As Martin Ziegler of Deutschland Meats digs his hands into a bucket of ground veal, he begins talking so quickly about pork belly fat, protein, temperature, and grinder settings that it seems like a master class in sausage making.
Here’s a cheat sheet: If sausage meat isn’t mixed enough, the protein won’t be extracted, and it’ll all fall apart during cooking. Colder meat takes longer to mix, and yes, your hands can stiffen quickly and feel like you’ve gone out in February without mittens. The best blend, in Germany-born Ziegler’s view, is 60 percent veal and 40 percent pork fat, but it might be best not to think about that during eating. A finer grind doesn’t affect the taste, but it does make a brat whiter while cooking and gives it a more compact texture. Finally: Never boil a sausage. Are you taking notes?
As he feeds the meat into the grinder and through the casing, he casually remarks that a sausage-making apprentice in his home country starts out by cleaning pork or cow intestines — making my paper route seem much less grueling — but that the FDA here doesn’t approve of the traditional tactic. It’s too bad, because the natural casing allows for a more juicy “snap” when bitten, and that’s actually how knockwurst got its name: The word means “snap sausage.”
When the meat shoots into the collagen casing at Deutschland, intestines again come to mind, since the curly, impossibly long sausage is a nod toward the anatomy lessons of a high school biology class. Once Ziegler spins the ropey stretch into actual sausages, though, it’s time to start looking for the frying pan. He smiles and asks, “You still want to sample some of these?”
Otto von Bismarck once noted that no one should watch how laws and sausage get made, but I’d agree only about the political meat grinder, not the literal one. Talk about innards, pork bellies, and freezing hands isn’t enough to keep me from leaping at the juicy, spiced links as they emerge from the pan. Ziegler, true to his mission to bring the best of German meats and cuisine to the state, is only too happy to keep the sausages coming.
Deutschland Gets Local
Ziegler’s formidable knowledge comes from decades of cold meat mixing and small meat empire-building. He emigrated to the US in 1989, after marrying an American woman. Although the marriage only lasted briefly, Ziegler decided to stay, and began working at Buon Giorno restaurant.
Since he’d earned a master’s degree in food science and meat cutting in Germany, he soon found a higher-level position at Ambassador Foods, as a top manager. After four years there, he became a volunteer teacher in food science at the University of Minnesota, and struck out on his own as a consultant.
In 1993, he married his current wife, Joyce, and of course the wedding had more than enough German flavor to start the marriage off right: The two wed at Gasthof, the restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis known for its big tables, glass boots of beer, and shots of snuff.
As a consultant, Ziegler traveled around the US opening processing plants, but when his first daughter was born, he decided to stick closer to home and began making sausages and frying them up at the Minneapolis Farmers Market. Business grew so fast that after only two years at the market, he decided to open his own processing plant in Sanborn, where the family was living at the time.
Not long afterward, the couple heard about a meat market in Lindstrom that was struggling, and they bought it in 2005, naming it Deutschland Meats. As if that wasn’t enough activity, they also purchased The Glockenspiel in St. Paul about three years ago, and Ziegler has enjoyed tweaking the recipes of the German restaurant.
“I love to cook, I always have, and I like to make the kind of things that they don’t teach in chef school,” he says, going into an elaborate and mouth-watering description of a four-layer cake that he recently made, noting that it had so much rum and brandy it might lead to a hangover. Next up for Glockenspiel, he notes, is oxtail soup, a specialty that’s hard to find in the Midwest, much less the rest of the country. “But we should have it,” he says, with enthusiasm. “Everyone should have access to oxtail soup, it’s great!”
With a meat market, a large processing plant, and a restaurant, Ziegler is sometimes frantically busy, but he’s built his business so steadily, he doesn’t see the need to stop now. He talks lovingly about the huge, mobile food cart that’s stored in a garage back at home, then points to one of the meat market’s walls and notes that he also owns the empty storefront next door.
“Next year, I’m thinking we’ll expand this space and have a restaurant here,” he says. “Kind of a destination place, where people can drive up from the Cities.” Already, he envisions garage door-type exterior walls, a patio space, and fresh sausage selections every day.
Joyce rolls her eyes, remembering how he told her about buying The Glockenspiel on the day he actually sealed the deal. “I don’t even ask about his plans,” she says, jokingly. “I don’t think I want to know. Actually, any chance you want to buy a giant food truck?”
As much as they kid each other, the pair works well as a team. Joyce mainly tends the restaurant, but also bustles around the Lindstrom location, checking on paperwork, hauling boxes from the freezer, and waiting on customers. It’s easy to wonder if the two ever sleep.
As if in answer to those thoughts, Ziegler notes that he wants to expand German specialties in the state, and would love to do more remodeling, and maybe increase the catering business. For good measure, he rattles off a recipe for using the full slab of bacon in the meat market’s front case.
“You should get it, cook it up,” he says, sounding like the state’s unofficial meat ambassador and the perfect salesman, too. When he delivers that broad grin to back up the statement, I have a feeling that my freezer will soon be holding numerous sausages, and a huge hunk of bacon. I’ll just have to resist buying the food truck, too.
12825 Lake Blvd (Hwy 8)
Lindstrom, MN 55045
141 S Main St
Sanborn, MN 56083
Every 2nd Saturday of the month, 9am-1pm
Extended hours during deer season