Food Stories

Documentary shorts — unscripted — featuring farmers, artisans, and others

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A Family Tradition of Sausage Makers: Otto’s Sausage Kitchen (video)

Have you ever wondered what goes into a humble sausage? And, if you knew, would you continue to eat it? Well, good news is on the horizon. This 4th generation German sausage-maker, from Otto’s Sausage Kitchen, makes incredible styles of handmade sausages, without the fillers, and other unnatural ingredients. So, maybe you don’t eat these foods everyday, but they are made with care and love of craft—I would choose any of these over the mass produced hot dog and sausage brands. Again, it comes down to local and fresh.

I discovered Otto’s through the newspaper. What grabbed my attention was the on-premise use of an old smokehouse. What was that about? And the fact the business had been in the family for 4 generations. Cool. Bound to be some interesting stories there. Ottos Sausage Kitchen, Portland, OregonI called and talked to Gretchen about filming a mini-documentary, and she said, sure, come on over. It was a cool morning in early March when Lynn and I showed up. We walked in, introduced ourselves to Gretchen, and did a quick survey of the shop. I put a wireless microphone on Gretchen and began to check levels on the camera. I heard her say, “Hi Grandpa! I’m glad you could make it down!” I turned and saw an elderly man walk in from the back of the shop. “This is Edwin, Otto’s son.”

During an earlier phone conversation I had asked her about sharing any old photos she might have because I did want to explore some of the history of the shop. She invited Edwin to participate, but didn’t tell me because she wasn’t sure if he would be able to make the 50+ mile drive that morning (he is 86 years old, she later told me). Well, he did. After introducing myself, and not knowing how long he would be able to stay, I immediately put a microphone on him, found a place to sit him down, and Lynn began an impromptu interview with the eldest member of this sausage making family, the Eichentopf’s. Afterwards we all drifted to the back area where all the sausages are freshly made, and grandpa rolled up his sleeves, and went to work with the others.

Does anyone still make their own sausages? Let us know if you tried to make them, and whether you succeeded.

Check out one of the favorite family recipes, from this show: The Best Mushroom Soup

—Rebecca

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5 Comments

  1. Don Speranza says:

    When I moved to Portland in 1975 I found it lacking in the comfort Italian foods I grew up on in Rochester, NY. So out of necessity I began making my beloved Sicilian style fennel sausage. All these years later I am still making it but now have the added pleasure of making it from pigs that we raise on our small farm in SW Washington.

    • I know the flavor you have created is beyond what one could find in most stores. We recently purchased some locally raised pig and the taste and texture is wonderful! Factory farms have ruined what meat ought to taste like – or, at least, what it used to taste like. I can only imagine how good your fennel sausages are!!

  2. Rebecca says:

    Glad you stopped by, Flick. Otto’s is one of a kind. Are there some traditional sausage makers in your area? Would love to add them to my next-time-I’m-there list!

    @Lorelle, I never thought about elk or deer sausage…but why not!

  3. Flick says:

    Arrived at this post via Lorelle’s Twitter: what a treat! The video was very well shot and I loved the mini-interviews with the all the different generations. Of course, the sausages made me so hungry I think I might have to actually go and buy some locally made sausages this weekend!

  4. Lorelle says:

    When I was growing up, we raised cattle and hunted deer and elk, so beef and other hoofed creatures made into sausages were part of our life, but we didn’t “make” them, we just provided the ingredients. This is fascinating, seeing the other side of the process.

    Thanks!