Schmidt’s Meats of Nicollet and the Story of Cannibal Burger

Schmidt's Meats in Nicollet, Minnesota

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

In 1947, Gerhard Schmidt and his wife Esther, American-born offspring of German immigrants, decided they wanted to open a meat shop. Gerhard had learned the meat trade in Arlington, Minnesota, but wanted his own business. They looked all over southern Minnesota for just the right place before purchasing a tiny storefront on Pine Street in Nicollet. Was it intuition? Or a visionary view of the future, in which the little town of Nicollet would draw a healthy business from the larger communities of St. Peter, New Ulm, and Mankato, from which it is almost equidistant?

“No,” said Gerhard’s grandson Ryan, the third-generation owner of Schmidt’s Meats, laughing. “It was dumb luck. I think of all the towns and shops they looked at, this was the only one that had living quarters above it.”

Ryan Schmidt of Schmidt's Meats in Nicollet, MN

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Practical, yet still prophetic. The shop, which was minuscule when the young couple bought it 68 years ago, has more than tripled in size, and now has 50 part-time and full-time employees. Schmidt’s butchers meat for local farmers, who in turn sell it to their own customers. They are also a full-service retail shop, offering pretty much every cut of cow and pig you’d expect to find, along with numerous marinated or dry-rubbed, oven-ready versions. There’s also an large deli area, and even a line of private-label condiments.

Schmidt's Meats in Nicollet, MN

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

But there are two things in particular that Schmidt’s is known for. One is its huge variety of housemade sausages, especially summer sausages. The walls are lined with plaques and awards Schmidt’s has won for its sausages. Gerhard got things off to a solid start with a good basic summer sausage recipe that the shop still uses, but over time, new flavors evolved — everything from sweet to savory, mild to spicy. There’s a pungent Garlic summer sausage with more than just a dab of garlic to it, but if garlic is something you prefer in moderation, try the Swan Lake — it’s a cross between the mild original flavor and the kicked-up garlic version. The German Beer summer sausage is strongly peppery, but if you want something on the milder, sweeter side, check out the Minnesota Style sausage, with blueberries, honey, maple syrup, and wild rice. Schmidt’s also offers a lineup of products that reflect the store’s German heritage, including Gretzwurst and Landjaeggers.

All the sausages are processed in Schmidt’s gravity smokehouse, which is kept stoked with logs from the huge woodpile behind the shop. Retail manager Mark Gudmundson noted that the sausages spend 48 to 52 hours in the smokehouse, but the process is different from traditional smoking. “The sausages are more fermented than cooked,” he said. “We go by the Ph level more than temperature.” The resulting sausages have both a smoky flavor and a tanginess that makes them addictive.

Cannibal Burger from Schmidt's Meats in Nicollet, MN

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

The other big draw is something you don’t see at meat counters everywhere: Cannibal Burger. Known elsewhere as “tiger meat” or “wildcat,” Cannibal Burger is beef coarsely ground with onions and spices and meant to be served raw on crackers or rye toasts — kind of a bare-bones steak tartare. At Schmidt’s, the Cannibal Burger is not mystery meat or odds and ends, but top round, ground first thing in the morning, when the grinders are still fresh from the previous night’s scrubbing (have we mentioned how immaculate this shop is?). The name might not be appealing, but the meat is so tender it pretty much melts in your mouth and is surprisingly delicate in flavor. One bite, and it’s easy to forget about the raw part (not to mention the cannibal part), and just focus on putting more meat on more crackers. Gudmundson noted that at one time, raw egg yolks were used as a binder, but with the rise of egg-based salmonella, they stopped doing that.

Schmidt's Meats in Nicollet, MN

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Note to visitors to the Nicollet area: this summer, State Highway 99 (the main thoroughfare) is undergoing construction and expansion. But if you have a hankering for quality summer sausage or Cannibal Burger, set your GPS for alternate routes and make a nice drive of it. Just remember to bring a cooler — raw meat is best not left in a hot car.

Schmidt’s Meats
319 Pine St, Nicollet, MN 56074
507.232.3438
Hours:
Mon-Fri 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Sat 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

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10 Comments

  1. sharon 07/13/2015 Reply

    So glad that we are able to live so close to such a wonderful & marvelous meat market. We love stopping & getting our meat for the trip to the lake. It’s always busy whenever we stop.

  2. I live in Nicollet hwy 99 not under construction hwy 14 is.

  3. Author

    Anita, when I drove down 99 last week, there was a sign saying construction would start on 7/20, and the folks at Schmidt’s said it’s being turned into a four-lane.

  4. While living in New Ulm Schmidts was s weekly shopping tip. Now retired in Florida we really miss the summer sausage. Now we only get it once in awhile

  5. gary kollmann 07/13/2015 Reply

    idid a lot of schmidts sign work over the years. back a few years bruce ask me when i had time totouch up the schmidt man logo. when i had time. so maybe a week or so i took it down . to redo it at my place. bruce noticed it was missing one day and forgot he told me to redo,he then called the sheriff and said his sign was missing.

  6. Schmidt’s has some great meat but it should be noted that at least some of their summer sausage has msg in it (or did last summer anyway). Also note that their landjeagers (one ‘g’) are not the more common dried sausage, but rather the style that I’ve only seen around New Ulm — it’s really beefy with lots of coriander seeds, you can also get it at the Kaiserhoff and formerly at the late great New Ulm Sausage Shop.

  7. Brenda 07/14/2015 Reply

    schmidts is truly amazing!!!

  8. Mary (May) Koll 07/14/2016 Reply

    I remember growing up in Nicollet and getting bologna and dreamsicles. We have a good meat market here in Little Falls but it does not come anywhere as great as Schmidts.

  9. Amy, hwy 14 is being turned into a 4 lane, hwy 99 is the detoured route and is the main road that is still open.

  10. Steve g 07/22/2016 Reply

    I live in Mankato once a week we go to Schmidt’s for meat and sausage.don’t go anywhere else.great place to go.

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