For our daily nourishment needs, we all shop at one of our two great HEB stores or at the Walmart food store. But almost hidden around the Texas Hill Country are some little independent mom & pop style family operations providing us with some tasty treats from their European ancestry. They also have added some Hill Country twists such as mesquite and pecan wood smoking and the addition of cheese, jalapeños and some other unusual products that are so favored in Texas. All of these markets provide high quality fresh beef, pork and chicken. But, that is not what we will discuss in this issue.
Several of these markets were founded decades ago as farm animal slaughter houses and processing plants where local live animals were processed from on the hoof into food products. They also were known as “Lockers” that rented freezer space to consumers who did not have the then expensive home refrigerators or freezers. All of these markets are also custom game processors for the hunters who flock to the Texas Hill County for native and exotic game.
Daddy Jim’s, Loop 534, Kerrville and Hwy. 16, Bandera
Daddy Jim’s, named for owner Danny Applewhite’s father, offers the greatest choice of unusual gourmet sausages and meat products. Danny is a lifelong butcher and sausage maker. Danny was the specialty fresh sausage maker for HEB’s first Central Market on North Lamar in Austin and then at the Broadway store in San Antonio before coming to Kerrville to open his own market. He also continues that tradition at Daddy Jim’s in Bandera, the self-proclaimed Cowboy Capital of The World. The market is managed by his wife, Shirley. One of Daddy Jim’s market favorites is the lean Mexican-style Chorizo. To get this Chorizo to brown in a skillet you really need to add a bit of cooking oil. The Chorizo also makes a great, spicy burger patty in the skillet or on the grill. I have used it in little meatballs in a Mexican tortilla soup.
Daddy Jim’s fresh-made sausage selection varies from week to week, but it will always include a specialty chicken sausage. A tasty appetizer is the chicken, feta and spinach. I steam it then grill it lightly for more flavor and serve it sliced with jalapeno jelly. For sweet sausage lovers try his maple blueberry pork breakfast sausage. Seasonally, you may also find sausages of Hatch green chili and pepper jack cheese, Bratwurst, Boudin, German Potato, fresh pork and bacon or homemade genuine frankfurters (around the summer Hot Dog holidays) in the meat case.
The smoked Kerr County sausage and andouille are a wee bit spicy but make a great grilled meal or in jambalaya or gumbo. The regular and peppered jerky, summer sausages, and ready-to-eat smoked “Buck” pencil sticks of sausages in different varieties are favored by hunters and outdoorsmen. Daddy Jim’s also has the hard to find California-style gourmet Flatiron steaks and Tri-Tip roasts for quick grilling.
Bernhard’s Meat Market, 2920 Junction Highway (Hwy 27), Ingram
In 1952, Milton Bernhard and his older brother, Earl, started Bernhard Ingram Lockers, Inc. that later become Bernhard’s Market. In 1995, Mark Lampson purchased Bernhard’s from Milton and kept the name. Bernhard’s moved to their present location in 2005. Bernhard’s has an extensive offering of ready to eat smoked meats and sausages including peppered turkey, pork tenderloins and pork chops. They also have a selection of the cheeses we grew up with, like the traditional orange colored Longhorn Cheddar, the processed Pepper Jack and Swiss cheeses along with several wax coated, aged cheeses.
Back in the mid-1980’s, Bernhard’s became the only local processor to ever process a hippopotamus. The docile hippo had turned rogue and killed several registered Black Angus cattle on an exotic game ranch in Utopia and had to be put down. Exotic meat purveyor, Zimmer Meats in Chicago, purchased the animal from the ranch and contracted with Bernhard’s to process it and ship it to Chicago.
Dzuik’s Meat Market, 608 Hwy 90, Castroville
Dzuik’s (pronounced Jukes) was my first adventure in Hill Country meat market. Our family leased a hunting ranch in Val Verde County on Lake Amistad back in the late 1970’s. We would drive through Castroville and if Dzuik’s was open we would stop for some jerky and dried sausages for our hunting trip. Should we bag a deer on the trip, Dzuik’s was our choice as processor for venison to become summer sausage, jerky and breakfast sausages.
In recent years, I discovered and now crave their Parisa. Parisa is a dish that came from the Alsatian area of France with the immigrants. It’s not found anywhere that I know of, other than in the Texas Hill Country. It is similar to a paté, made with uncooked meat and served cold. It is traditionally served on plain saltine crackers. I like mine with a thin slice of fresh cucumber on top. The Parisa made at Dzuik’s is hand chopped (not ground) very lean, beef round steak, shredded cheddar cheese, onion, fresh jalapeno, garlic, salt, ground pepper and lemon juice. They make it every day. It must be kept very cold and eaten within twenty-four hours of purchase. Everyone who has tried it loves it. Dzuik’s also makes excellent fresh, unsmoked Alsatian and Polish sausage with no preservatives. Traditionally it is boiled or it can be grilled.
Alamo Market & Lockers, 509 Front Street, Comfort
Alamo Market & Lockers, a family-run institution since 1947, closed in 2010 because the founding Pankratz’s brothers were ready to retire. Early in 2013, Trevor Stakes and his wife Judy, along with his cousin/investor Johnny Canavan, acquired the premises and brought Alamo Market back to life. Trevor and his wife worked tirelessly, renewing its 1940’s look.
The Alamo Market uses their own, several generations old, family recipes for their fresh, smoked and dried varieties of sausages and other specialty meats. Three of the delicious specialties are Parisa, Pon-haus and the dried sausage. Their Parisa is made from ground beef round steak, cheddar cheese, onions, jalapenos, lemon juice and a family blend of spices.
Pon-haus better known as Scrapple in the Pennsylvania Dutch country, and is traditionally a concoction of pork scraps and trimmings (Alamo uses only slow-cooked Boston Butt) combined with cornmeal, wheat flour, and spices. The mixture is formed into a semi-solid, congealed loaf and then sliced in half-inch slices for cooking. The slices of the Pon-haus (or scrapple) are then pan-fried to crisp and browned before serving. Please try it before forming an opinion.
When I visited the Alamo Market for my article research, they were sold out of their dried sausage. Even though they had a sign on the door about the dried sausage not being ready until the next day, several people came in wanting to purchase it. Trevor showed me the some 300 links in the smoker that needed one more session of smoking that night to truly dry the sausage. By the next afternoon, every link was sold.
Great Gourmet Choices
If you are a carnivore, you are in one of the very best areas to taste and enjoy a larger variety of locally made meat products than are available anywhere else in the country. If you are in the area of any of these markets or find yourself with a nothing-to do-day, visit these fine culinary treats and buy some of these unusual products to surprise and delight your family and friends. And don’t forget your ice chest with a couple of blue gel packs to keep your prizes safe and fresh until you get home.