Monday, July 21, 2008

El Campo - the 2nd Sausage Capital of Texas?

Nowak’s Meat Market, 205 N. Washington, El Campo (just north of Business 59 right downtown)

One of the inspirations for this blog is Texas sausage, an important part of our culinary heritage which sometimes gets short shrift compared to barbecue, Tex-Mex, chili and chicken fried steak, and I have enjoyed for several years investigating small town butcher shops and smokehouses for their sausages.

There are 3 places in El Campo, or at least claiming an El Campo mailing address: Prasek’s, which is actually located in Hillje a few miles south on US 59, Jr’s, the retail outlet of H & B Sausage Co. of El Campo, located in Mackay about 5 miles north of El Campo on US 59, and, right downtown in El Campo, Nowak’s Meat Market.

Compared to Vincek’s in nearby East Bernard Nowak’s is a small shop. They told me they’ve been in business for 26 years but the building looks like it’s been there a lot longer than that and there are relics of a much earlier mercantile era in a corner of the store. The heritage is Bohemian according to the clerk. A hand lettered sign taped to the front door the first time I visited advertised frying sized rabbits were available; I wondered about squirrels?

They only make 3 sausages here, a half and half (beef and pork), all pork, and a turkey summer sausage that is about 95% turkey and 5 percent pork from what they told me. They also carry a number of other sausages they don’t produce on premises including some interesting looking hot links and turkey franks plus Taylor wieners, a beef and pork, natural casing frankfurter from Taylor Meat Company in Taylor. I had never heard of this company before but apparently they’re widely distributed in Central Texas.

I like the summer sausage; it’s mildly flavored and probably a little healthier for you than a typical beef or beef and pork summer sausage. I’ve found the all pork sausage to be tastier than the half and half which is a bit too lean; both have natural casings. (I’ve only pan grilled them on the stove not in the smoker).

The Taylor wieners are good too, almost as good as my favorite Texas made wiener, Shiner Dogs from Patek’s Shiner Smokehouse.

They had some jerky but I didn’t ask if they made it themselves and some boutique produced preserves, etc., some of it from a company in Corpus Christi, plus a couple of their own canned items that I saw, beets and sauerkraut.

I plan to report on Prasek’s and Jr.’s in upcoming posts.

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