Sure, Wisconsin has much more to offer than cheese curds and brats. There's Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesen in Spring Green, Milwaukee's Third Ward, and the Horicon Marsh - one of the largest freshwater marshes in the United States.
But I'll be frank, as a girl from Wisconsin who loves food, the curds and brats are a few of the things I get nostalgic about. Having just returned from a trip to America's Heartland, I want to share a bit of a food-centered recap.
One of my favorite Wisconsin pit-stops is Brandon Meats and Sausage located in, you guessed it, Brandon. As you can see from the picture below, Brandon is a sleepy little town, but it's worth the trek if you're in the neighborhood.
Brandon Meats really has a great selection of fresh sausage, smoked sausage, cheese, smoked cheese, cheese curds, steaks, pork chops, you name it...I mean, come on, take a look at all of those awards on the wall!
And, during the winter months, they'll happily ship cheese or smoked meats.
In addition to the the carnivore and dairy-loving items, there are a number of really tasty treats made from local producers such as local fruit jams and preserves and delicious real Wisconsin maple syrup.
My sausage, cheese, sweet treat bounty was a good one this time! Not only did I ship a bunch of stuff so it greeted me on my California doorstep the day after I got home, but I froze a bunch of brats and put them in my suitcase. I can just imagine what TSA thought of me and my suitcase.
According to Brandon Meats' website, they're the "Makers of the Famous Five Foot Summer Sausage." While I was not aware of that trivia...
If you haven't had summer sausage, it's a Wisconsin staple. I think it's pretty common throughout the Midwest and Canada, but I've only had the Wisconsin varietal. It's absolutely delicious sliced with a piece of cheddar on a saltine cracker. I mean that. A little tang and full of lovely smoked flavor.
The picture above is a small section of Brandon Meats' summer sausage selection. You can get all sorts of flavors of summer sausage, but I opt for just the original. Summer sausage is typically made of pork, beef and/or venison. I happily grabbed one of these bad boys and put it in my box to ship home.
Now we need to discuss cheese curds.
What is a curd you ask? Well, it's the squeaky and delicious cheddar cheese in it's natural shape before being processed into the cheese blocks you see at the store. Eat them plain or fry them up, either way, they're tasty. They're evidently very popular in Canada too (google poutine, it's delicious!). I've tried curds made in California, and with all due respect to my lovely state and its happy cows, it's just not the same.
Add some bits of smoked beef sticks and you've got what folks in Wisconsin call "party mix." In case you were wondering, yes rest assured, party mix is avaialble at every gas station in Wisconsin for a little late night driving snack.
Wisconsin is truly known for brats. You can get pork, beef, venison, or any combination there of. The traditional brat is pork and it's usually grilled up and soaked in beer.
Now, everyone from Wisconsin knows that you don't boil your brat in beer or you'll loose that fantastic flavor. However, get a big pot, warm up some beer and onion and after you grill your brats, toss them in the beer. I dare you to find something tastier.
The first time my husband came to Wisconsin we stopped at Brandon Meats and there was a brat fry across the street. He was sold instantly. Don't be mistaken, at a brat fry nothing is actually fried. Just grilled and soaked in beer. If I see a brat fry, I pull over the car. It's a given.
My brat above is missing one key ingredient (which one of my friends pointed out to me), and that is sauerkraut. I go back and forth on adding sauerkraut, the day I got that brat, I wasn't feeling it. However, it's a fantastic addition.
Now that I have enough smoked meats and cheese to last us a year, I'm content until my next trip to America's Heartland. See you next year, Wisconsin!