Ask 70-year-old Heinz Mattmann about his chosen career, and he will provide an honest and definitive answer: “You can’t learn how to make the best and tastiest sausage in a year or two.”
In fact, he has spent more than a half-century honing the processes and craftsmanship it takes to produce authentic Old World German sausage.
Mattmann was raised in Trimbach, Switzerland. After high school, he moved to the French-speaking section of that country and started his apprenticeship to learn the trade of making meat that is minced and highly seasoned. In 1963, his parents immigrated to America.
“At 16, I began working at Ruef’s Meat Market in New Glarus [Wis.],” Mattmann says. “In 1992, when there was an opening at Bavaria Sausage Inc. in Madison, I took that position. Over time, I became a master sausage-maker. Besides shadowing the 18 other workers, my duties include mixing ingredients together, handling all the smoking and cooking of over 25 different sausages, shuffling the racks into the finished-product cooler, and overseeing the packaging process.”
Normally everything runs very smoothly and stays in sync. However, sometimes there can be a glitch in the smokehouse maintaining the correct temperature. Different sausages require more cooking time, so it’s imperative to keep checking them.
“Once when I helped on slaughtering days, I tried to catch a pig that got loose by his hind legs,” Mattmann says, chuckling. “However, that hog came after me, and to avoid getting knocked over, I frantically jumped into the manure barrel, sank down and eventually went home for a change.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed working in the unique world of making sausage, but for me, all those years truly boil down to a remarkable professional career.”
Click through the slideshow to see photos of Mattmann making sausage.
Persinger lives in Milwaukee, Wis.