Hot Dish, For The Grill

Minnesota nice Sausage Sisters Pack links with wild rice, apples, more, more, more

My Sausage Sister & Me
Kowalski's Markets
Six locations, including:
8505 Valley Creek Rd.

I have a new cell phone, and if I run around the house with it yelling, "Hold still," it will take pictures of the cat. It knows the music of both Bach and the Clash. It thinks they are both the same. It offers up what I imagine would be a fabulous version of Ms. Pac Man, if I were only the size of a lime. As someone who has been known to lock herself in the stalls of some of Minneapolis's most prestigious restaurants, the better to sketch the pastry, I can only report that this seemed like a good idea, although now that I am bleary-eyed and bleeding from the thumbs, I have my doubts.

Generally, I regard all things that contain both digital bowling alleys and my dentist's phone number with the highest suspicion. I am not too wild about technology. I like objects that are low-tech, that lead their own lives, that help themselves if you only give them a running push. Like what? Like fire, for one thing. Or sausages, for another. Fire. Now, there's a real go-getter. As far as I can tell, the story runs like this: One day we've got Prometheus, soon enough there's Mrs. O'Leary's cow, and here we are, and I defy you to find a North Star State backyard without a fat-glazed grill and a flame-scarred set of cooking mitts. Obviously, sausages have followed the same path: Prometheus likely had someone waiting at home, stuffing casings, watching the horizon impatiently: Tubesteakeus, perhaps.

Dog days this summer: Cherie Peterson and Merry Barry ply their wares at the Minneapolis Farmers' Market.
Jayme Halbritter
Dog days this summer: Cherie Peterson and Merry Barry ply their wares at the Minneapolis Farmers' Market.

Location Info



8505 Valley Creek Road
Woodbury, MN 55125

Category: Community Venues

Region: Woodbury

Meanwhile, readers near and far drum their fingers, waiting for something having to do with dinner tonight.

And so I say: Are you near a Kowalski's? Are you headed to the big Minneapolis Farmers' Market? Because if you are, you can have access to the work of the Sausage Sisters, Cherie Peterson and Merry Barry, who are nice Minnesota ladies on an empty-nest, second-career path which involves being extremely cheerful, extremely well liked, and packing their sausages with so much stuff that they are more than a sausage and somewhat less than a casserole: Minnesota, your Hot Dish for Grill and Tailgating.

For instance, the Chicken Risotto Sausage has within it chicken, turkey, rice, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, cheese, onion, and much, much more: It is like the famous artichoke ramekin, for people looking for a lot more protein, and a far cleaner taste. (Actually, it reminds me most of the chicken meatballs you get in delicacies like Italian Wedding Soup. I think if you start slicing this and throwing this in your soups next winter, your friends will think you've been to cooking school.) The smoked-pork Leave It to Cleaver has so much good old Minnesota wild rice and shredded carrot in it that the texture becomes downright light. (The sausage is named after June Cleaver, the mom from Leave It to Beaver, and to my ear has a nice loopy air of rage to it: Cleave this!)

The sausages are all made for the Sausage Sisters by Lorentz Meats, a small, local smokehouse and meat processor in Cannon Falls that works with local farmers and whose beef jerky and hot dogs I have become addicted to. I think those meat engineers down there are truly geniuses, because all of the Sausage Sister recipes I tried are always tender and well balanced, and never as wacky as they sound. And I am even talking about the turkey sausages with black beans, or the pork ones with dried cranberry and grated orange peel, which just cry out for you to make a pan of stuffing.

My absolute favorite, however, has to be the breakfast sausage made with apples, onion, maple syrup, and bacon--bacon, inside a sausage! Ladies and gentlemen, we have broken all known sausage barriers. I think we are basically witnessing the Concorde of sausage flight, without the pesky supermodels. Ahem. I lose myself in enthusiastic hysteria, but: bacon, embedded within a sausage? Finally, a conceal-and-carry for the rest of us. What next? Can we get cheese curds in the ice cream? I deputize you, Owatonna: Go! Brainerd, see if you can't get pot roast inside of a meatloaf. And St. Paul, with your many colleges, yours is the grandest task: See if you can't get green bean casserole inside of a sausage, with, necessarily, a little stripe of those French-fried onion rings. I truly feel that if you can accomplish this, Midwest Secessionism will finally have the rallying symbol we so desperately need. Provided we can leave the couch, of course.

And where was I? Yes! The miraculous breakfast sausage, full of apples, onions, maple syrup, bacon, sigh, and quite a load of apple pie-type spices, which leave you with the sweet and heady lingering taste of allspice. Marvelous. The name of this miracle? Poppa Joe Meets Granny Smith.

Who is Poppa Joe? Glad you asked. So let us travel back now even farther in time, back to when people had no time because they were shoulder-deep in a metal tub doing the laundry for the farm family, not because they were bowling via telephone. The particulars: Eden Valley (up near St. Cloud), population 800, the early 1950s. The Gaspar family are the Eden Valley grocers. The grandparents, including Poppa Joe, and parents work the grocery and variety store. Let's say it's a Saturday night. Young (sausage) sisters Cherie and Merry sit on the floor, playing jacks. Soon enough their father, Elmo Gaspar, would return from the store, possibly with a package of sausages made by Butch, the butcher. Butch the butcher! No kidding. Soon, the rest of the extended Gaspar family would arrive for supper. (Supper, by the way, is not dinner. Dinner is what you have at noon.) And sometime in the course of the evening, the talk would turn to television. When could they get one, the six Gaspar children wondered? When, when, when? "Some day," said Elmo Gaspar. "Sunday? You said Sunday!" Cried the children.

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