest Here is a link to the clip from the movie.(This blog program only lets me upload stuff from Youtube and this is not from there, hence the link only instead of the cool inserted video...!) If you cannot think of the movie based on what I named the link, I'll tell you what it is. It's from Home Alone. John Candy plays Gus Polinski, the "Polka King of the Midwest" and he and his band were very popular in Sheboygan. Do check it out if it's been a while since you've seen the movie.
I feel like I may have found my true home in the state of Wisconsin. Cheese, and German food. I mean, do you really need anything else? For those of you who drink, there is also copious amounts of beer to be had. I made a total of four recipes for this week's blog, and they all turned out to be pretty awesome. Cheese and German food is a heavenly combination. I chose to do this in October so I could count this as my Oktoberfest celebration. Wisconsin is the perfect state to feature for Oktoberfest. It did not disappoint.
The Food: Midwestern Oktoberfest
All of my recipes came from the internet, so I will post all the links in my sources section at the end of this post.
First up was bratwurst, which was to be the focal point of the meal. Now, there are some lovely bratwursts you can buy already made at the grocery store. The two recipes I made featuring bratwurst, call for commercially-prepared brats. But, I wanted to do something special. Anybody can buy brats, but not many can say they've made them by hand. Well, I am now one of the proud few, who can! I made homemade bratwursts a few weeks ago when I made the breakfast sausage to feature with my Johnny cakes for Rhode Island. I bought extra ground pork, made them, and froze them until yesterday. I didn't put them in casings because I don't have the equipment to do so, and also because buying an entire package of casings when you only need a few is wasteful and impractical. I shaped them into sausage shapes, and wrapped them in plastic wrap, then in foil. They held their shape very well.
Here is the ingredient list copied from the original site, but with my own instructions:
5 lbs. ground pork, fine grind
4 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. ground sage
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 Tbsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. nutmeg
5 tsp. salt
This is for 5 pounds of sausage. I cut it down to a fourth of the recipe, which made the seasonings easy to divide. So, 1.25lb. ground sausage and the adjusted seasonings. You can do this for however much you want. If you're a huge bratwurst fan and would like to keep them in your freezer for whenever you want them, make it all, or do it by half.
Basically, place everything in a large bowl and mix really, really well. Then divide them up in the size you want, I went with about 3.5 ounces per sausage, and roll them into a log shape. Wrap each one individually in plastic wrap and foil, then freeze until ready to use. The flavor really is just like a commercially-prepared brat. The only difference, is it's not in a casing so you have to be a little more delicate with them. I think these would grill ok, but you can't really boil them in beer or anything that would require immersing it in liquid. You could attempt keeping it in the foil as you boil them, after removing the plastic and see if they keep their shape, but that would probably keep it from absorbing any flavor of the liquid. If you are a major eater of brats, you might go ahead and invest in the casings and equipment for stuffing them, but you'd have to figure that out on your own!
The first recipe was a brat and cheddar soup. Here is the recipe:
Brats and Beer Cheddar Chowder
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, coarsely shredded
3 large shallots, chopped (I actually forgot to get these at the store and think the soup would have been even better with them. Don't leave these out like I did!)
1 14 - ounce can vegetable broth or 1-3/4 cups vegetable stock (I used chicken stock. This isn't a vegetarian dish, why not use something with more flavor? Sorry veggie stock lovers...)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk, half-and-half or light cream (I used 2% milk and it was just fine)
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
10 ounces Wisconsin Aged Cheddar cheese or sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (I don't know if my cheese actually came from Wisconsin or not, but I pretended it did...)
4 cooked smoked bratwurst, knockwurst or Polish sausage (about 12 ounces total), halved lengthwise and sliced (I precooked my brats and just threw them in when it's called for.)
1 (12 oz.) can beer or 12-ounce bottle ale
In a large saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and shallots; reduce heat to medium low. Cook, stirring frequently, about 10 to 15 minutes or until the onion is very soft and golden.
In a large screw-top jar, combine broth and flour. Cover and shake until combined and smooth. (I just used a bowl and a fork for this. I didn't have a screw-top jar on hand to use for this. You definitely have to stop and stir a few times to make sure the flour on the bottom and sides get properly incorporated, but it works just as well.) Stir into the onion mixture. Add the milk, caraway seeds and black pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Gradually stir in the cheese; reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, until cheese melts, but do not boil. Stir in the bratwurst and beer. Cook, stirring frequently, until heated through. If you like, serve with rye bread.
Makes 4 to 6 main-dish servings (7 cups).
This has a lovely, orange color, probably from the carrots because it was orange before I added the cheese. It has a strong beer flavor which blends well with the cheese. I did add some salt and pepper, but not much. I think I definitely missed the shallots. They tend to be slightly sweet, which would have balanced the bitterness of the beer more. This had a great texture, definitely lives up to the name "chowder".
The second soup recipe's formatting is such that I can't copy and paste it here. I will share the link in the sources section and you can get it from there. This one was brats, potatoes, and cabbage soup with Swiss cheese. The recipe calls for water and I found that it wasn't enough liquid. Before the step that calls for adding milk, I added 2 cups of chicken stock to the pot as well and that seemed to be just perfect for the amount of soup. I made a half recipe, though, so you might need up to 4 cups if you make a whole batch. I also added salt and pepper to this one, but not much. The Swiss cheese is a very subtle flavor, but it was delicious! I was very impressed with this one.
Neither soup was difficult to make, but it was a bit challenging to make two simultaneously. It was fun though! Both took about the same amount of prep and cooking time, so it was a good pairing. I would make both of these again.
To accompany the soups, I needed bread. And I found the greatest recipe ever. Again, the formatting is such that I can't copy and paste, but I'll provide the link. The concept is basically, savory monkey bread. For those of you who are unfamiliar with monkey bread, it's bread dough cut into small pieces that are then dipped in melted butter and rolled in a sugar-cinnamon mix. It's placed in a Bundt pan and baked until cooked through. This recipe was exactly that, but with cheese. My sister had a bag of Parker house rolls that she was not going to use because she hadn't realized at the time she bought it that it was the actual dough and not rolls. So I bought it off of her, thawed them out, and used it for this recipe. Each dough piece was rolled in melted butter, then in fresh, shredded Parmesan cheese. After filling the well-greased Bundt pan with half the bread, you put in a layer of shredded Provolone cheese. Then repeat with the rest of the dough, butter, Parmesan and Provolone. Let it rise in a warm place for an hour before baking at 375 degrees. Since my bread package only had 24 instead of 36 rolls like the recipe calls for, I cut the time down to 30 minutes and ended up baking for about 33 minutes total, but keep an eye out for it because it does get very browned on top.
Bratwurst, Beer, Cheddar Chowder Recipe
Bratwurst, Potato, Cabbage Soup Recipe
Wisconsin Cheese Pull-Apart Bread (Note: The picture on the recipe does not match the recipe, my photos are the accurate depiction of what this will look like when you make it.)