The triumphant arrival of October can only mean one thing (no, I’m not talking about football): Treehouse of Horror. This annual tradition started way back in Season 2 of The Simpsons, and every year the show gloriously sets canon aside and parodies classic horror tales. I love these twisted episodes, and it seems more than fitting that this month’s “Cooking The Simpsons” draws from a classic example.
“Treehouse of Horror V” (Season 6) is easily one of my very favorites, since all three stories are top-notch wacky-scary stuff. Rumor has it that showrunner David Mirkin packed in as much gruesome and guts as he could after being hassled by censorship from Congress. The results are glorious, with a parody of The Shining (“Go crazy? DON’T MIND IF I DO!”) and Homer time traveling via a faulty toaster and wreaking havoc across timelines (donut rain!). The final story is “Nightmare Cafeteria,” a play on Soylent Green and full of delicious people food. It begins with the staff of Springfield Elementary lamenting the lack of budget, which has led to the cafeteria using grade F meat. Principal Skinner and Lunchlady Doris realize that they can solve two problems at once by turning the misfit kids in detention into school lunches.
The nastiness starts with Jimbo. He’s sent to help clean up the cafeteria, and while cleaning a giant pot, slips in along with plenty of meat tenderizer. The next day the cafeteria serves “Sloppy Jimbos,” and Üter cuts in line to get a second helping. Skinner sends the portly German exchange student to detention, and when Üter asks for how long, Skinner replies “oh, about seven minutes a pound should do it.” Soon after, the school celebrates Oktoberfest with a festive lunch of “Üterbraten.” Lisa’s suspicions are aroused, and while expressing her concerns to Bart, Skinner overhears and very unsuccessfully tries to reassure her:
Oh, relax kids. I’ve got a gut feeling Üter’s around here somewhere. (starts to laugh) After all, isn’t there a little Üter in all of us? (laughs harder) In fact, you might say we just ate Üter and he’s in our stomachs right now! (laughs maniacally, then looks around and stops) Wait. Scratch that one.
The rest of the story plays out with the teachers getting fatter and fatter, and kids getting sent to detention for the slightest misstep. Only Milhouse, Bart, and Lisa remain, and once Milhouse meets his demise, Bart exclaims “Nevertheless, I remain confident that something will come along and save the two Simpson children!,” and, well, I won’t spoil it for you. Just in case you’re super weird and haven’t seen it but are still reading this article. Plus, we’re here to talk about Üterbraten!
Beyond this being a great episode and being Halloween-appropriate, we are also at the tail end of Oktoberfest. And other than consuming ungodly amounts of beer (Mmm… beer), sausage is the next best way to celebrate this annual German fest. When it comes to German-style sausage, you can’t go wrong with a classic bratwurst. Well, almost classic. I wanted to make these sausage taste like, well, Üter. And what would Üter taste like? (I know this is getting weird, bear with me.) Chocolate, of course! In at least half of his onscreen appearances, the adorable lederhosen-clad blonde is scarfing down candies and chocolates. This led to the addition of toasted cocoa nibs and a touch of cocoa powder to the recipe, and it works surprisingly well with the spices and meat, without being overpowering. It’s totally delicious—definitely a dish Üter would have gone back for seconds for, had he lived to tell the tale.
“Don’t make me run, I’m full of chocolate!” ?Üter Zörker
A note on sausage making: If you’ve never made sausage before, start by reading the helpfully extensive instructions for the Joy of Cooking’s bratwurst that inspired my recipe. There’s just no room for full explanations here, but keep this in mind: it’s not as hard as it seems if you have the right equipment, follow the directions, and keep your ingredients cold. You’ll want to visit a real butcher at a nice grocery store or otherwise, and you may have to order a thing or two in advance. When in doubt while grinding and stuffing, consult the manual for your machine. Also, it’s all a little gross if you’re not a big meat handling person. Which feels appropriate for a Treehouse of Horror recipe.
Sorry, sausages don’t photograph well. Just trust me on this
Inspired by The Joy of Cooking Makes about 12 sausages
To make the sausages:
1 ½ pounds pork butt, fat trimmed and discarded
1 pound beef hanger steak, fat trimmed and discarded
½ pound pork fatback
3 large garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tablespoons roasted cocoa nibs, smashed fine if needed and chilled
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
¾ teaspoon caraway seed
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
3 feet natural sausage casing
To cook the sausages:
6 cups beer (German pilsner is great)
1 ½ sticks butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1. Cube the pork butt, hangar steak, and fat and chill well.
2. Grind in small batches using a 3/16” or 1/4” plate.
3. Combine in a bowl with spices and aromatics. Mix well, cover and chill.
4. Prepare sausage casing as needed.
5. Stuff the casing per your grinder/stuffer’s instructions. Gently twist into 4-inch lengths. Cut sausages apart or leave in a string and refrigerate until ready to cook, no more than two days. They can also be frozen in air-tight freezer bags.
6. When ready to cook, grill or brown the sausages on the stovetop on all sides over medium heat.
7. While the sausages brown, heat the butter over medium heat in a large pot or dutch oven and add the onions. Cook for a few minutes and add beer and bay leaf. Lightly simmer.
8. Once the sausages are browned, add to beer bath and and let cook 12-15 minutes while barely simmering.
9. Serve on toasted rolls with the braised onions and good mustard.
*No Üters were harmed in the making of this recipe.
Laurel Randolph is a food and lifestyle writer hailing from Tennessee and living in Los Angeles. She enjoys cooking, baking and candlestick making. Tweet at her face: @laurelrandy.