Have Brats, Will Travel

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There are two things you can do with those heirloom recipes your family has been enjoying for generation upon generation.

You can keep them hidden away under lock and key, and pull them out only on very special occasions.

Or you can turn them into a business.

Think Famous Amos' cookies. Think Marie Callender's pies. Think Nan Ridenour's bratwurst.

Better yet, eat Nan Ridenour's bratwurst. And mustard. And funnel cakes. All of which spring from ancient family recipes, and all of which this Payson entrepreneur through her mobile food-service company, Country Concessions will cook up right in your back yard, at your company barbecue, craft fair, festival, wedding, or anywhere else you might want to treat small or large groups of folks to good outdoor eatin.'

Her clan's long-beloved "Sheboygan recipe" for bratwursts, Ridenour says, contain "no fillers and a minimal amount of fat, unlike the name-brand brats you buy in the stores.

"I could tell you exactly what's in them, but then I'd have to shoot you."

Ditto for the mustard and funnel cake recipes. But after you taste these incredible edibles, it seems like getting shot would be a small price to pay.

Happily, Ridenour is not averse to offering tips on how to cook perfect bratwursts:

"You can't cook them too slowly and you can't turn them too often. That's pretty much it, beyond the ingredients. It has to be nice, lean pork."

Ridenour doesn't stuff her brat skins at home. She works with "a sausage company in the Valley, and that's as much as I'm going to tell you because I want to keep that a secret, too."

The reason she farms out her sausages, she explained, is that "the health department just requires too much to make these at home; you have to be set up just like a restaurant."

Having grown up in her parents' Missouri eatery, followed by 27 years working as a real estate professional in the Valley, Ridenour didn't think that food was in her future.

Two years ago this month, when she was ready for a career switch, Ridenour decided to emulate her brother and sister-and-law, who had turned the family bratwurst, mustard and funnel cake recipes into a massive vending and catering business.

"They do big events, I do little events all over Arizona, anywhere where I can cook everything on site," Ridenour said. "I've gone to Henderson, Nevada, and I'm thinking of branching out into Colorado, New Mexico and maybe Missouri. My motto is, 'Have grill, will travel.'"

Actually, she has plural traveling grills: a portable model for smaller parties, and a 10-by-12 steel-framed canvas kitchen for bigger jobs like the World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo, for which Ridenour has served for the past two years as vendor committee chairperson.

Although she prefers catering jobs involving a minimum of 100 people, "I'll do a lot less than that, even just a few people, depending on how busy I am," Ridenour said. "People should just call and ask."

If you plan to also ask for her recipes, though, be sure to wear a bullet-proof vest.

For more information, call Nan Ridenour of Country Concessions at (928) 468-0609, or write to P.O. Box 2124, Pine, AZ 85544.

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