NOTE: IF YOU'RE EXPECTING TO FIND A LIST OF THE BEST SAUSAGES FOR GRILLING, THAT'S NOT WHAT THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT. IT'S JUST ONE OF A SERIES OF ARTICLES I'VE POSTED ABOUT TEXAS-MADE SAUSAGES, SOME GOOD FOR GRILLING, SOME FOR SMOKING, SOME FOR EATING OUT OF HAND.
EJ’s Meat Company, Shiner
For several years I’ve been hearing about the fried chicken at Brookshire Brothers grocery stores and had a chance to check it out recently, twice, in fact, at the Katy and Columbus stores. Whenever I visit a new grocery store I like to take a tour to see what they have I’ve never seen before and since Brookshire Brothers in based in Lufkin, I was hoping they’d carry some products from East Texas. In the meat cases I found a good selection of Texas-made sausages, Holmes from Pleak, Eckermann from New Ulm and Prasek’s from Hillje, and one I’d never heard of before, EJ’s from Shiner. So it seems there are three sausage makers in Shiner (Patek’s and Maeker’s are the others).
I’ve tried all three of the ones I found, a Smoked Pork with Garlic ring, Pork Smokies (with garlic), and Pork, Beef and Jalapeno links (with garlic). EJ’s has a thing for garlic, it seems, and this is a good thing. They use a natural sheep casing and the grind is a medium to fine grind, not the coarse grind usually used by Central Texas sausage makers. My favorite has been the links, pictured above with the smokies. The links were very juicy and flavorful with lots of both smoke and garlic. There is only a modest heat level from the jalapeno, however. Because of the grind they’re very tender, reminding me of the sausages from V & V in Cistern but without the TVP. The Smokies were actually less smoky than either the links or the pork/garlic ring.
I have no idea if EJ’s has a store-front in Shiner or makes other varieties as I can’t find much about them online; I’ve only seen them at the Brookshire Brothers in Katy and Columbus.
Oh, and about the fried chicken: I had very different experiences at the two stores I’ve visited. At the Katy store, the coating on the chicken was incredibly thick and crunchy, to the point of being hard. I’m sure that’s the only time I’ve ever been prompted to wonder if I was damaging the enamel on my teeth by eating fried chicken. Unfortunately the thick batter picked up a lot of grease, too, and I found the leftover pieces from the refrigerator unpalatable without removing the skin.
I think my sample may have been an aberration, however, because what I got from the Columbus store was much better, not anywhere near as thick a coating nor as hard. This is very good fried chicken, very, very juicy and flavorful. The white meat pieces are humongous; one breast from the Katy store must have been at least 7" from end to end. The dark meat pieces (pictured are 2 thighs and a drumstick) are a more modest size.
is located in small towns throughout East Texas.
Update on Pyburn’s Food Market.
I’m happy to report the Pyburn’s on South Fondren is flourishing. Every time I go by or stop in they’re doing a good business. I get their weekly flyer now and I find myself shopping there more often than I anticipated. Even better news is the product line has been filling out very interestingly with sausages from some Central Texas sausage makers I did not know had any distribution in Houston. Near the checkout counters in the front is a rack of jerky from Janak's
in Hallettsville, a Czech sausage maker. In the packaged meat cases besides Holmes and Chappell Hill and Eddy’s from Yoakum there is a small selection of Janak products including summer sausage and dry sausage. There are also some sausages from Big Easy Foods of Lafayette that I haven’t tried.
In the fresh meat cases, in addition to all the varieties of sausages and boudin that Pyburn’s makes (my favorite so far is the Cajun variety, an unspicy version of the Creole sausage) there are a few selections of fresh sausages from City Market in Schulenburg
; I’ve picked up some of the venison links. Actually I had to ask to be sure since the hand-lettered sign appeared to read Schwenburg. There are also some hot links that may or may not be a Pyburn’s product; I haven’t seen nor asked about the famous Schulenburg wieners so I don’t know if they carry those.
In the freezer cases are a few of the frozen entrees from Big Easy Foods, frozen crawfish tails marked as being a product of Louisiana, not China, and frozen rabbit, duck, and quail plus huge baking hens.
The hot foods deli at the front of the store is in operation. It’s called Kim’s Deli. I’ve seen fried chicken and fish, sausage on a stick, boudin balls, fried potato and sweet potato wedges, empanadas of some sort and what look like a couple of caldos. I haven’t tried anything.
See my original report on Pyburn’s here