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Johnsonville Brats--what's the big deal?

Last weekend we went ot a small, local air show. There is never much to eat, usually some local boy scout troop selling popcorn, hamburgers and canned sodas. This year there was a huge semi made into "the world's largest grill!" and their stand was selling Johnsonville Brats as if they were the be-all and end-all of meat sandwiches. This in the home city o' tri-tip.

We each got one, and it was very lightly grilled, with light heat marks, and starting to sweat fat. Served in an air-bread white bun, with condiments on the side, mustard, mayo, saurkraut and green pickle relish. I didn't put anything on mine, wanting to see what the flavor of the sausage was. My reaction; Meh? Decent size, flavor a bit mild, and very greasy. I tossed the bread and ate the sausage plain. Like Chino Wayne, I was irritated to have consumed the calories of something so mediocre.

The Johnsonville crew chief eagerly asked me how I liked it, and my less than enthusiatic reaction seemed to wound his pride. I told him we have lots of good regional sausages like Italian sweet and hot, Linguisa, Chorizo, Longanisa, etc., that are better, and that I probably wouldn't buy these in the grocery. His smile faded, and he thanked me for trying his product.

The only local exposure to these sausages is through heavy TV advertising. They are in the grocery but not an institution at local bbq gatherings as AFAIK. Are these really so popular in other areas of the country?

Would love to hear other sausage eaters weigh (hah) in on this.

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  1. Which variety did you try? I grew up eating the beer and the cheese varieties--Johnsonville is HUGE in Minnesota/Wisconsin, nearly a cultural institution. I could probably still quote their commercials word-for-word. Maybe nostalgia makes them taste better but when I grilled last year they were pretty damn good--lighter and easier to eat than your standard real-deal bratwurst, especially for a summer affair. Boiled them in beer, grilled and served with sauerkraut--most of my friends (who had never tried them) loved them. I don't know if I'd compare them to chorizo (apples and oranges)--more like the hot dog version of bratwurst.

    1. OK, granted that a sausage in general is greasy. But in Wisconsin, where I come from, as do Johnsonville brats, people have a real reverance for them. The usual way of preparing them is to parboil them in beer to which sliced onions have been added. Then they are grilled, and, if making a large quantity, they are put back in the beer to stay warm. Some folks then top the brat with some of the onions. Like anything, a brat done to perfection is just that. I've also had them over-cooked in which case they taste like sawdust. Also, I think I am correct in saying that a brat bun is the proper carrier for the brat, not a cheap-o white bread air bun. While I would never make a steady diet of them, done well, they are fantastic. I hope you'll get to try one again some day, and that you'll see what I mean.

      1 Reply
      1. re: KRath

        I too grew up in Wisconsin - never had a Johnsonville brat until I moved to Ohio decades later. I agree with the OP - meh . . .

        We ate USINGERS! Now there is a REAL brat ;)

      2. Toodie, I have had JV brats and thought they were very good. BUT! I have had Karl Ehmers(sp?)as well as other home made brats that were much better. I believe my relative soaked them in beer before grilling- maybe after too. Like KRath said, perhaps not prepared well- try again!

        1 Reply
        1. re: pixlpi

          Absolutely agree about K. Ehmers-- "the best of the wurst". They actually have some flavor, unlike the Jville brats....

        2. Toddie Jane; "the home city 'o tri tip?" Just a sneaking suspicion, but that would be good old Santa Maria, right? Growing up, I spent more time in that Safeway than I did in my own home. (Plus, you replied to my 20 Mile Station post, so I've kind of placed you.:))

          IMO, Johnsonville Brats make a fine breakfast sausage. But for tailgating/grilling/pigging out, I MUCH prefer a sausage with lots more spice and flavor; chorizo, linguica, anduille, etc.

          Oh, and they have very little taste resemblance to real German bratwurst. Like I said, Johnsonville is more akin to a breakfast sausage taste.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Bostonbob3

            Speaking generally, isn't the difference between German bratwurst and Wisconsin-style bratwurst one of texture? The guy at the sausage store in my hometown (http://www.stoysich.com/) told me that the ingredients and spices are identical, but that the Wisconsin-style is ground more coarsely. He could have just been referring to they way they make them, but I got the impression he was speaking broadly.

            And the sausages at that place are quite possibly the greatest sausages in the universe. To say nothing of the beef jerky.

            1. re: joypirate

              Well, the bratwurst I've had in Germany were significantly less "sweet" than Johnsonville Brats. "Sweet" as in breakfast-sausagy. That said, there are some in Bavaria that have similar spicing. The texture varies wildly from region to region in Germany, although most are fine-ground just like a Johnsonville.

          2. Honestly, toodie jane, and I say this having spent years in the Midwest, I think it's at least half nostalgia, the way people from LA get misty-eyed over In-N-Out or people from New York have a Thing about Nathan's.

            They *ARE* really good but only in the one preparation -- boiled in beer and onions, then grilled and eaten with brown mustard and sauerkraut on a cold, slightly sticky-in-the-mouth potato bun.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              Doesn't boiling first remove any possible, and desireable, juiciness from something one is going to grill?

              1. re: niki rothman

                Not in this case, its the perfect way to prepare brats.

                1. re: niki rothman

                  Just the opposite, actually. Boiling makes them really juicy, as the sausage sucks up some of the beer flavor.

              2. Oddly enough, I plan on having them tonight grilled outdoors. I too first boil them in beer and onions but I add butter too. I live in NC, not exactly sausage country, so a JV brat satisfies me for what it is.
                Thanks a whole lot for making me hungry at 3:45 pm, TJ!

                1. T.J., I had the good fortune of being stationed in Germany for several years. I doubt Johnsonville could execute a successful business plan over there with the product they offer. Locally, here in the Pacific Northwest, I've found several very good butchers that make their own that rival the Germans. Support your local butcher!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Leper

                    Leper -- were you in Frankfurt? Those are my bratwurst benchmark - a white, fine-ground pork sausage, grilled and served mit ein brotchen. Wunderbar!

                    1. re: Sharuf

                      Sharuf, Yep, Frankfurt it was. I've been back several times to visit those little Wurst stands in Sachsenhausen. Along with the great sausages are the best Pomme Frites I've ever had. Rumor is the secret to their taste is they are cooked in horse fat.

                  2. I personally don't like them boiled first. This locks in the fat, by grilling them slowly, the fat will render off. Just a personal preferance.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: saeyedoc

                      I'm with you. I tend to smoke them with a little applewood, then put them in the beer with a little grilled onion to keep them warm. Tastes more meaty and less greasy.

                      But when I want a juicy brat, I do the reverse.

                    2. hello, toodie j., our preferred bratwurst is Niman ranch which are nitrate and chemical free from humanely raised pigs. I prepare it much like others have described, but use a robust beer to poach them, garlic and spices rather than onions in the 'broth', serve them with carmelized onions. They lose fat in both of the cooking stages, and I don't doubt that there's a regional taste preference at work, having lived in the midwest a time. Mainstream consumers there prefer simpler flavors and higher fat content,and carry the girth to prove it. From what you describe i think you'd love the Italian and Portuguese (incl. a Portuguese-Hawaiian) sausages made by Santi in Geyserville from Duroc 'heirloom' pigs, which are our favorites of all. cheers

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: moto

                        Hi moto,
                        I am so happy to hear Niman has bratwursts! Hooray for humane treatment and no preservatives! Can't wait to get some. Could I ask you please what is your general recipe for preparing the brats? Which spices do you use? Maybe as this is not the proper board just give a very brief message and I'll further pollute things by asking if you know where near SF Niman sells them?
                        Thanks!

                      2. It's a marketing thing - somehow the idea caught on, and no amount of reality is gonna conquer the image.

                        1. Johnsonville brats are good if that's all you can get, and a whole lot better than those I've tried from any of the big sausage makers. As some other posters have noted, you have to cook them just so for best effect, though I have also used them as components in such things as choucroute garni and cassoulet, where they add a nicely different flavor. Any good German-style butcher, though, can blow J'ville out of the water easily, and I've made some pretty darned good ones from scratch myself.

                          I'm just appalled that a company-sponsored outfit such as toodie jane encountered would do such a lousy job of preparing and presenting these sausages. Not cooked right, supermarket whitebread buns...way to GO, Johnsonville!

                          1. Well, I must say, I'm thrilled at the input! I almost expected to be roasted (urg) for my comments.

                            I love sausage, but don't know much about German sausage; never have been abroad nor lived in a German community. I don't know the difference between Bockwurst (I love Silva Sausage Co.'s) and Bratwurst.

                            Can anyone enlighten me?

                            I will try some of the leads and techniques you all have shared. Thank you!

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: toodie jane

                              "Bratwurst" seems to be a generic name for fresh (uncured) pork sausage. The ones in Frankfurt Germany are a fine-ground white sausage about 1/3 lb in size, browned on a griddle and served in a little "brotchen" (hardroll) with a couple bites of sausage suggestively sticking out each end.

                              Here in America, I've seen both white and coarse-ground sausages called bratwurst.

                              "Bockwurst", in the WA state Swiss community where I grew up, is a fine-ground white veal sausage, running about 5 to a lb. They are cooked by gently steaming. The have a very light, almost fluffy quenelle-ish delicate texture and are subtly flavored with parsley. They are my favorite sausages in the whole world. The supermarket sausages going under the bockwurst label are crude knockoffs of what a good Swiss butcher would create.

                              1. re: Sharuf

                                In some markets - like Cincinnati - what is sold as Bratwurst is a veal sausage that is called Weisswurst in most other markets.

                                It gets very confusing ..

                                1. re: jlawrence01

                                  Weisswurst is only eaten before noon in Bavaria and the skin is always removed. Bratwurst in the US is sold both as the weisswurst and the American Sheboygan which is more like a very large Nuerenburgrwurst. Personnally I like them all but really love Sheboygan style brats, I make homemade but like JV or Klements or Ussinger.

                                  1. re: krandy21784

                                    "Weisswurst is only eaten before noon in Bavaria and the skin is always removed." Except for the AM-only thing, that sounds a lot like Cajun boudin blanc - you take off the skins and eat with a fork. First time I was served any the guy didn't tell me that, and laughed his a$$ off to see me trying to bite through... All the American-made weisswurst I've seen has been tender of skin, and (to my taste) not particularly interesting.

                                2. re: Sharuf

                                  That's the bockwurst I grew up with also. Also my favorites. When I was in Germany, I almost always chose weisswurst over the darker sausages.

                                  ed

                                  1. re: Sharuf

                                    whereabouts is this in WA, in case I get up that way?

                                    The 'supermarket knockoffs' are actually PDG: finely ground veal, a bit of parsley and I think seasoned with nutmeg. Dreamy flavorand texture. My favorite breakfast sausage to go with eggs. I can't imagine how good those are in your old stomping grounds!!

                                    1. re: toodie jane

                                      The butcher of my childhood-memory sausage is long gone and I haven't done grocery shopping in the Northwest in ages, so have no current recommendations.

                                      In my current neighborhood, supermarket "bockwurst" are adulterated with pork and have a heavier texture.

                                      1. re: toodie jane

                                        I agree - delicate, nutmeg flavor and nice if one does not like porky flavor - pretty easy to find good ones - we call them "brockwursts" AND they have no preservatives. The only supermarket sausages free of nasty chemicals!

                                    2. re: toodie jane

                                      As I understand it (and according to every recipe I have for it) bratwurst is a medium-ground sausage of pork and veal in varying proportions, and the signature spice is mace, with no other strong flavors competing. I make mine with turkey breast instead of veal for complicated karmic reasons, and have yet to stuff any, though I intend to try that someday.

                                      I have seen some white, finely-ground sausages labelled "bratwurst", and have tried them. They seem to me to be simply a weisswurst, which I do not particularly like. The bockwurst I've seen looks kinda like knockwurst. All of this is enough to make me want to take an extended vacation back in the Midwest, just to re-acquaint myself with the beloved sausages of my youth...IF anyone is still making them!

                                      1. re: toodie jane

                                        Down the street from my house in Kansas City is a local butcher shop called Werner's (http://www.wernerswurst.com/), where I buy all my sausages. It was started by a Swedish man, then taken over by a German, and they have blended the styles. Here's how the owners describe the differences:

                                        German Style Bratwurst....A classic German sausage with a hot dog like texture; very mild in flavor but great when topped with German mustard and sauerkraut.

                                        Bier Brat....A coarse grind pork sausage sometimes referred to as a "Wisconsin-Style" brat or a "Sheboygan" brat. Excellent simmered in beer and onions, then grilled. Ideal for BBQ competitions too!

                                        Bockwurst....An all veal sausage made with chives-very rich. Typically a traditional Easter sausage, but available all year round here!

                                        So it seems like the difference between German and Wisconsin brats is the grind, with German being finer.

                                      2. Give Usinger's a try. You can order them online from their website. Also, their natural casing franks are excellent. I'm from central WI originally and we used to always serve them on a light pumpernickel bun made by Holsum bakery. I've never seen those buns outside of that general area. The little town I grew up in used to have one night a summer where all the merchants would serve free brats out on Main Street. The local butcher there, Nolechek's, would parboil them in beer, grill them, then throw them in a small milk can full of melted butter until they were served. OMG!! They sell via mail order/web as well.

                                        1. I'm from Illinois and we tend to sneak up north to get some good bratwurst. There are lots of great butchers who make their own brats and it is a pleasure to patronize these great independent sites. For commercial, store bought, we need to feed a crowd that has some taste discernment, Billh above got it right. Usinger's is the one. They have not saturated the airwaves like Johnsonville and they have a much better product. Usinger's is one I would try mailorder with as they have put out a catalog for years and do a booming Holiday season business. Enjoy!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: fryrose

                                            I'm glad to see other midwest hounds think Usingers is great. I can buy them at my local Dominicks here in Ill. at times, but will travel to WI to get them too. We have a few local sausage makers in my area that also do a great job making brats. Years ago, I worked for a company that had Johnsonville as a client and when I made those brats people just went nuts about them. I could never understand that---they were much too salty for my taste and didn't have the right Brat flavor. Try Usingers, you won't be disappointed!

                                            1. re: fryrose

                                              Usingers are grease bombs IMO (yes, I've eaten them at State St Brats in Madison)-- and Johnsonville are all I can get -- so that's what we buy.

                                            2. Johnsonville Brats are good when grilled but I agree that Karl Ehmers are better. BTW they ship for free if your order is over $60. Their headcheese and liverwursts are good too.
                                              The best damn brat I'ver ever eaten came from Deowig's Store in Ohio, I think. Saw an article in Saveur about them and ordered 5#. MMMMMM were they good.
                                              Only problem was that the shipping ($25)cost more than the 5# (19.95) of brats. Try them if you ever get a chance.

                                              1. Hey, Midwest Hounds: how are Klement sausages? I know they're available retail in the midwest, and are served at the Milwaukee Brewers stadium. They've just been named as the official brat, sausage, and hotdog vendor at Gillette Stadium (home of the 3-time Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots!).

                                                I've heard raves from people about the sausages served at Brewers games, so I'm hopeful.

                                                1. I recently had a brat from their "Biggest Grill" when it was in Pittsburgh for the Vintage Grand Prix. I thought it tasted like a breakfast sausge and so did my mother. Would never ever buy these in the store!

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Rick

                                                    Rick, are you talking about Johnsonville or Klement?

                                                  2. I don't care for the JVs at all, but I'm spoiled by having the original Karl Ehmer's storefront just a mile or so away. Here's a Wiki on sausage http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sausage for those of you inclined to try them all.

                                                    1. I walk by Karl Ehmer's on Fresh Pond all the time and just stand by their exhaust and inhale the smokey goodness coming out. Their bacon is really good, too...but they have a wonderful selection of wursts...

                                                      1. Usinger's Rules! I also love their frankfurters & weiners.

                                                        1. The first time I had a Johnsonville brat was at an apple festival in Millneck L.I. with my late mother. It has not been easy finding those white colored brats. When I do, I stock up, and when I eat one it brings back the sweetest memories. I like them grilled or broiled in the oven on a bun with nothing more than some mustard. The cheddar ones are good also. Thank you for allowing me to share this . :)

                                                          1. I love'm! , maybe you got a bad sausage, i bought a box of J'ville once that really had no flavor, but never had the prob again, possibly try them again, they really are good.

                                                            1. I have a question about the poaching in beer method that some have posted about here. Do you do this with the brats that come pre-cooked, “ready to eat” or just with the raw “fresh” ones? Or both? I love the idea of it... Do you really taste the difference?

                                                              Uncle Ira

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: Uncle Ira

                                                                When I used to parboil the brats it is only with the "fresh" uncooked variety.

                                                                I actually have switched my cooking method after going to Sheboygan Brat Days last August. I saw how the jaycees were cooking up their brats, and now do it a similar way.

                                                                In a saucepan I mix beer, raw onion, a chunk of butter, garlic, saurkraut juice, and a dash or two. I simmer this mixture for about 30 mins while grill is getting ready. I put the brats on the grill, and baste them with the beer mixture for the whole time they are on the grill(about 25-30 mins). I was a par boiler before, but now prefer this method. I find the meat stays more tender, and you still get the great flavor.

                                                                BTW I love Johnsonville Brats, and am going back to Brat Days in Sheboygen this August.

                                                                1. re: swsidejim

                                                                  "beer, raw onion, a chunk of butter, garlic, saurkraut juice, and a dash or two."

                                                                  ....ummm...a dash or two of what?

                                                                  1. re: revsharkie

                                                                    sorry, left out the last part,

                                                                    a dash or two of tobasco.

                                                                2. re: Uncle Ira

                                                                  I actually HAD an uncle Ira. But he's dead. And if he were alive I doubt he'd have identified himself through his tenuous relationship to me and my brother, but in any case, I think the beer, especially with stuff like garlic, onions, and rosemary in it - and especially if it was maybe Guiness, as some of the folks mentioned, would add SOME taste either way, but I suspect the raw meat is going to absorb a lot more flavor than the cooked, don't you?

                                                                3. Thanks for the tip. Some chowhounds disdain negative posts, but I for one truly appreciate hearing what's bad as well as what's good. But, most supermarket sausages contain sodium nitrate and nitrite and don't eat those preservatives because they are carcinogenic. So, I'd never be seduced even by that high powered advertising on TV which makes it sound like those apparently greasy blah weenies are an important reason to go on living.

                                                                  We chowhounds only eat what REALLY tastes delicious. I have often taken one bite out of something, swallowed it for politeness if in company, and quickly headed for the nearest discrete way to dispose of the rest. If I'm in private, even that first bite would not descend my deliacate chowhound's gullet.

                                                                  1. As a UW graduate who has cooked more than his fair share of brats, I think I may be qualified to weigh in on this topic. Keep in mind that the Johnsonville World's Largest Grill only prepares the precooked version of their brats, which don't have as much flavor as the raw brats. Wisconsinites only view these brats as a type of fast food, not a culinary delight (see Madison's bratfest www.bratfest.com).

                                                                    My preferred method of preparation is to sautee crushed garlic and onion, add dark beer (dark is key) along with thyme and rosemary. Bring beer to a very gentle simmer, add raw brats and poach until the brats are nearly done. Then grill over medium heat to add color and finish cooking. Be careful of high heat as the brats may rupture and lose their juices. Top with kraut and brown mustard and serve with a side of cheese curds.

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: The Big Thing

                                                                      i poach my brats, but am going to try your new method. beer i've used include guinness, bass, new castle.

                                                                      1. re: phant0omx

                                                                        Which beer do you guys think gives the best flavor?
                                                                        P.S.
                                                                        I just made a call and have located the Niman Ranch brats 8 blocks from my home in SF! This is really big, big news to me as they have no preservatives, raise the animals organically and treat them very humanely. I'm on top o' the world!

                                                                        1. re: niki rothman

                                                                          i've used a combination of guinness/bass and new castle, which gives great flavor. the hint of nuttiness from the new castle coupled with the sweetness of the onions is great.
                                                                          always topped with brown/deli mustard and the onions or kraut thus far.

                                                                          i started doing the combo because i didn't want to add water to the mix and i still wanted to drink some of the beer so instead of pouring a whole sixer into the pot i poured only three and still had three of both kinds of beer to drink. too cheap to buy more beer i guess...

                                                                      2. re: The Big Thing

                                                                        I'm a UW grad too (PhD 1993) and I've always considered Johnsonville an abomination, for the simple reason that they use MSG.

                                                                      3. Maybe it has a bit to do with the fact that it's what we grew up on but I love johnsonville. Another poster compares them to breakfast sausage...I guess the spicing is not dissimilar, but I love those flavors. I think they balance the heavy salt with some good spicing. I'm scratching my head about the poster who says they are bland. IMO they are on the other end of the spectrum with most german wurst being much less spicy. Not bad, just different. I guess if the preparer cooked them in beer prior to grilling (which a lot of people do) and overcooked them the result would be a lot less flavor.

                                                                        Flavors are so subjective and personal. Thanks for starting an interesting thread

                                                                        1. Growing up on Italian sausage, I too wondered what the big deal was and decided to buy a package and try them. I parboiled in beer and topped with grilled onions and mustard, placed on a nice roll.........and it tasted blah....no taste with the exception of the condiments. I thought that it had the consistancy and taste of Italian sausage that had zero seasoning in it.
                                                                          I wouldn't buy again.

                                                                          1. I think the appeal is that they're uniformly the same wherever you buy them. Otherwise, sausages are different depending on the recipes and preferences of the people who make them. That's the beauty of them, in my opinion. It's like going to a mom-and-pop local burger joint vs. going to McDonalds. The McD burger is going to be the same whether you're in Kansas or Wisconsin or wherever.

                                                                            Try all the local varieties, wherever you're at. We have a locker a ways from here that makes *skinless* brats that are really good, even though you wouldn't exactly think so given they're skinless. (You obviously can't boil them first, either, but it works all right.) And when we lived in Oregon we used to get some brats (white ones) and beer sausages from an outfit called Fetzer's that always had a stand at the Beaverton Farmers Market. Then there were some in Portland at Saturday Market that were completely different again, and then there was the Polish butcher up the street from where we lived...No need for mass-produced stuff when you have a variety of local and ethnic options available, in my opinion.

                                                                            1. In Florida we have the pre- cooked regular and smoked Johnsonvilles in most markets. I like the smoked. I tend to heap relish, onions, and mustard on anything that resembles a hotdog, which works ok. I don't keep saurkraut in the pantry. Last week I dressed a pair of grilled smoked with leftover chimichurri sauce from a C'hound recipe. Worked well.

                                                                              1. Hi TJ!
                                                                                I just received my 6 pounds (minimum order) of assorted sausages including brats from Usingers of Milwaukee, which was recommended in this post. Everything got a big thumbs up. It arrived freezing cold now at the height of summer too. Once again chowhounds come through!

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: niki rothman

                                                                                  Hi yourself!

                                                                                  how is the fat content compared to some of the local Calif sausages?

                                                                                  p.s.: If you like linguica, try the old worl style at Wolfsen's in Gustine, just off I-5 north of Santa Nella. Wow!

                                                                                  1. re: toodie jane

                                                                                    Hey, TJ!

                                                                                    We've been feasting on our Usinger's brats, bockwursts, and kielbasa! I think the bockwursts are my personal fave. I WAS rather limited because i only wanted to buy what did not contain preservatives - nitrates/nitites. So the wonderful people at Usinger's did the research and sent me a list. Besides what I bought I think the only other choices were liver sausages, pot roast en gelee, and Italian sausages - which I should try all of in my next order. Other than that nothing - except Niman Ranch which is available in SF, although I've had a hard time finding out when they are delivered so i can get them at the height of freshness .

                                                                                    I am rather a stickler on the nitrates issue as they contribute to colon cancer chances. So, I want to keep reasearching, here, sources for non-preservative sausages. Also kindness to animal is very important to me. I recently found out that it is forbidden to Jews to hunt other than for food. Niman is fine on that issue. Oooh, I should turn you onto a great meat source that may be available in your area - Harris Ranch - soo delish! Very fair prices. Good treatment of animals. And I found them right near me in SF.

                                                                                    About the linguica you mention - yum yum! But 2 questions - preservatives? Richard says Gustine is between you and L.A. I will go online and see where else they are. Should I search "Wolfson's" - seems I havve seen that brand around town too. Or maybe I'm thinking English muffins (LOL).

                                                                                    Chow!

                                                                                    1. re: niki rothman

                                                                                      Niki--Wolfsen's does both fresh sausage (raw meat in casings, frozen or fresh) without preservatives. Their smoked sausage does contain "minimum amount of sodium nitrite as required by law" so evidently smoked sausage is required to have the preservatives.

                                                                                      Good news is that they do linguisa both fresh and smoked. I've not had the fresh, so can't comment. Always had linguisa smoked. But Wolfsen's does such a good job with their products, they'd have to be pretty good.

                                                                                      http://www.wolfsensausage.com/freshsa...

                                                                                      Harris Ranch meats are available at most of our local markets. I usually get their beef tri tip or baja steaks.

                                                                                2. You are so correct... I retired down here in Panama 10 years ago... For the last four years all I see on TV are these brats... All of a sudden there they were in our grocery store... I bought the last 8 packages of the smoked brats... I ate two... They were horrible and awful... Too much artificial smoke flavor, the quality of meat contained Grissel, tendons, and the membrane that separates the mussel.. I have been making my own sausage for years and even I have never made such a bad tasting sausage...
                                                                                  My maid ate one and left half of it on the plate... I told here she could take all of the packages home... They are still in my freezer...

                                                                                  Gringo Joe
                                                                                  Panama

                                                                                  1. It's a marketing thing.

                                                                                    I've had house-made brats at a small German market in Virginia and they leave Johnsonville in the dust.

                                                                                    1. one word:

                                                                                      GRRRRREEEEEAAAASSSSYYYYYYYY

                                                                                      1. I grew up in WI and would agree that there are much better brats than Johnsonville. When I go home to visit my parents I bring back tons of (uncooked) brats (freshly made at Maplewood Meats in Green Bay, WI) in a cooler and freeze them. Here in Pittsburgh, the sausage choices are usually kielbasa or Italian sausage...so I'll eat Johnsonville if I'm desperate for a taste of home! I try to ration the brats for stuff like, Packer Playoff games! Paraphrasing a recipe from a guy named "Packer Jim"...For about 6 brats, slice onion, 2 cloves of garlic and sweat in 2tsp. of butter, then pour in 3 bottles of beer. Although I know some people will disagree... I prick the brats w/ a fork to 1) let in onion, garlic, and beer flavor, and 2) get extra grease out. After simmering for about 30 min, brown on grill. I like mine with just mustard but always serve it w/ sauerkraut (w/ some of the beer liquid stirred in) and the cooked onions.

                                                                                        If only there was a way to get the fried cheese curds and frozen custard..

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: QSheba

                                                                                          osheba, your cooking technique does help make them less greasy -- our friend who loves brats (and used to live in germany) fixes them that way, and grills them on a george foreman grill (he has no outdoor grill). while greasy still, the skin gets crispy and caramelized a bit.

                                                                                        2. I would love to find out what the big deal about Johnsonville Brats. I have a coupon that was in the Sunday paper, but I can't find them in any of my local supermarkets in NYC (and a few I frequent in NJ).

                                                                                          1. Johnsonville sucks, honesty. Pretty much any other Bratwurst has less fat, salt, nitrates, sugar, etc. If you can buy anything else, I recommend it: Big brands like Hillshire, Klements, Usingers (best of the biggies) are better. However, the real trick is to get Brats from a small butcher. Pretty much every counter in 'sconie has their own bratwurst. The Schultz's market in Deforest Wisconsin was very good, Jennifer St Market in Madison also fantastic. Hart and Vold in Baraboo,WI.

                                                                                            AS far as online, its a crap shoot. Im not keen on the Bavarian Inc stuff,I have tried their stuff right over the counter,its OK,but not amazing.

                                                                                            How would I know? Mother born and raised in Deutschland, hardcore sausage fanatic,ex chef of 10 yrs. People here trying to "sell" you on Johnsonville, simply dont have a clue, no offense.

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                                                                                            1. re: adventureandy

                                                                                              Now that you have revived this old thread, I feel it is appropriate to respond.

                                                                                              I grew up on Italian sausage that was made by hand from local butchers in the Northeast (US). You have different varieties, could buy links versus wheels, hot or sweet, with fennel and without, with broccoli rabe. parsley and cheese, etc. They were wonderful.

                                                                                              When I moved years ago to Texas, everyone was into brats, smoked and sausage style. I could not get decent Italian sausages, so I tried brats. The only good sausages are smoked and available at local BBQ joints, and some of those can be really good. In stores, they can vary tremendously in quality and flavor. About the only thing I can say for Johnsonville is that they are predictable, and if cooked properly, passable. Strangely, I think one of the reasons I don't like some of the sausages at Central Market, where they sell artisan sausages, is that they are too lean. The sausages have a tougher texture, and for that reason I have sworn off some of their varieties, particularly the Italian sausages. They are so far removed from what I expect that they offend my palate, and I will stick with only flavors I can't find elsewhere. So, to answer the question posed by the OP:

                                                                                              Think of Johnsonville brats as you would Oscar Meyer hotdogs. Far from the best, but passable unless poorly cooked.

                                                                                            2. I'll be honest, my love of Johnsonville is tied to my youth. I have been eating them my entire life and the Johnsonville brat is the measuring stick I use when comparing other brats. Dont' get me wrong, I am not saying they are the best (that award goes to the Lake Tomahawk Meat Market) nor are they the worst, but they are a great brat that you can get anywhere. When I crave brats, I typically am craving that Johnsonville taste.

                                                                                              My preparation method has changed over the years. I am no longer a boil first person. I like to grill them right out of the package and then when they are done, keep them warm in a pot with beer and onions. You get a more pronounced beer flavor.

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                                                                                              1. re: EatWisconsin

                                                                                                I use the same technique: grillmarks first, then simmer in a pan of beer and sliced onions. I've also found they're pretty good at absorbing smoke flavor; fruit woods work the best for a smokier brat.

                                                                                                1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                                  I cook my brats in the opposite order. I simmer them in beer and onion and then finish them off on the grill.

                                                                                              2. I have to agree with you entirely. Having been spoiled by the Ehmer brats with their perfect pork/veal/ spice combo, I found these just greasey and bland.

                                                                                                1. I'm not a big fan of ANY of the Johnsonville sausages. They seem to have a cloying, "artificial" taste. The Brats are not completely terrible I suppose but certainly nothing to write home about.
                                                                                                  Their Italian style sausages, on the other hand, are downright heinous. Right on the bottom of the heap with Premio and just about anything from Hillshire Farms.

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                                                                                                  1. re: The Professor

                                                                                                    professor, may i make the wild assumption that you are not chanting, "GO MEAT!"?

                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                      LOL. No, that wouldn't be correct. I love meat, and especially good sausages. In fact I have been trying to reduce the meat in my diet, but to no avail.

                                                                                                      As far as sausages go, I guess I'm overly picky being spoiled by the many, many small butcher shops of all ethnicities (not to mention the old men at our church who ran the Kolbasz sale every month ) who made really fine home made sausages. If I have to resort to supermarket bought tubed meat, I almost always opt for the store-made brands (especially the in-store made fresh sausages) which are usually somewhat better than the national brands.

                                                                                                  2. Johnsonville Brats original flavor will forever be the brat that tastes "right" to me because it was my first experience with brats. I grew up in PA where we ate italian sausages with peppers and onions, so brats were this new thing for me. However I had an Abbyland brat this summer and they are outstanding. If you ever see them please try them. The packaging isn't impressive but these brats are simply delicious.

                                                                                                    1. Finally- somebody else that sees the emperor is naked instead of wearing invisible finery.

                                                                                                      Meh is right.

                                                                                                      1. I have even had brats in Germany, Eh! I prefer the Johnsonville Itailian Sweet sausage pan fried on Italian bread with pan sauteed peppers and onions.

                                                                                                        1. I concour. Boil in beer and onions, then grill both the brats and the onions. WARNING!! Just as with cooking with wine, if you wouldn't DRINK the beer, don't COOK with it! If it isn't good enough to drink why would you put it in your food??

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                                                                                                          1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                            Because cooking the beer/wine totally changes the flavor?

                                                                                                          2. Personally Johnsonville Brats are my favorite grillin' sausage. Cook the brats on the grill and get them charred, dunk into a beer/onion bath, then back on the grill for a couple more minutes. Serve with onion beer sauce and some mustard...that's one of my favorite things EVARRR.

                                                                                                            1. They're greasy, empty calorie bombs--just low-grade industrial product. They're poor sellers around Toronto simply because the wide range of excellent locally-made ethnic sausage varieties makes them irrelevant.

                                                                                                              1. I really like Johnsonville Brats. The original ones. I had never had them growing up in NYC. I only ever had Italian sausage. I hate fennel seed, and hot pepper makes me sick, so I never liked or ate hot sausage.

                                                                                                                We have a local place and I only ever eat their regular Country Store sausage, or Johnsonville Brats. I like whatever those spices are in the JB. I like Country Store's because it's just 'plain'. Not hot or spicy stuff, and no fennel seed.

                                                                                                                The first JB I ever had was grilled and in a really nice toasty roll with mustard, ketchup and relish on it, at a BBQ at some ones house. I was hooked.

                                                                                                                I often cook them in the slow cooker with potatoes and sour kraut. I like them all kinds of ways.

                                                                                                                1. I had the Italian sausage and they put sugar in it! Sugar! I couldn't understand why it was so sweet till I read the label. Who the heck puts sugar in a Italian sausage? It's awful. We are now boycotting all johnsonville products. Bye bye fake sausage

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                                                                                                                  1. re: Dogsjaw

                                                                                                                    the inclusion of an ingredient you don't care for doesn't make it fake sausage...it jut makes it sausage made with an ingredient you don't care for.

                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                      Which is fake.real Italian sausage has no sugar in it . It's not needed. Apparently you have never had the real deal. And it doesn't need msg either. It tastes like frosted flakes. Go try the real thing you will be amazed even though you work for johnsonville don't be a sheeple go for it!!

                                                                                                                      1. re: Dogsjaw

                                                                                                                        fake means artificial -- like they were making tubes made of plastic and filled with styrofoam and calling it sausage.

                                                                                                                        Fake doesn't mean "I don't like their recipe" or "they put something in it that I don't care for".

                                                                                                                        If I'm working for Johnsonville, I'd appreciate if you'd please help me find the bank statements showing my payroll deposits -- I don't seem to be able to find them.

                                                                                                                  2. Well, I grew up in Wisconsin and have lived back in the state for the last 18 months and I'm not a huge fan of Johnsonville brats - my favorite brat in WI is actually from a small chain of grocery stores in the northern half of the state called Trig's. They're outstanding. Johnsonville is just OK for me. I like Usingers more than Johnsonville.

                                                                                                                    I don't love the coarse texture of the Johnsonville brat. I will eat them - I prefer them slowly simmered in beer and then tossed on the grill. Most other brats I don't need them to be "beer brats".

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                                                                                                                    1. re: tiffeecanoe

                                                                                                                      and I (and my Wisconsin-born in-laws) find Usinger's bland, and Klement's to be grease in a casing.

                                                                                                                      We even bought Johnsonville when we lived in France (I know -- go figure) -- and they were embraced enthusiastically by British friends, too.

                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                        "and they were embraced enthusiastically by British friends, too."

                                                                                                                        I am saying this without any sense of wanting to say something inflammatory. If I offend you I am truly sorry.

                                                                                                                        I'm British, I currently live in America.

                                                                                                                        Bangers are probably one of my most beloved types of food (Whether they are for breakfast, lunch, snacking, or dinner; anything really, I can never have enough (*This is including different types from different countries and cultures*)).

                                                                                                                        I have tried Johnsonville brats original flavour, JS beer brats, JS breakfast bangers original flavour, JS breakfast bangers maple flavour, JS bangers brown sugar honey flavour, and not just one tasting of any of these (A tasting either being an entire package or half a package). I have not expected any of these to be like a British banger or even to be marketed to a British palate. I actually adore maple breakfast bangers, the kind that are popular in America and, I believe, Canada. I also enjoy German bratwurst from Germany (Which I know that the America type isn’t supposed to be the same).

                                                                                                                        Every banger I have tried from Johnsonville I didn't like.

                                                                                                                        (I know this post is only about the Johnsonville brats, but to give a clearer view on my consumption of Johnsonville I feel it makes more sense for me to talk about more than just their brats).

                                                                                                                        If you blind folded me, I would know which are Johnsonville because they all have the same base seasonings, which for me sadly leaves the different varieties of them tasting incredibly close to each other. There is a specific way Johnsonville tastes and it's unique and I'm certain that it can be very pleasing, I honestly don't find it to be off putting myself (But I feel different flavours should taste distinctively different). I have also found every Johnsonville banger (No matter the type) to be over salted and barely tasting of pork. Johnsonville bangers for me have less of a "chemical" after taste and feeling in my body from other American brands I've tried, but I find it isn't much of a compliment (For honest lack of a better word). The only banger of theirs that I didn't find unappealing to the point where I honestly knew I wouldn't enjoy them if I tried them again was the brown sugar and honey ones, which lightly taste of honey (Although I oddly find that the maple ones tasted almost nothing of maple).

                                                                                                                        I am not saying that I think JS are bad. I am saying I personally don’t like them and this is how they taste to me.

                                                                                                                        I can understand why you feel why the British would know a good banger, but please don't say things that come close to generalising. Many people have many different tastes (Even from the same country, state, town, household) and things close to blanket statements are not good for explaining why you disagree with someone and when it seems like you could be possibly trying to prove why you liking something is better (Clarification: Better than what someone else likes).

                                                                                                                        I honestly have to say: (At the very least) when it comes to food, there is no better opinion of taste; there is only what we on a personal level enjoy ourselves.

                                                                                                                        (I do understand that part of your reply to tiffeecanoe is that they said that they grew up in WI and they don't like JS, but please know that there are other people on this thread who have also said "I grew up in/live in WI and I don't like JS" as well.)

                                                                                                                        1. re: KungPaoDumplings

                                                                                                                          while your missive is impressive, you completely missed the key point of "in France".

                                                                                                                          Nowhere did I say that they were the same thing as a banger (or a Cumberland or a white sausage or any other sort of ground-meat-in-a-casing)

                                                                                                                          I said that they were wholeheartedly embraced by British friends who are living in France.

                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                            "while your missive is impressive, you completely missed the key point of "in France"."

                                                                                                                            I completely admit I am not certain what you mean being in France specifically means to this conversation. Can you please explain?

                                                                                                                            "Nowhere did I say that they were the same thing as a banger (or a Cumberland or a white sausage or any other sort of ground-meat-in-a-casing)"

                                                                                                                            I haven't said that at all either, I actually even wrote about how I didn't expect them to be to British taste, (I only implied this: I'm honestly sorry I wasn't more clear, that's my fault) like any other banger, or even like German bratwurst. I said that even though I like many relatable foods, this wasn't to my taste.

                                                                                                                            "I said that they were wholeheartedly embraced by British friends who are living in France."

                                                                                                                            Why did you originally write this? (I'm honestly asking to know what point you were trying to come across with).

                                                                                                                            1. re: KungPaoDumplings

                                                                                                                              It was an off-the-cuff remark that I thought someone might find interesting, but just wasn't important enough to spend this much time discussing.

                                                                                                                              You're thinking way too hard.

                                                                                                                              I quit trying to generalize the behavior of 60-plus million people several decades ago.

                                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                I guess I just didn't understand what you mean (Admittedly I feel like I most likely still don't, but I well understand how delving into this conversation truly isn't important).

                                                                                                                                I'm sorry if I have offended you.

                                                                                                                                "You're thinking way too hard."

                                                                                                                                What do you mean?

                                                                                                                                Again, I'm truly sorry if I have offended you.

                                                                                                                                1. re: KungPaoDumplings

                                                                                                                                  I mean you're putting entirely more weight and importance to my comments than they really deserve.

                                                                                                                                  I'm flattered, but you're thinking way too much about a rather off-the-cuff remark.

                                                                                                                                  My Wisconsin born-and-bred family like Johnsonville. So do my English friends living in France. That's all. I meant nothing more than that.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                    I'm sorry, when I read what you wrote I completely misread it.

                                                                                                                                    That can be the trouble with written text at times.

                                                                                                                                    Thank you for clearing things up, this certainly has a completely different light to things!

                                                                                                                    2. They have some competition in the DC area, including a brand from Baltimore called Roma.

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                                                                                                                      1. re: MsDiPesto

                                                                                                                        I tried the Roma Italian sausage as well as their National Bohemian sausage. A decent sausage, on par with Johnsonville, but nothing special. If you like Johnsonville, you'll probably like Roma, too. I just wish I had a closer source for Manger's halfsmokes. Now there's a sausage you can set your watch to!

                                                                                                                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                                                          monkeyrotica, if you haven't yet, please go try the sausages at "let's meat on the avenue" in delray. unfortunately, the original butcher has now retired (just recently) and his colleague has taken over. i'm fairly certain the recipes would have been retained. we like the spicier sausages from the butcher there. and WHILE you're there, get the BEST DANG BUTTER around -- amish butter there in the fridge case.

                                                                                                                          the original guy would also make specialty recipes that you provided if you ordered five pounds or more. not sure if the new guy will still do that. (i was looking at a neat greek sausage recipe for him to do).

                                                                                                                          i am still looking for a good old fashioned southern-style bulk breakfast sausage here in northern virginia. maybe that is a task i'll take to the "let's meat" butcher.

                                                                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                            The fresh made sausage at the Dutch Country Market in Laurel is really tasty, as is pretty much everything else they sell: scrapple, souse, Lebanon bologna, pickles, etc.

                                                                                                                            I'll have to give Let's Meat a try next time I hit Cheesetique.

                                                                                                                            http://www.burtonsvilledutchmarket.com/

                                                                                                                      2. Johnsonville Brats and other sausage varieties have been available in Tokyo for a few years now, but recently seem to have been picked up by a larger importer, who advertises them on TV. The represent a pretty good value, and are better than most all alternatives. I don't really like the Johnsonville sausages filled with cheddar cheese, but the Smoked Brats are pretty good. They are about US$6.00 for a 396 gram package of six, which makes them quite competitive. I don't think they are great, but they are not bad considering price and availability.

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                                                                                                                        1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                                                          It is too bad that you cannot get the uncooked ones, because I find them to be a little more palatable than the pre-cooked/smoked ones. But, I'm sure uncooked wurst cannot be imported.

                                                                                                                        2. As far as your position, which I would wholeheartedly agree with you that locally sourced and markedly different and more savory chorizo, et al. would be much different than most bratwurst [let alone a mass-produced one], it is a matter of taste. In having no idea if you tried Johnsonville's original or beer brats that are uncooked/raw or had the manufacturer's inferior pre-cooked/smoked wurst, it could make a difference. I live in Iowa and I opine that Johnsonville is as good as any mass-marketed uncooked brats in my region of the country where they are very popular. What they served as condiments to put on yours [including mayo and relish] sounds repulsive. I am from the mustard and raw or carmelized onion camp. In terms of better wurst in my neck of the woods, one has to source them through a local maker that generally make a more savory wurst. We have several in Iowa [including most of our grocers' butchers] and there are thousands of them in Wisconsin that are every bit as good as the several different varieties of wurst I have eaten throughout Germany.

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                                                                                                                          1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                                                                                            Thirty years or so ago, when my brother and the band he was in went back to their old stomping grounds in Louisville, and I tagged along, we went out one afternoon looking for local sausage. We went into at least three old frame houses with small to medium signs out front and just a screen door to keep the flies out, and every one we went into was redolent of pork and mace, and presided over by some old guy in an apron or butcher's coat. John bought a pound or so from each one, then we took them back to where we were staying and had some kind of feast. By fifteen years later those neighborhood store had gone without a trace. I'm not going to blame Johnsonville or any other large packer for this, but it's just another sad episode in the homogenizing of modern life.

                                                                                                                          2. Check the ingredients, they use MSG in them - that right there is reason enough for me to avoid them. Why on earth would you need MSG in something like a sausage, which you can load up with real flavors so easily?

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                                                                                                                            1. re: Atomic76

                                                                                                                              I agree here.
                                                                                                                              Although I don't have any universal bias against MSG (in some applications, it has a place if used in moderation, and I don't believe all the rampant hysteria it's use seems to generate in some quarters).
                                                                                                                              But having said that, in other places (like sausages from Johnsonville, Hillshire Farms and in some Premio products), it is an totally unnecessary ingredient that seems to leave the distinctively artificial aftertaste I mentioned further up this thread.
                                                                                                                              In my area, fortunately there are still a number of ethnic stores that make their own sausage (Polish, Hungarian, Italian, and even outstanding frankfurters), as well as ShopRite supermarkets whose 'house' brands are as good as any I've ever had. The local products have certainly spoiled me against any of the national brands ...especially the ones mentioned here. It makes me kind of sad that these local places are ignored by many in favor of the largely inferior 'brand name products.

                                                                                                                            2. Thank you I agree 100 percent.. my bf encouraged me all hyped up about them... After eating them he asked how we're they... I replied.. ther were okay!!! He said just ok.. I said yes they were greasy and soaked my bun.... I replied..."it's no polish sausage" not to pleased

                                                                                                                              1. Honestly, I can't think of a more overrated sausage than the Italian varieties.

                                                                                                                                1. http://www.hartmannssausage.com/home.asp

                                                                                                                                  http://sparseuropeansausage.com/

                                                                                                                                  http://www.swanmarket.com/

                                                                                                                                  http://www.usinger.com/

                                                                                                                                  Just a few that I order from, although I think there might be better out there, but the mighty bratwurst reigns supreme.

                                                                                                                                  1. Johnsonville to me seems like nothing more than marketing. For people that grew up eating them and identifying it as their bratwurst baseline, I can understand that (just like how Kraft mac and cheese is the best mac and cheese I've ever had or ever will have). I got into the bratwurst late so I didn't have any childhood memories to fall back on. Lots of other sausages I prefer over a Johnsonville brat.

                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: Bunson

                                                                                                                                      Is Oscar Meyer the best hot dog...or Kraft the best cheese?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                        Only if that's what you grew up loving and have never gone beyond. But there's also room for those who have tried others and still think they're the best. I have my own opinions but try not to judge, unless I'm being 'forced' to eat something I really can't stand.

                                                                                                                                    2. Not fond of any commercial/industrial brats. I read the ingredients, and every package, every brand, has a slug of corn syrup (aka the world's cheapest sweetener) in it. Why do they feel compelled to load sugar into foods that don't need it?

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                                                                                                                                      1. re: emu48

                                                                                                                                        Because it's cheap and it adds weight. Vicious circle because people get used to the sweetness and want things more sweet. Which is why a lot of prepared spaghetti sauce tastes like red Karo Syrup. Sorta the same thing with salt in soups.

                                                                                                                                        Every time I read ingredient labels, I half expect to see something like "Powdered Lead (for freshness)."