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Cheddar brats and onions steep in Crispin Cider on the grill. Then, the infused onions caramelize on the stovetop and the brats get wrapped in bacon and browned directly over the coals. [Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

Tart, refreshing Crispin Cider is the perfect vehicle for steeping cheddar brats on the grill. Once the sausages are infused with flavor and cooked through, they're wrapped in bacon and finished on the grill. Cooking them over the cool part is important because you don't want to ignite the bacon.

Meanwhile, the onions, which steeped in the same Crispin bath, are fished out and caramelized with butter with thyme over a low flame. A touch of sugar speeds that magic along. Then, a light shower of salt finishes them off.

Nestle the brats into soft buns and top them with mustard and those melty onions for backyard-barbecue-bliss.

Note: Simmering the brats in hard cider prior to wrapping them in bacon and finishing them over the coals helps achieve the perfect snap and char. Cooking the onions in the same pot first infuses them with the same, tart-sweet flavor; caramelizing them during a second stage with butter, thyme and a touch of sugar works wonders.

Crispin Cider-Steeped, Bacon-Wrapped Brats With Caramelized Hard Cider Onions

Ingredients:

4 cheddar brats or regular brats
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 12-ounce bottle Crispin Cider, preferably apple
4 slices thick-cut bacon
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt and black pepper
Mustard
Hot dog or brat buns

Procedures:

1. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over half of coal grate, leaving an area without direct heat. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate.

2. Meanwhile, combine brats, onion and hard cider in a 10-inch square disposable aluminum pan. Alternatively, construct a tray out of a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil, 10 inches square, with sides about 2 inches high. Place tray on hot side of grill and cook until simmering, about 4 minutes. Slide to cooler side of grill. Cover grill with vents over the sausages. Cook with all vents open until sausages register 140°F to 145°F on an instant read thermometer, about 15 minutes, turning once in the middle.

3. Remove onions from beer pan using a slotted spoon. Remove brats from beer and wrap diagonally with bacon, taking care to tuck ends in at each end so it won't come undone during cooking. Melt butter in a medium sauté pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Transfer onions to pan with butter. Add thyme and sugar. Let onions caramelize, stirring periodically to avoid burning.

4. Place brats directly on the grates on a cool part of the grill. Cook, turning occasionally and dipping into beer, until well-browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes total. Remove brats and beer pan from the grill.

5. When onions are caramelized, discard woody thyme stems, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Tuck brats into buns, garnish with mustard and top with caramelized onion. Serve immediately.

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