Feature

What Is Texas-German Sausage?

The Best of the Wurst

by Daniel Vaughn · October 14, 2014

Last week I spent some time in West Texas eating barbecue. I’ve done a few tours through the area already, so I know not to get excited when I see “German sausage” on a menu, but I had a temporary memory lapse. The prospect of finding a coarsely ground and smoky beef sausage was quickly dashed when a large greasy section of grocery store-grade sausage, ground to the consistency of a hot dog, sat on the plate. I asked around about how this cheap sausage came to be known as “German.” I couldn’t find an answer, so I headed to Central Texas to find the origin of what we consider to be authentic Texas-German sausage.

The rise of the Texas meat market began in the nineteenth century, as I’ve chronicled on TMBBQ before, a response to the increasing urban population’s demand for beef. Barbecue as we know it today sprung from these original meat markets. Which isn’t to say these were places dedicated to serving smoked meats, like the restaurants familiar to us now, but rather markets that extended the sales potential of their raw beef leftovers by cooking them as ready-to-eat meats. Any scraps or trimmings not cooked off as smoked cuts made their way into sausages.

Sausage even made an appearance in the earliest advertisement for barbecue, a description of a Bastrop butcher’s stall, found in the October 25, 1878 edition of the Brenham Weekly Banner.

Bastrop Butcher clipped

By the 1880’s, smoked sausage could be purchased at Kemper Bros. in Fort Worth, Fritz Fisher’s in Brenham, and the competing interests of John Kohler’s and Alexander & Gill’s in Bastrop.

Many of these meat markets were run by German immigrants or those with German ancestry, people from families that migrated to Texas in the 1830s and 1840s (the Czechs wouldn’t bring their sausage traditions to this country until the early 1900s). With these families came food traditions and culture, in this case, Old World sausage skills. But not everyone was happy with this influx of German links. A disparaging report from the Dallas Daily Herald came in 1875:

“A German sausage factory has been established in Austin. It may not be amiss to remind our city authorities that this is a splendid opportunity to dispose of our surplus dog crop.”

German Sausage map

A map of immigrant populations in Texas.

Then in 1882, William J. Moon, the man who would make German sausage famous in Texas, started stuffing links in Elgin. When Moon began his meat delivery business, his motto was “Butcher Today, Deliver Today.” Bryan Bracewell, the current owner of Southside Market, recently described Moon’s early operation to me. “He was a small town butcher that slaughtered beef, pigs, and lamb on a piece of property about a mile outside of town,” Bracewell said. “He’d haul the fresh meat into Elgin and sell it door-to-door from a horse drawn buggy. The barbecue and sausage was just a derivative of having fresh meat and no refrigeration. If he wasn’t a good salesman that day, he had to smoke it or smell it.”

Southside Market sign

By 1886 Moon had opened a storefront in downtown Elgin, and the popularity of his spicy sausages grew, eventually earning the affectionate title of “hot guts.” Today at Southside, they use a recipe similar to Moon’s original. They’ve taken out some of the cayenne and black pepper to tone down the heat, but it’s still an all-beef sausage in pork casings. Bracewell is mum on the other ingredients, but from the ingredient list on their packaged sausage, I can tell what it doesn’t have in it: garlic.

Texas-Czech sausages all contain garlic in one form or another, but Texas-German sausages are simpler: beef (primarily) coarsely ground and seasoned with salt, black pepper, and maybe some cayenne, stuffed into natural hog casings and smoked. “It’s like a farm sausage,” Bracewell said. “Meat, salt, and black pepper. There’s nothing in there like herbs or garlic that isn’t shelf stable.”

German Sausage profile

Sausage at Prause Meat Market in La Grange.

Southside Market isn’t the only Texas-German sausage business in Elgin. R.G. Meyer opened Meyer’s Elgin Sausage in 1949, using a recipe his father Henry brought back from Germany. Meyer’s opened a restaurant in 1998, three years after Elgin was named the Sausage Capital of Texas, a designation bestowed upon the Texas Legislature in 1995.

German Sausage Chisholm Trail

Sausages ready for the smoker at Chisholm Trail BBQ in Lockhart. Photo by Nicholas McWhirter

Lockhart, the Barbecue Capital of Texas, is also home to some mighty fine Texas-German sausages. Charles Kreuz Sr. opened Kreuz Market in 1900, and the original sausage recipe is still being used today by the Schmidt family at both Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market. It’s an 85-to-15-percent beef-to-pork ratio with salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Both joints use pork casings now, but Rick Schmidt told me they used to use beef casings. “My dad and the Kreuzes always used beef guts to make the sausage,” but the supply for beef casings dried up soon after he took over, so they made the switch to pork casings.

German Sausage Louie Mueller1

Three types of German sausage (regular, jalapeño, and chipotle) from Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor.

They also add some bull flour as a binder. Schmidt said he tried making it without the bull flour once. “When I cut into it was like hamburger meat that crumbled and all that juice just ran everywhere.” Kent Black of Black’s BBQ in Lockhart agrees. His restaurant has been serving Texas-German sausage since 1932, and it’s all about the beef. Black said that ground pork has enough of natural binding capability, but beef needs some help, and that’s where the bull flour comes in.

German Sausage Kreuz 01

Kreuz Market sausage

Don’t assume that cutting out pork means these beef sausages aren’t juicy. There’s still plenty of fat in them, and it’ll run down to your elbows if you aren’t careful. One of my favorites is in Luling at City Market where Joe Capello has been smoking them since 1962. “Now we’ve got the pork ribs, so the trimmings from the ribs go into the sausage now, which makes it about 95 percent beef and five percent pork,” Capello said. “We tell them it’s beef sausage, but it still has a little pork in it.” Buy a link or two and swipe them through their mustard barbecue sauce to experience one of the finer bites of Texas barbecue.

German Sausage Luling

Sausages on the pit at City Market in Luling. Photo by Nicholas McWhirter.

After asking around, nobody could tell me if there was a particular German sausage recipe that the Texas version was imitating, but Rick Schmidt recalled how he was convinced of the provenance of Kreuz Market’s recipe.

“I couldn’t answer that until about twenty years ago….A charter bus came through at the old place. It was a big group of German citizens…A lady came and asked me ‘are you the owner?’ I said ‘Yes mam.’ She said ‘I want to tell you that your sausage is the only sausage that I’ve tasted here that reminds me of my hometown.’” Schmidt asked for further explanation. “She said ‘each little town has a wurstmeister, a sausage maker, so each town has its own flavor. Your sausage tastes like my hometown.”

Schmidt said he was too stunned to ask what her hometown was, but that’s how he knows his sausage is a German sausage, and that’s good enough for me.

*****

Other barbecue joints across Texas where you can find Texas-German sausages:

Bellville Meat Market in Bellville

Black’s BBQ in Lockhart

Chisholm Trail Barbecue in Lockhart

City Market in Luling

City Meat Market in Giddings

Cousin’s BBQ in Fort Worth

Davila’s BBQ in Seguin

Gonzales Food Market in Gonzales

Hays Co. BBQ in San Marcos

Kreuz Market in Lockhart

Lockhart Smokehouse in Dallas and Plano (From Kreuz Market in Lockhart)

Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor

Luling Bar-B-Que in Luling

Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse in Elgin

Prause Meat Market in LaGrange

Smitty’s Market in Lockhart

Schmidt Family Barbecue (From Kreuz Market in Lockhart)

Stiles Switch in Austin (From Thorndale Meat Market in Thorndale)

Southside Market in Elgin

Zimmerhanzel’s in Smithville

Comments

20 Comments

    Ray says:

    Does the sausage at Gonzales Food Market count as Texas-German style?

    Ken Goldenberg says:

    Very timely Daniel after my email to you about who to order sausage from – Thank you!!!

    Jim Miculka says:

    You left off probably the best German – Czech homemade sausage in all of Central Texas. On your next research trip, pick up a few links of Weimar Sausage from Kasper’s Meat Market in Weimar, Texas. It’s still one of the few old style, family run meat markets around.

    Brad Banner says:

    Green’s Sausage House in Zabcikville east of Temple
    http://www.greenssausagehouse.com/meat_market.html

    country joe says:

    Fishers in Munster tex.

    Laurice Melton says:

    I’ve heard there’s a great German sausage place in hillsboro Texas or was, does anyone know if it’s still around and what’s the name of it?

    Sherri says:

    Back in the 70s there was a wonderful place in Copperas Cove (outside Killeen) that made the most amazing German sausage. Does anyone remember it or know where to find it?

      Layne says:

      You may be thinking of the German Sausage Fest hosted by Trinity Lutheran Church in Copperas Cove. It is held the first Saturday of November, and the sausage is an all-pork, family recipe.

    Pam says:

    Hesse Meats and Fischer’s Market in Muenster, Tx both make great german sausage .

    Elizabeth Small says:

    Is there any way that I can order these sausages through the mail?
    I had them one time and they were delicious.

    Fred Calvert says:

    Tallent in Riverside has great German sausage!!!

    Steven O. says:

    It seems that every time I watch a tv program about Texas barbque or in this case reading about German Sausage. The authors never mention some of the best tasting places in Muenster and Lindsay, Texas respectively. People go from all over to Fischer’s Meat Market in Muenster, Texas to purchase their smoked German Sausage. You all need to start realizing there are places along the Red River that can beat any “central” Texas place. After all the Red River area is the true North Central Texas region. Not Dallas.

    Dave Brandt says:

    My BBQ catering business makes a mean sausage, many have compared my sausage as being very close to tasting like Elgin hot guts sausage. Goes to show you there are really good tasting sausages all over this country of ours.

    Robert Jones says:

    For the BEST German Sausage you have ever in your life eaten. Contact Ragan Locker in Darrouzett, Tx., small town NorthEast of Amarillo, Tx. Same family Recipe since 1961. I PROMISE, the best you’ve ever had.

    Glen Thompson says:

    Some of my best memories as a child were visiting my grandmother in Granger, Texas.
    I always looked forward to breakfast with the best, spiciest link sausage that I still crave. My grandmother always made a trip to the Taylor Meat Market in Taylor for the sausage when she knew we were coming.
    The Granger, Taylor area was heavily influenced by the German, Bohemians, and Czechs immigrants and man did they know how to make sausage!

    Thanks for writing this piece. I am a fellow BBQ (especially sausage) aficionado and this answered some questions I had. The only puzzling piece is that I find little similarity between the sausage in Elgin and the ones produced in Lockhart or Luling whose “ring” sausages are far grainier. I prefer the Lockhart – Luling style over any other I’ve experienced. There is a Luling City Market in Houston near 610 and Richmond Ave. They claim no affiliation to City Market in Luling but they provide the very same style of sausage. I’ve always considered this place a bit of a curiosity, but I do enjoy their BBQ!

    Rick Kropp says:

    I don’t know how, But my father some how always found this sausage we called German Sausage.It was and still is the best German Sausage Iv ever had. It looks nothing like a bratwarth or a curry worth when its cooked the meat breaks out of the top and bottom, We used to get it at a small stand at a place called 4 corners Texas because it intersected 2 highways. Id buy 30 pounds of it if I could find it. Iv looked at every German butcher and have yet to find it. I believe that 4 corners Texas was close to Umberger Texas. If anyone knows where I could find this sausage PLEASE contact me at rlkropp@gmail.com, I don’t know how else to explain how this sausage looked or tasted but its the best German Sausage Iv ever eaten, My father even found a place in Athens, Greece, ( Im a military brat) but he could find it anywhere we traveled while he was in the service. Thank you, AND May God Bless

    I am probably looking for a needle in a haystack. In the early 50s, through the 1970s, there was a store in Victoria, TX call Neumans. They made a German Sausage that was out of this world. Throughout the years I would travel from California to Texas once a year and would stock up with their Beef and beef and pork sausage. A few years ago I returned to discover that the store had been closed. Anyone know anyone in the Neumann family, or make the sausage with the same recipe? I would sure like to know.

    Sheila L says:

    You have left out Woody;s Smoke House in Centerville TX off Interstate 45, can visit on either side of the interstate. It is awesome good and you would want to include it with all others above.

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