Monday, December 7, 2009 at 3:26 p.m.
In search of some authentic Italian sausage worthy enough to play a supporting role as a side dish to our Christmas Eve dinner of eggplant parmesan, we decided to pay a visit to Phoenix institution, Schreiner's Fine Sausages. Schreiner's offers over sixty types of sausage, including Italian, Polish and German, all handmade on site. After chatting up owner Nancy Schiller, we were invited to pay a visit to the wholesale and processing area to see how the sausage was made.
The first thing you notice as you approach the building is the surprisingly delicious scent wafting through the air. Because some of the sausage varieties include smoked pork, meat is smoked at the facility around the clock.
As we opened the door, we were greeted by more of the smoky delicious aroma mingled with the spices used to make the sausage. Sure there was a meat grinder sitting a few feet away, but the place seemed more cozy kitchen than processing plant.
Schreiner's employee Reyes Gomez, who has been with the company for more than 15 years, explained that the company thrives on specialty orders using pork, lamb, chicken, and custom spice recipes. We were there to check out the Italian sausage, so Gomez pointed out the thirty-five pounds of fresh pork waiting to be transformed.
It is no surprise that the sausage making process ain't pretty. The pork is sent through a large grinder where it is pulverized and squeezed back out into a large tub. After the meat is ground, it is sent back through the grinder with a spice mixture. The spices in the sweet Italian sausage are a secret Schreiner's recipe according to 20-year employee Jason Doerschlag.
The next part of the process, and probably the only place we felt the least bit squeamish, stuffing the casing, is all done by hand and this is one of the things that separates Schreiner's from a large mega-facility where machines handle the meat almost entirely from start to finish. Here, the meat mixture is squeezed into a natural pork casing and hand twisted.
The meat is then dried for several hours, after which it is packaged for wholesale or sent over to the small retail facility just across the parking area. Certainly, the sausage itself has a bit of an unattractive twist, but the care taken during the process is a beautiful thing. And if our sausage tastes as good as we think it will, it might just bump the eggplant out of the way to become the star of the show.
Stop by and see the finished product for yourself at Schreiner's Fine Sausages, 3601 N. 7th Street or visit their website at www.schreinerssausage.com
for more information.