By Kris Leonhardt
Walking into the Wenzel plant, the sweet combination of smoke and spices reflects the deep German heritage in which the company’s original sausage was created.
Having its American origins seeped in a time when each pioneering Wisconsin city held an iconic cheese factory, brewery, or sausage market, Wenzel’s Farm has survived due to its willingness to experiment and change with the times.
What started off as a side business to fill the summer months soon turned to a full production line of its signature four: wieners, bologna, braunschweiger, and liver sausage.
When office manager Karen Draxler came to the company in 1968, Wenzel’s was still producing the signature four as well as a product called Mettwurst.
“It’s kind of a cross between a summer sausage and a bologna,” said Draxler. “It was more for older people. The younger people just don’t go for the kind of stuff.”
Mettwurst ingredients consisted of beef and pork and beef hearts.
“We also had a jelly beef loaf, a tongue loaf, and a three-in-one. It had a half ring of liver, a half ring of bologna, and a piece of sausage in the middle,” Draxler said.
Other products made over the years include blood and tongue lunch meat, pickle and pimiento loaf, thuringer, barbecue sauce with beef, head cheese loaf, Dutch loaf, olive loaf, and New England loaf.
Though many of these goods have come and gone, three of the signature four products continue as mainstays in the company.
Liver sausage, which is different from braunschweiger in both its formulation of spices and cooking process, is the most requested sausage product that Wenzel’s has discontinued.
“I liked it, and we still get many, many calls,” explained Draxler. “They would like to have it back.”
Wenzel’s Farm’s product list today includes bologna, wieners, braunschweiger, summer sausage, thuringer, bratwurst, Kielbasa, and an unlikely product that has become tremendously popular as sausage converted from a meal staple to a grab-and-go snack.
“We had hired a plant manager/sausage maker by the name of Ike, and he introduced us to making beef sticks,” recalled Draxler. “He was from India. He could make them, but he never ate them.
“I don’t think they thought that it would branch out like it did, especially all of the different flavors.”
Wenzel’s Farm currently produces 50,000 beef sticks per day.
Next week: The estate takes over