A student-led project is giving Husker Nation a unique — and tasty — opportunity to get fired up.
Having smoked the competition for a second time in as many contests, a jalapeño popper bratwurst developed in 2016 by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Faith Rasmussen has been crowned a national champion. Both victories were earned at the Battle of the Brats at the annual meeting of the American and Canadian societies of animal science. The most recent victory came during the annual meeting, July 7-10 in Austin, Texas.
The competition pits brat recipes submitted by universities nationwide for a blind taste test. The winner is selected via popular vote cast by participants at the annual meeting.
“Winning this competition, for us, is all about bragging rights,” said Gary Sullivan, associate professor of animal science. “It also confirms what we already know — that students within the Department of Animal Science make some outstanding products.”
The recipe came together through a contest presented by Sullivan to his graduate students, which included Rasmussen.
“I asked the students to make a great bratwurst with one stipulation — that it not just be a jalapeño and cheese variant,” Sullivan said. “Faith took that as a challenge and made one of the best jalapeño brats I’ve ever tasted.”
The recipe is based on a jalapeño popper — a hollowed out jalapeño pepper stuffed with a mixture of cheese, spices and sometimes meat (including bacon). The bite-sized items are a staple on restaurant menus.
“Faith picked the flavor because it’s one of our favorite appetizers,” said Becca Furbeck, a second-year graduate research assistant and doctoral student in animal science. “She had some difficulty incorporating the cream cheese. But, once she figured out a process where you freeze it, cut it up and then put it into the mix, we knew this was going to be a big hit.”
Bursting with a balanced mix of peppery spice, salty pork and ooey-gooey cream cheese, the sausage was first crowned Battle of the Brats champion in 2016. It earned a second national title earlier this month during the society’s annual meeting and trade show, held July 8-11 in Austin, Texas.
“We didn’t win with a Reuben bratwurst in 2017 and there was no competition in 2018 because the meeting was in Canada and we couldn’t ship meat across the border,” Sullivan said. “When they asked for our signature brat this year, we knew immediately the jalapeño popper was our choice.”
The brat has consistently been a top seller in the Department of Animal Science’s Loeffel Meat Shoppe. Located at 38th and Fair streets in the Animal Science Complex on East Campus, the shop sells primarily meat products prepared and processed by university students.
All proceeds from the store support animal science-related instruction and programming.
“We had recently ran out of stock and needed to make a new batch ahead of the contest,” Furbeck said. “I was a little bit surprised it won again. But, that’s great because it shows that Nebraska’s animal science students make some really great and consistent products.”
Nebraska team members that assisted with the 2019 Battle of the Brats include Sullivan; Furbeck; Steve Jones, professor of animal science; Calvin Schrock, research lab manager; and Reo Weeks, research lab assistant manager.
Rasmussen graduated with a Master of Science in December 2018. She currently works in research and development for the Kraft Heinz Company.
Packages of Nebraska’s jalapeño popper bratwurst are available for purchase in the Loeffel Meat Shoppe. Hours are noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Learn more about the shop.