Monday, September 3, 2012

Sweet Pepper Relish and Brat Days Part 3: Sheboygan

It's a bit odd that a lot of people view Labor Day as the close of "grilling season".  Summer may be ending but tailgating season is just kicking off - what better time to fire up the grills?

This weekend I was grilling some Johnsonville Italian Sausage Patties and decided to make a sweet pepper relish for a topping.  This would also work with brats, burgers, and hotdogs at your next tailgate party.  If you want a spicy version, you could just add in some spicier chiles with the bell peppers or increase the amount of red pepper flakes.

Sweet Pepper Relish
servings:  makes about 1 1/2 cups

  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1" chunks
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cored and cut into 1" chunks
  • 1 orange bell peppers, cored and cut into 1" chunks
  • 1/2 sweet onion, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
  • 1 small can black olive slices
  • 2/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flake
  • 1/8 tsp celery seed
  1. Place the peppers, onion, and black olives in a food processor and pulse them a few times until the veggies are minced.  See the picture for an example, you don't want to overdo it and turn them into a paste.
  2. Pour about a quart of boiling water onto the veggies and let them steep for 5 minutes.  
  3. In a large saute pan on medium heat, mix together the vinegar, sugar, pepper flake and celery seed until sugar is dissolved.
  4. Drain the veggies and stir them into the vinegar mix.  Simmer until the liquid thickens which should take about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving. 
Why cut them if you are using a food processor?  Starting off with smaller, uniform pieces keeps you from pulverizing the black olives while trying to get huge pieces of pepper chopped down.

This is the consistency that you want.

I like to put my relish on the Italian sausage burgers and then top with a slice of provolone cheese.

The Italian sausage burgers already have a flavor party going on, adding the tangy sweet pepper relish made it a flavor riot.  We'll definitely be making this relish a few times during tailgating season for cookouts.  

Brats Days Part 3:  Sheboygan, WI
It's hard to believe that it has already been a month since Alexis and I attended the Brat Days festival courtesy of the folks at Johnsonville.  While the food and entertainment get top billing at events like this, we were also very impressed with the City of Sheboygan.  Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, it is loaded with outdoor activities, beautiful scenery, and great people.

"Let's have a fry"
They do have one REALLY ODD regional quirk.  If you are the kind of person that gets bothered when someone refers to a grilling cookout as "a barbecue", then this will really make you nuts...

See the "Give us a Fry" ? 
In and around Sheboygan, grilling brats is referred to as "a fry".  One of the Jaycees said she was confused too the first time she ever heard someone say something like, "My brother is coming over, we're going to get some brats and have a fry." 

People in the South like to think we are the friendliest people around with our "honey", "sweetie", "hey y'all", and our Southern Hospitality.  But the people of Sheboygan are some of the friendliest people we have met.  It seems like everyone greets you in passing.   

We struck up conversations with so many complete strangers that ended up being very interesting people.  For example, some guy made a comment about my camera in passing.  We started talking and turns out he was none other than freshwater surfing icon, Larry "Longboard" Williams.   Dude surfs in winter water temps approaching freezing.....hard core!  We ended up talking about 15 minutes sharing our favorite surfing stories.

Another generalization about Sheboyganites.  Despite their reputation for pounding away beers and brats, I couldn't help but notice there were not a lot of "out of shape" people compared to Tennessee.  Hmmm beer=health food?  I need to look into that.

Alexis with Kevin on the left (who was also our parade car driver earlier in the day).  Sorry for the blurry picture - it was dark, at a concert and there may have been beer involved. 
Life's A Beach
Finally there was the beaches and water scenes.  I didn't realize how pretty this area would be.  Water means a lot of things to do, like fishing, boating, hanging out on the beach, and my personal favorite surfing, when the waves are right.

Lighthouse on the breakwater.

Out on the breakwater looking back at Sheboygan.

We stayed at Blue Harbor Resort.  Never made it to the indoor water park, it was too nice outside!

Blue Harbor Resort at night.

Beach at Blue Harbor

We had such a great time at Brat Days in Sheboygan that we have already decided to go back next year on our own dime as a vacation.  Thank you to Tony and the gang at Johnsonville for inviting us this year and thanks to the Sheboygan Jaycees for being such great hosts!