Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

For the love of homemade sausages, smoked meats and more April 19, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:05 PM
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Pekarna's Meat Market, famous for homemade sausage, is a popular stop in historic downtown Jordan.

MINNESOTANS LOVE THEIR small-town meat markets.

In the Mankato/New Ulm area, Schmidt’s Meat Market draws locals and travelers alike off busy U.S. Highway 14 into its Old World shop in tiny Nicollet. Famous for its German style summer sausage, the meat market continues operation as a third-generation family business begun in 1947 by Gerhardt and Esther Schmidt.

Although I’ve never been to Schmidt’s, I’ve heard only great comments about the meat. The next time I head west, I’ll have to check out this popular stop.

In my area, Nerstrand Meats & Catering, in the even smaller town of Nerstrand—about 230 people compared to Nicollet’s 900—is the go-to place for meat. Here, the double smoke hams are the specialty at this fourth-generation family business founded in 1890.

I’ve eaten meat from the Nerstrand meat market and can attest to its outstanding flavor and quality.

The same goes for Pekarna’s Meat Market, another fourth-generation, family-owned business that I discovered while visiting Jordan in the southwest metro a month ago. Actually, I should credit my husband, Randy, for finding this delightful butcher shop/retail store. While I was wandering around looking at buildings in this historic Minnesota River town, he aimed straight for the meat market.

Current fourth-generation owner Greg Pekarna’s great grandfather started the business 117 years ago. It is clear to me that Pekarna’s has got a good thing going here, a conclusion I drew upon seeing the long line of customers waiting at the retail counter on a Thursday afternoon in late March.

Two customer favorites at Pekarna's Meat Market.

Customer favorites at Pekarna’s include smoked pork sausage, ring bologna and baby back ribs. Randy picked up brats and bacon. When I microwaved the bacon, I didn’t even have enough grease to sauté onions for the potato soup I was preparing. Now that’s something. As for the brats, I am not a brat fan, but Randy may convince me to try a Pekarna’s brat.

Greg Pekarna behind the counter at a meat market with old-fashioned, kitschy charm.

While at Pekarna’s I chatted a bit with Greg and his friendly employee Sandy Schmitz. I thought, initially, that they were the married co-owners. When I stated as such, the two burst into laughter and Greg joked that would not work, except he said this in stronger words which I won’t repeat here.

Speaking of words, I noticed two signs in German behind the meat counter: “Wilkommen Pekarna’s Meat” and “Jawohl Gute”

I asked for the English translation of Pekarna, assuming it is of German origin. Wrong. Perkarna means “bakery,” in Czech, Greg tells me. Like I said earlier, this guy has a sense of humor.

And like many small-town Minnesota butchers, Pekarna offers high-quality products and great customer service, trademarks that have allowed his business to survive and thrive for more than a century.

Have you discovered a great small-town meat market like Pekarna's Meat Market?

IF YOU HAVE a favorite small-town meat market, submit a comment to Minnesota Prairie Roots. Tell us why this is a favorite stop. Do you like the sausage, the brats, the bacon? Let’s hear your testaments to small, family-owned meat markets.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


4 Responses to “For the love of homemade sausages, smoked meats and more”

  1. Dawn Hegland Says:

    I love my hometown meat market too! The Appleton Meat Center has over the years been a great asset to our community. Many locals swear by their butchering and bring their beef, pork and deer there for processing. Blueberry sausage, apple brats are some of my favorites. It is a family occupation–the current owner’s father is a long time butcher and celebrated many years as a butcher and he still helps out there. Recently under new ownership (Todd and Sue Erickson), they have undertaken inside renovations and started offering baked goods ( we do not have another hometown bakery). They are super accommodating and make great breads (wild rice is my favorite), pies, rolls, buns, cookies and doughnuts. A few weeks ago I stopped in to get some buns for dinner that night and they were out- they asked how many I needed and by what time and they baked one dozen buns special for me hot out of the oven when I picked them up after work! Now that is customer service! Recently Sen. Klobuchar ordered up their baked goods to share in Washington and they were a great hit in DC too.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Dawn, thank you for sharing your story about The Appleton Meat Center. This sounds like one place worth checking out in western Minnesota. I might even learn to like sausage, especially if it includes blueberries, one of my favorite fruits.

      I love that the folks at the Appleton business baked buns for you at the last minute. What great customer service! It is that attention and care for customers that I find so appealing in our small-town businesses.

      Minnesota Prairie Roots readers, let’s hear some more stories about small-town meat markets like the one Dawn describes. Submit your comment now.

  2. Ryan Schroeder Says:

    I’m a decedent of this same Pekarna family that runs this Meat Market – I was really excited to see this! Very cool.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Ryan, I’m so glad you enjoyed the post about your relative’s meat market. I knew the minute I walked in the door that this would make a great little story with some interesting photos. I love discovering small town gems like this.

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