Apple, Cheddar and Sausage Breakfast Strata is the perfect Christmas morning breakfast. It is an unforgettable savory and sweet make-ahead breakfast casserole. You’re going to love it!!
This post is sponsored by Vermont Smoke & Cure. I was compensated for my time and received free product. All opinions expressed here are my own.
One of my first jobs when I moved to Vermont in 1998 was cooking breakfast in a 10-room Inn. I was the 2-day a week cook while the other 5-day a week head chef, Winnie, took her days off.
Aside: The rest of the week, I also worked at a café owned by the same owner. My job there was also to cook breakfast and on the weekends, brunch. My nickname within a few months of having the job became Brunch Spice as if I was the long lost 6th Spice Girl. This was more than a year before I went to culinary school, but I had plenty of 22 year old ‘tude to go with the name. I was embarrassingly confident.
Anyway, Winnie had her whole system at the Inn down to a science, and she made my job pretty easy. She would do all of the product sourcing and she would prep me out for my day of cooking. I’d arrive at 4:30 in the morning, the Inn completely silent. I’d tip-toe in, put on some coffee and find my menu for the morning.
She liked to offer one sweet and one savory dish each morning. I’d find a chalkboard with the menu: Ricotta Stuffed French Toast with Raspberry Coulis, and Spinach and Mushroom Omelets with Whole Grain Toast spelled out in neat writing. It sounded elaborate, but Winnie would prep it all out for me. She always knew just how many eggs to beat for the omelets and how many mushrooms to sauté in advance for me.
Not only that, Winnie would have cut fresh fruit, sealing each type of fruit separately into containers so they wouldn’t become mushy. She’d baked scones and muffins the night before, I’d just warm them up in this funky old-fashioned warming oven.
After breakfast service, I would then plan the next mornings breakfast, and spend the next several hours prepping and baking. I loved that part. I could get really creative and Winnie gave me tons of leeway. As long as there was an ingredient on hand, I was allowed to use it. I had a couple cookbooks that I loved to use, but I also loved coming up with my own ideas. I was the fearless Brunch Spice!
I remember making some sort of eggs benedict with bacon and mashed avocado topping instead of hollandaise and a guest actually came back into the kitchen to ask for the recipe. I am sure she was disappointed when I told her I had just made it up on the spot. I also remember a somewhat unfortunate experiment with capers that resulted in a tomato coulis that was so incredibly salty I had to throw it out. Oops.
On my second shift of the week, after service, I would then prep Winnie out for her incoming day. It was a brilliant system.
I distinctly remember walking in one morning to find the chalkboard with Winnie’s Menu planned out for me: The egg dish was called: Pigs in the Orchard.
Um, what? What the heck was Pigs in the Orchard?
Turns out Winnie had been making this dish for years, and the guests at the Inn always fawned over it. It was a breakfast casserole of sorts with lots of eggs and cheese and it was studded through with sausage and apples. It was rich and festive and the sweet and savory combination was simply irresistible. Whatever we’d serve as the sweet option that morning was surely to be ignored by all of the guests. They all had to try the Pigs in the Orchard and they were never disappointed.
The best part for me was all I had to do was pop it in the oven and bake it while I organized the rest of my prep.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago I was talking to my friends at Vermont Smoke & Cure. If you haven’t heard of them, they’ve been making “Better Meat For All” in their smokehouse in Vermont since 1962. They specialize in uncured bacon, meat sticks, hams and sausages that are raised without antibiotics and hormones and are made without any added sodium nitrites or artificial preservatives.
Vermont Smoke & Cure just released a line of craft sausages recently and I am in love with the hard cider bratwurst. It uses hard cider from a local cider producer who’s also here in Vermont, Citizen Cider. It makes the sausage a little sweet, but not nearly as some of the chicken apple sausages on the market. This is definitely more savory. We had it in our Thanksgiving stuffing and it was amazing!!
I love the Vermont Smoke & Cure products, so I mentioned the idea of making a breakfast casserole with their Hard Cider Bratwurst and Apple. They loved the idea for an easy make-ahead Christmas morning casserole. I didn’t want to scare them off by calling it Pigs in the Orchard. Brunch Spice probably would have had the guts to call it that.
Apple, Cheddar and Sausage Breakfast Strata is the perfect Christmas morning breakfast. It is an unforgettable savory and sweet make-ahead breakfast or brunch casserole for the Holidays!
- 8 large eggs
- 1 cup non-fat or low-fat milk
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons chopped sage
- 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 pound sourdough sandwich bread crusts removed and cubed
- 2 apples peeled, cored and finely diced
- 1 12- ounce package Vermont Smoke & Cure Cider Bratwurst cut into half rounds
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese shredded and divided
- Beat eggs, milk, mustard, sage, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a large bowl. Coat a large 9 by 13 baking dish with cooking spray.
- Layer half the cubed bread into the casserole dish. Top with half the apple, half the sausage and half the cheese. Top with the remaining bread, apple and sausage. Reserve the remaining cheese in the refrigerator for step 4.
- Pour the egg mixture over the casserole trying to moisten evenly. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate 8 to 12 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Bake casserole, covered, until it is steaming hot and the center is starting to puff, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove foil, top with the reserved cheese and continue baking until the cheese is melted and the top is golden 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving.