Spring arrives with pretzels, apple-laced brats and relish

Minnesotans greeted spring's unofficial start on Saturday with smiles and hoots of wonder. T and I headed to Minneapolis for a visit to our favorite sausage purveyor. Kramarczuk's is one of those old butcher-bakery-delis that's been around since my family lived in the neighborhood 70 years ago. Did Swedes buy from Polish vendors back then? They did if they were smart.

I collected a few links of French chicken apple and apple Gouda brats, maple breakfast sausages, almost a pound of unsliced bacon, and a jar of lingonberries. At the check out I spied soft pretzels and tucked one into our bag as well, with a generous serving of coarse mustard to go.

We didn't wait for the ride back home to break out the pretzel. It was still warm and yeasty, flaked with just the right amount of salt. I dipped good chunks of the bread into the mustard and fed T while he drove. The sun was shining, the windows rolled down, and we had 80's music on the radio. The chewy pretzel was our shared and savored sacrament, and spring's arrival was not lost on us.

My only weekend regret was opting out of Kramarczuk's fat white brat rolls. Our feeble store-bought buns tasted as sickly as they looked. I found myself singing a baker's version of Sir Mix-a-Lot's classic, "I like big buns and I cannot lie. All other pastries I'll deny."

Grilled Bourbon Apples and Onions are just the right condiment for apple-laced brats. At dinner I couldn't decide between the French apple and the apple Gouda, so I split the sausages down the middle and ate them in tandem with a thick schmear of coarse mustard and a pile of Bourbon Apples and Onion Relish. The taste of spring is spiked with green blooms, smoky charcoal, and the first bite of brats fresh off the grill.

Grilled Bourbon Apples and Onions
1 tart apple, cored and sliced thin
1/2 sweet onion, sliced into rings
1/4 cup bourbon or whiskey
1/4 cup white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon coarse mustard
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon cold butter

In mixing bowl whisk together bourbon, vinegar, sugar, and cinnamon. Pour over prepared apples in long shallow dish and coat each slice. Macerate 30 minutes or longer, turning often to coat evenly.

Shake off extra liquid from slices and grill over hot coals until grill marks appear; about 5 minutes each side.

Meanwhile, reduce remaining sauce about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter until melted.

To serve as relish, dice apples and onion and mix with reduction.

Add leftover relish to potatoes or sweet potatoes for an apple hash.


oh yum...now i really want to GRILL!!!

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