Coming from a fruit growing region to a major dairy region has been very eye opening. A mere 10 minute drive in any direction from Appleton leads to huge dairy farms. The farms lie adjacent to each other in tight patchwork squares with silos and barns on one end of the property and large fields of grain and corn everywhere else. But my greatest surprise has been the Brat Barns.
I arrived in Wisconsin late in the summer last year, and I do not remember seeing Brat Barns in front of the any grocery store, perhaps they were not operating or I missed them because I shopped during the week. But this Spring they have indeed popped up everywhere this past weekend. The barns are the size of small storage shed with a front window for service. Each barn is located in front of a grocery store close to where shoppers must pass to gain entrance to shop. Stores provide these for various charities to hold fund raisers. Some stores charge for the use of the barn, but provide the brats, buns, condiments, and soda for free. Other stores don’t charge for the use of the barn, but the charity must buy their own food items.
Our neighbor across the street belongs to a German Shepherd Rescue Society and their group used a Brat Barn this past weekend. She told us a group could expect to make $200-$300 in a day if they buy their own supplies. In front of another store we saw an independent frisbee group selling brats. Needless to say, brats are popular with the locals and they really know how to cook them up so they are juicy and tasty. Grilling them and then soaking them warm in beer water inside a Nesco seems to be the method of choice.
There are many more kinds of bratwurst than I realized. When my family had their farm market and had a meat market inside, Usinger (a white bratwurst) was the brand of brats that were sold and liked the best by our family. We were led to believe the Usinger name brand from Milwaukee was the royalty of German American meats and sausages. Now that I am in Wisconsin, I find the meat business is far greater than I imagined. There are many small meat markets and companies who make their own sausages and bratwurst and the taste differs by the meats and seasonings used.
Having traveled throughout the U.S. I have found regions across the country have their many different kinds of “soul” food, but for Wisconsonites, it IS bratwurst. I expect I will enjoy my personal on going investigation in the years to come.