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A Tradition of Making Sausage

Featuring Clifton & Adela Frantzen, Boerne Texas

Written by Kristy Watson, Feb 6, 2004

Sausage making with Clifton Frantzen and his wife Adela was an experience that I will never forget. And that’s a good thing too, because as Clifton puts it, “This process has to be passed on to the next generation. We do everything the old fashioned way and it takes work. If you are going to enjoy the fruits, you have to put in the labor.”

Clifton and Adela Frantzen stand in front of their home holding a picture from their army and navy days.

It was a cool February morning. The call came from Clifton that the sausage was already being ground up and that they were working at a pretty good clip, so I had better get on over there to the Frantzen farm to see it being made. Clifton had promised me earlier in the year that the next time he made sausage I could be there to watch. I grabbed my notebook and camera and headed over to the Frantzen farm just north of Boerne, Texas.

Clifton and Adela are German descendants – so you know their sausage must be good. Clifton’s grandparents traveled from Germany through Denmark and then to America in the 1800’s and settled in Fredericksburg, Texas along with their 6 boys. Adela also grew up in Fredericksburg – a descendant of the Luckenbachs.  They settled a town after that name which Willie Nelson sings about: “Let’s go to Luckenbach Texas…”

Clifton took me into his work shop. On a table was a tray with the ingredients to make the sausage. “Here is the recipe,” he said.  “We use 4 oz. salt to 10 lbs. of meat and 1/2 oz. of pepper to 10 lbs. of meat. Then we add about 1 tsp of saltpetre for color. We mix these into the meat before grinding. We use 30 lbs. of pork meat to 40 lbs. of deer meat. It’s about a 3/4 mixture. After we cut up the meat into cubes, we first grind with the coarse blade, then we grind it again with the fine blade on the grinder.”

Clifton’s woodshop was set up for making the sausage with a big wooden table placed right in front. The sausage stuffer was attached to the table on one end. A metal contraption with a vessel in the center for the meat, the stuffer had a round cover that swiveled and a hand crank on the right side with what looked like a bicycle chain to drive it. On the front was a round metal tube used to attach the casings.

Adela came from the house with a metal pan of warm water with the white stringy casings floating in it. “They come frozen and I have to run them under warm water to make them big enough to be stuffed,” she said. “I remember when I was a girl, about 75 years ago, and we had to take the casings from the animal. We had to wash them in the river by the house. It was always on the coldest day of the year too. I remember how awful it was to hear my folks say that sausage would be made tomorrow. I was the youngest of eight children. There were six girls and two boys. Cleaning out the casings in the depression days involved removing the insides that were full of manure and turning them inside out and cleaning them. Your hands would get cold in the icy waters of the river. Now we can just buy the casings at the grocery store, so it’s much easier.”

“We used all parts of the animal in those days,” said Adela. “I remember as kids fighting for the kidneys of the animal. We would put a little salt and pepper on them and they were a real treat. We also used the lard from butchering. We put it on bread and we used it for cooking. “

Adela also talked about her childhood memories, “I had a favorite teacher in those days. Her name was Julia Estil. She always looked forward to me bringing her sausage. In fact, I wouldn’t even get in much trouble with her. She was sweet to me and I think it was because she wanted more sausage.”

There were two big metal tubs of ground meat. Clifton took one and began to kneed it like dough. “You have to get the air out of it,” he said. Then he picked up a scoop of the meat and began to fill the sausage stuffer. He punched the meat down into the machine to remove the air and repeated to put in more meat in it until it was full.

Clifton took a sash cord rope and proceeded to seal around the edge of the meat before closing the top. “This is my invention,” he said. “This method keeps the sausage from oozing out around the edges as I squeeze down on the lever.”

Like an athlete that doesn’t have to even practice his technique, Clifton grabbed the casings out of the warm water and quickly wrapped them around his arm – elbow to thumb. After the casings were in several loops, Clifton held them for Adela to cut. They were each cut at about 20 inches long.

Clifton put water on the wooden table so the sausages could slide. Taking one casing,  he attached it to the metal tube on the sausage stuffer. A clip was used on the end of the casing to prevent the sausage from popping out. As Clifton cranked the wheel, sausage filled the casing. The finished sausages were slid across the table and were all lined up in a row.

“You have to make sure that there are no air pockets,” said Clifton. “If you look at sausages sold today, they are full of air and not uniform. My sausages are about a pound each. You couldn’t make money selling mine.”

Clifton reminisced about times when he’d given demonstrations at the Institute of Texas Cultures. “Not everyone wants to see first hand how the process of butchering and sausage making is done. There was a time that I was telling a young girl about making blood sausage and she cringed. I told her to look at the rare steak that her daddy ordered at a restaurant. Look at that red stuff. You know what it is?” I asked her. “That’s blood!”

Clifton stopped making sausage for a moment to tell me about the process of butchering a hog:  “You take a 22 shotgun. They say that the bullet  gives lead poisoning, but don’t mind that. Now, you have to shoot them between the eyes. The hog will drop. Then, you take a sharp butcher knife into the neck by the shoulder into the artery. The blood will drip into a pan and you have to keep stirring it to prevent the blood from clotting. You then get hot water and put it into a big black pot.”

Adela remarked how it was her job to stir the blood when she was a kid. “Oh, I hated that,” she said.

Clifton said, “Everything is used in butchering a hog except for the squeel –  And when the record was invented, they used that too. When the hog was cut for meat, the hind quarters (ham) would be trimmed out as well as the ribs to the front leg (bacon). All of this meat was put in a salt water brine for three days and repeated with fresh brine three times. Of course, you needed cold weather to do this. The meat was then coated in black pepper to keep the flies off and then put into the smokehouse along with the sausage. The trimmings and bones that were left over were boiled in a pot and then the juice was strained and mixed with cornmeal. This was called ‘Panhaus’. The liver was used in sausage (liver sausage) as was the blood (blood sausage). The lard was used in frying, cooking, and for soap. Feet were cut off and cleaned very well and cooked (pigs feet). They were seasoned with vinegar and hot pepper.  A jelly like substance was also used out of the bone. Head cheese was made by scraping the hare off the pig and using all of the skin. In German we call this ‘Schweinhaut’. “

Clifton then began to speak about which generation had the most enjoyable life. “During the depression, I worked all day on a threshing machine for a dollar. We took that work because we had to eat, and the fellow that hired you couldn’t pay you any more than that. In those days we ate corn and other vegetables that we grew in the garden. We hunted squirrel and deer and fished for our meat. We had it rough, but we enjoyed life a whole lot.”

When all of the sausages were ready. Clifton began to tie the ends. “I learned this knot in the navy’” said Clifton. We also used this knot on the farm where we call it a hog knot, but it has a different name in the navy.”  The knot consisted of two loops that crossed in the middle and when pulled tight would really hold without loosening.

After the sausages were tied, Adela made a few cuts of the twine. The sausages were then hung on a wooden pole to air dry for a day before bringing them into the smokehouse. This drying period allows the sausage to be peeled much easier. The smokehouse at the Frantzen’s has a sand floor to prevent sweating. Vents are at the top of the building and a big fan is used to prevent moisture build-up. Wooden bars hang from the ceiling that holds the racks of sausage to be smoked.

Adela took some of the fresh sausage into the house to fry up. She came back from the house with a sampling of cooked meat to try, which we ate on crackers and bread. It was good to relax and enjoy the tasty seasoned sausage for lunch. I knew that it would be even better when smoked, but  I would have to wait several days to try that. As they say, “Good things come to those who wait.”

After we made sausage, Clifton took me into his home-made wine shop. He poured me a taste as he giggled with enthusiasm. “Isn’t it good!”

I’ll sure miss Clifton & Adella Frantzen, but I am glad I was able to enjoy a day watching them do what they loved to do. That is a memory I will not forget.

Kristy Watson

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