Summer Sausage Bite-Off

Photo by Robb Walsh

Small town Texas meat markets turn out some amazing summer sausages. I would prefer to cruise around the countryside looking for new ones, but HEB provides a pretty decent selection too.

I saw Poffenberger’s jalapeño and cheese summer sausage on the shelf in front of the meat case there the other day. I was curious about the blue ribbon on the package. Turns out this summer sausage won best in category at the annual cured meats competition held last month in College Station by the Texas Association of Meat Processors. The Poffenberger name comes from Jerrod and Marcus Poffenberger, who are the second generation owners of the Bellville Meat Market in Bellville, just outside of Sealy.

What’s it like to judge a summer sausage competition? Is there really much difference between one small town Texas meat market summer sausage and the next? To find out, I bought four Texas summer sausages at HEB and held blind tastings last week. Some tasters also tried some venison summer sausage made by a wild game processor in La Vernia. (That’s the unmarked sausage in the photo.) It wasn’t all that popular and you can’t buy it at the store anyway, so I left it out of the vote count.

Most of the blind tastings were conducted at the Houston Press offices and some additional trials were held at my kitchen counter. In all we had 15 tasters rate summer sausage slices on a scale of one to ten.

Here’s how they ranked:

1. Poffenberger’s Jalapeño and Cheese
22 ounces $7.99
Average score 7.4

2. Prasek’s Hillje Smokehouse
16 ounces $4.69
Average score 6.3

3. Poffenberger’s regular
22 ounces $7.99
Average score 5.9

4. Burton Sausage
16 ounces $2.99
Average score 4.4

-- Robb Walsh

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Summer sausages are some of the most incredible meats I have ever had in my life. When I was a kid, summer sausages really weren't that popular. These days they've gained a considerable amount of popularity. I think it's awesome. I have even been looking for recipes that specifically use summer sausages just because they are so good. 

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