Sausage through the ages
Oktoberfest is simply a reason to eat, drink and be merry.
“It’s a reason to celebrate the harvest, and the coming of winter,” said Ro Guenzel, master brewer for Kaltenberg Castle and Bavarian history buff. “Drinking and singing and eating – that’s a celebration.”
It’s fitting that Eagle County has three weekends of the festival, as that’s about how long it lasts in Munich. This weekend, the festivities occupy Lionshead Village, and kicks off today at Garfinkel’s with a traditional keg tapping.
Just as Thanksgiving is synonymous with turkey, Oktoberfest means sausage, sausage and more sausage. The first written record of sausage dates back to 900 B.C., in Homer’s Odyssey. Paintings of Chinese kitchen scenes from 500 B.C. depict sausages amongst other foods. During the 1300s, Andalusian manuscripts recommend a sweet sausage recipe including sugar, almonds, cloves and pepper. The ancient Roman epicurean, Apicus, recorded all sorts of flavor variations for stuffed sausages, from dill to parsley to laurel-berries. In 1987, Frankfurt, Germany, had a city-wide celebration in honor of the hot dog’s 500th birthday in that city.
What is a sausage? It’s a highly seasoned meat mixture, stuffed into casing and either smoked – which would preserve them – or cooked and eaten immediately. Bratwurst is made from either pork or a pork and veal combination.
Sausages were developed as a way to preserve and use every part of an animal, even the parts that were too small to smoke or salt. Sausages that were smoked and kept in a cool spot could be eaten months and months after the animal was slaughtered. For this reason, they were often eaten by the Roman army when it was on the move.
Ernst Larese, owner of the Swiss Hot Dog Company in Lionshead, uses a veal and pork mixture, what he calls the best combination.
“Sausages can be made very good or very bad, they’re like lawyers,” he said. “Mine are made very good. You select the meat. In my case, the sausage maker takes the time to cut off the fat, I pay him for that. So you can use select meats, or just the garbage that sits around. You can choose. People like my sausage.”
Larese uses water as a moisturizer, instead of fat, which makes them a bit healthier than standard sausages, he said.
“And natural casings, from the sheep not the pig,” he continued. “They’re good for you, actually, high in minerals. It’s amazing, my sausage leaves a mark on people’s brain.”
His hot dogs get rave reviews from folks all over the world, including Kuwait and the Philippines, he said.
There will be a special Oktoberfest menu at the Kaltenberg Castle, a Bavarian brewery and restaurant in Lionshead. Brewer Guenzel made a special batch of Oktoberfest beer, and Executive Chef Halmut Kaschitz, an Austrian, will present several special foods. He explained what makes a bratwurst a bratwurst:
“Bratwurst is made out of pork,” he said. “They are, where I come from in Austria, it’s always a special kind of a bratwurst – sometimes smoked, with lots of garlic. It also contains a certain amount of fat. That doesn’t sound so good, but it makes it taste good.”
Ian Anderson, communications director for the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau, looks forward to Oktoberfest for many reasons.
“It’s probably one of the only times of the year that you can eat bratwursts without any guilt, because you have to,” he said. “It’s the one last opportunity to gorge yourself before ski conditioning really starts.”
His dog is a big bratwurst fan, too.
Other traditional Oktoberfest foods include big pretzels, rotisserie chickens, and pork shank, said Kaschitz.
“And potato salad,” he added. “Potato salad is a must. You can’t go to a celebration without it.”
Of course, beer is just as important to Oktoberfest as sausage.
The first Oktoberfest dates back to the betrothal of Prince Ludwig to Princess Theresia in 1810, said Guenzel. Ludwig is the ancestor of Prince Luitpold, who owns the Kaltenberg Castle.
“The first celebration went on for 10 days,” he said. “We always make a special batch (of beer). They’re called Fest beers, and are a little stronger, and only brewed once a year.”
In Munich, only beer brewed in the city limits is allowed to be poured for the celebration, which lasts for three weeks.
It’s a reason to drink. It’s a three-week celebration in Munich.
“To me, and to a large part of the community, it’s the last party of the summer,” said Anderson. “It’s a time for locals to come out one last time before everybody hibernates in the off-season. There’s plenty of eating and drinking going on, but it’s really a family event.”
Which is why the Kid’s Zone has so many activities planned for a five-hour block of time. From keg bowling to an egg toss, there’s plenty to keep the youngsters occupied. And of course local favorite Helmut Fricker will be in rare form, which is saying something.
“As many times as I’ve heard some of his jokes, they’re still funny,” said Anderson. “His energy is really mind-boggling. I hope when I get to be his age I can be out there dancing and yodeling and telling corny jokes, too.”
Oktoberfest is free and open to the public. There will be concession and beer stands throughout Lionshead as part of the celebration. Next week, the final Oktoberfest will inhabit Vail Village.
5-8 p.m. Oktoberfest kick-off party, keg tapping at Garfinkel’s
Noon Food and beer service until 7:30 p.m.
Helmut Fricker at Sundial Plaza Stage until 3 p.m.
Roving entertainment until 6 p.m.
2 p.m. Art Walunas, roving oom pah pah music until 5 p.m.
3 p.m. Austrian Swiss Connection oom pah pah music until 6 p.m.
Noon Food and beer service until 6:30 p.m.
Helmut Fricker at Sundial Plaza Stage until 3 p.m.
Roving entertainment until 6 p.m. Austrian Swiss Connection, oom pah pah music at Sundial Plaza Stage until 5 p.m.
3 p.m. Art Walunas, roving entertainment
Kids’ Zone activities and games – north end of Gondola lawn
Saturday and Sunday:
12:30 p.m Egg toss
1:30 p.m. Football toss
2:30 p.m Whiffle ball home run derby
3:30 p.m. Keg bowling
4:30 p.m. Red light/green light
Top 10 sausage-eating areas, as measured by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council in a one-year period based on grocery store sausage sales:
1. New Orleans, La. and Mobile, Ala. 20,853,774 pounds
2. Los Angeles, Calif. 19,604,196 pounds
3. San Antonio/Corpus Christie, Texas 19,141,388 pounds
4. Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 16,755,290 pounds
5. Houston, Texas 15,016,020 pounds
6. New York, N.Y 13,548,861 pounds
7. Chicago, Ill. 3,185,226 pounds
8. South Carolina 11,579,182 pounds
9. Birmingham/Montgomery, Ala. 9,379,925 pounds
10. Baltimore/Washington, D.C. 8,349,746 pounds
Bratwurst – A fresh, cooked or smoked sausage made of pork or a pork and veal combination; highly seasoned; made in links and available both fresh and fully cooked.
Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.
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