Have you ever noticed how a brisk walk on a crisp, sunny fall day can make a person hungry? Something about falling leaves and cool breezes arouses certain cravings. Some are satisfied with hot chocolate or a cappuccino; others crave a beer and a burger. For me, it’s sausages sizzling in a cast-iron pan with apples and onions.
But where do you get good sausages these days?
Choices can be limited at supermarkets. There are lots of sausage-shaped options, in assorted flavors, precooked and vacuum-packed, sold in the grab-and-go cold case, near the hot dogs. They make a quick, cheap dinner, but many I have tasted aren’t exactly thrilling. There is good news, however: There are some pretty delicious new-generation packaged sausages, stocked at some grocery stores and always available online.
To find the best supermarket bratwurst, I assembled a little team for a blind tasting. We looked, unofficially, at a few criteria, assessing flavor, authenticity, texture and deliciousness, among other qualities.
The packaged brands that passed muster were made by the Piggery in Ithaca, N.Y.; Flying Pigs Farm, sold at the Union Square Greenmarket and online; Olympia Provisions in Portland, Ore.; Niman Ranch of California; The Meat Hook in Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Brooklyn Cured (also in Brooklyn).
There are still good butcher shops, though, that make sausages in-house, both traditional establishments with European roots and new wave places run by earnest young butchers with high standards and sustainable values. Given the choice, I prefer a butcher shop, where my sausages come wrapped in paper instead of impermeable thick plastic.
There are often more choices at a butcher shop, too. Besides brats, there may be bockwurst, veal frankfurters, fat knackwurst or delicate weisswurst (the pale finely ground sausages similar to the French boudin blanc), a particular favorite of mine. You may need to do a bit of traveling to find such a shop, but it is well worth venturing afar, if just for the intoxicating olfactory experience. I returned from a recent outing with a bag of assorted plump sausages, a chunk of slab bacon and a smoked ham hock.
But let’s face it: No matter where you buy your sausage or which sausage you choose, savory spiced caramelized onions and apples fried in butter make the perfect accompaniment.
Recipe: Sausages With Apples and Onions
Where to Find the Best in New York
If you’d like to take your own autumn sausage tour in New York City, why not start on Long Island at Karl Ehmer in Patchogue (since 1932)? There is Stammtisch Pork Store next to Zum Stammtisch restaurant in Glendale, Queens (since 1972) and Morscher’s Pork Store in Ridgewood (since 1957), too.
In Manhattan, check the venerable Schaller & Weber on Second Avenue near East 86th Street, and Fleishers Craft Butchery on Third Avenue and East 76th Street. In Brooklyn, there’s the 100-year-old Staubitz on Court Street in Cobble Hill, and the sustainable, whole-animal butcher The Meat Hook at 397 Graham Avenue in Williamsburg.