Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Taste-Off: Local Sausages

This is a public service announcement to local pitmasters. I understand that it's easy and cheap to order those mass produced commercial sausages loaded with fillers and overloaded with fat, but if you care at all, there are other good options made right here in DFW. It's not hard to see that making your own sausage could be time consuming, but an easier step would be to seek out some good options not on the Sysco menu. I assembled twenty-four unique sausages for a recent tasting. Most of these were local, but I threw in a few ringers on my personal high end and low end just to see how they stacked up with unbiased tasters.

All of the local sausages collected are available for wholesale purchase. They range from the newish Matador Meat & Wine in Plano (soon to expand to Oak Cliff) to the worn storefront of the hallowed Rudolph's in Deep Ellum. Other local options included Hirsch's Specialty Meats in Plano, Renko's in South Dallas, Syracuse's in Roanoke, Old Town Meat Market in Lewisville and Kuby's Sausage House in Dallas.

The out-of-town sausages were three mesquite smoked links from Nors Sausage House in West, Texas and a couple cheap ones purchased from Restaurant Depot. Both of these are made by J Bar B in Waelder, Texas. They make several brands including Singletree and their namesake (which were both in the tasting) and the familiar Earl Campbell hot links that were not in the tasting. The J Bar B brand was available for the paltry sum of $2.26/lb if purchased by the case and Singletree could be had for just $1.64/lb. That's a scary low price that indicates the use of cheap meats like mechanically separated [insert animal here] along with fillers like modified food starch.

It was a blind taste test where I orchestrated, organized and sliced all twenty-four sausages, so I didn't get an official ballot. Scores were done on a tight scale of 1 to 3 where 1 was the best (you'd suggest it to friends), 2 meant you thought it was just pretty good and 3 meant you wouldn't eat it again.

Mostly complete ballots were collected from ten of my closest meat-loving friends (the vegetarian didn't vote), and here are the results from best to worst:

1.5 Matador Meat Hot Link
1.6 Syracuse Hickory Smoked
1.6 Syracuse Black Pepper Sausage
1.6 Nors Jalapeno Cheese*
1.7 Kuby's Hickory Smoked
1.8 Renko's Black Pepper
1.8 Kuby's Hatch Green Chile Sausage
1.9 Nors Original*
1.9 Renko's Kielbasa
1.9 Renko's Hot Link
1.9 Kuby's Jalapeno Cheese
2.0 Old Town Market German Sausage
2.1 Rudolph's Polish Sausage
2.1 Kuby's Venison Chipotle Sausage
2.3 Hirsch's Smoked Sausage
2.4 Syracuse Jalapeno Cheese
2.5 Hirsch's Andouille
2.5 Syracuse Andouille
2.5 Nors Liver Sausage
2.6 J Bar B Sausage*
2.7 Singletree Sausage*
2.7 Hirsch's Jalapeno Cheese
2.8 Hirsch's Hot Link
2.8 Hirsch's Linguisa

* Not locally produced

Luckily, these kind sausage tasters can remain my friends since they all agreed that the J Bar B and Singletree sausages were less than stellar and that Nors puts out a good product. Seeing Kuby's near the top of the list was encouraging, but it was surprising to see the full menu from Hirsch's near the bottom of the tasting. Both Renko's kielbasa (used by Baby Back Shak and Peggy Sue BBQ) and Rudolph's (used by Mike Anderson's, Big Al's and Hawk's among others) were both right around the middle of the pack. When shopping at Renko's small storefront, I was stunned to learn that their original sausage can be had for $2.22/lb wholesale. I can't attest to its wholesomeness because it's not sold with an ingredient label, but it tasted much better to this small group than the more commonly used value sausages. My personal favorites from the tasting were the Syracuse's black pepper sausage which I'd never tried, and the Nors jalapeno cheese which I knew I liked.

My hope is that these results will bring some awareness to you consumers and BBQ joints alike that there are plenty of locally made meats in tube form for you to enjoy. Now go have yourself a sausage fest.

- BBQ Snob


Matador Meat & Wine said...

If you think the Matador Hot Link is good, try some of the other 10-12 varieties. Not to be missed is the Peppered Beef that got 2nd place at the Blues, Bandits, & BBQ cookoff this summer.

Don O. said...

I would still rather drive to Kreuz in Lockhart for their jalapeno cheese. It freezes great and retains the full flavor. I seldom leave Lockhart without a case or two.

Anonymous said...

The jalapeno sausage at Mac's Barbecue in Dallas on Main St. is unbelievable, not to be missed!

Ben said...

Oh hey look. I work right across the street from Matador Meat & Wine. Will have to stop in and pick up some sausage.

Mr. Gateux said...

I think you should do this again and put them all in the smoker first I wonder would the results change with smoke.

BBQ Snob said...

I'm almost certain the results would change with smoking because it would alter the flavor of each sausage pretty significantly. That's why I just warmed them in the oven so they could be compared on their unadulterated flavor.

Anonymous said...

I did the same comparison at home recently with Kuby's, Hirches, David's, Old town, and Fischer's in Muenster with similar results. David's smoked sausage is worth a taste.

BBQ Snob said...

I completely missed David's, didn't I? How could I forget with all of thos ads in the Observer. I'm feeling a sausage run this weekend.

Joe Perry said...

Yes, but I enjoyed your story. Fischers in Muenster is worth the trip too. If nothing else to watch them stuffing sausage. The products are top notch. Right there with Kuby's. IMO. Anyway, good story thanks.

Mike Avery said...

A couple weeks ago I was BBQing some pork to make pulled pork. Lunch time was nearing, and it was still 7 hours to pullin' time. So, I tossed two Zummo's Spicy Boudin into the smoker on foil. Two hours later, sheer bliss!

Some folks don't like Zummo much, but smoked it was just awesome!


Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.