Good weather means barbecue. Barbecue quite often means sausages. Great for serving a crowd, but of course you want a good quality sausage on the grill or dinner could quite easily go up in flames. I’ve returned from my early summer vacation with some tips on where to get a good sausage.
Is finding a good sausage kind of like finding the Holy Grail? Of course! Luckily I think there is more than one Holy Grail of sausages here on Vancouver Island but I am always interested in tasting the products of another artisan sausage maker here, and this week I acted on a tip from a friend who lives in Lantzville, just north of Nanaimo. If you’ve never been to Lantzville it’s a bit of a hidden treat most people just drive by on the highway. But it has a pub, a great restaurant called Riso (more on that later), spectacular ocean views and easy waterfront access…AND, the Lantzville Market, where you can find Darrell’s Sausages.
Darrell Pirozzini and his brother Dean have operated the Lantzville Market for the past 25 years. Tucked into one corner of the market is Darrell’s meat cutting and sausage operation. He likes getting in whole cuts of beef and pork, cutting and grinding and mixing them and stuffing them into casings pretty much by himself, with a little bit of help. And these sausages have become one of the main features of the market, especially Darrell’s Famous Bratwursts. That’s what they’re called and Darrell explained there’s a reason for that. “Well, years ago I used to work in this butcher shop with a German guy who made bratwurst. It took me years to get the recipe, he didn’t want to give it up. Then I finally got it, and now I’m not going to give it up…but the bratwurst is very popular, I sell anywhere from 80 to 150 pounds of it a week.”
I grilled all the sausages for tasting today, and Darrell passed on a perfect method that I’ve used twice now. Barbecue on medium heat. Do NOT prick the sausages to let any fat out, because there just isn’t that much fat and you don’t want to dry them out. Turn a few times on each side, and when the casing starts to crack open, they are done.
Operating a small grocery store is tough this days. And yet this little market in Lantzville has stayed alive for 25 years now. Darrell says they have major competition in the area from Costco, Overwaitea and Walmart, but he says they survive on being there for people in the small town, selling top quality meats and sausages and relying on word of mouth. Darrell also sticks to something he learned when he was growing up in the business. “If it’s something you wouldn’t buy yourself, don’t sell it. And I stick to that rule today.”
The art of sausage making is still alive and well on Vancouver Island. Other sausages I have know and loved: Galloping Goose Sausage Company, Ravenstone Farm Artisan Meats, McLennan’s Island Meat and Seafood, and Nanaimo Sausage House.
If you are in the Greater Nanaimo area I am hosting a market lunch and book signing with some of the artisans in that area at Riso Restaurant in Lantzville on the 17th of this month. Visit the Stir Cooking School Facebook page for more info, and hope to see you there! Oh, if you missed the column on the radio, click here to listen…