If you have ever wandered around the Nelson Saturday Market and tried to walk through the main food area chances are you have had to weave your way through the line of people queuing up for a super-delicious and authentic bratwurst sausage smeared with mustard served in a bun at Doris’ food stall.
She has become an institution at the Saturday Market since she started selling her beautiful traditional German meat products there since 1996.
As well as the freshly grilled bratwurst sausages she also has a big range of pre-packaged specialty products to take home and cook yourself and it’s these products I usually buy from her.
A couple of weeks ago I visited her at her at the production kitchen to find out more about her and her products. I had all sorts of questions in my mind, from what her background is to just how authentic these meat treats are and what differentiates them from others.
Doris and her husband, André, started at the Nelson Market with a small cart but their food journey started a long time before that.
Doris is a trained sausage maker from Germany, she commenced a three-year apprenticeship when she was 15 at a small family owned butchery near Wurzburg in Bavaria. “In a small butchery you get to do everything, from butchering the meat to making the product and selling it, they also had a restaurant so I even had to fill in there serving customers.”
While the apprenticeship in Germany taught her everything she needed to know about making sausages and other products she says the most important thing was to understand the tradition, “I loved sausages and knew sausage is important for German people but learning about the tradition means you put all your personal love and effort into making a perfect product.”
Doris came to New Zealand in 1993 and met her husband here, “he may have a French name but he is as Kiwi as you, he was born here” she says.
In 1996 they decided to start the sausage business together, André is an electronics technician which turned out to be a good thing for this young business, “he can maintain all of the equipment and has even made some of it, I specialise in making the products.”
Doris and André started their business by hiring a commercial kitchen for a few hours a week at Founders before eventually setting up a purpose -built processing plant. “the Founders kitchen was fine to service the Nelson Market when we started but we wanted to expand so we built a commercial set up at our home that we used for nearly 20 years.
For almost ten years they also had a cart in Christchurch at the Arts Centre Market, “André went down every week for six or seven years and then someone else ran it for us for a few years, with the Motueka Market and Nelson farmers market in Nelson it meant we used to go to four markets as well as having an online shop.
“It’s quite physically demanding work and after working every day for many years we just decided we needed to downsize, so now our products are only available at the Nelson Market on Saturday and Motueka on Sundays.
“People think I’m crazy for closing the online business but it gets a bit boring just making, packing and freighting stuff, the interaction with people at the markets is much more fun and this is what I really love.
“The market is also a quality market and that’s really important, there aren’t lots of stalls selling imported stuff and that’s what makes the Nelson Market special and why I love going there and why people keep coming back every week.”
So what about those sausages? Doris says you have to put all your personal love and effort into it, “you have to love what you are doing otherwise it wouldn’t taste as good.
“Of course you have to have the best meat to start with, the pork I use comes from Appletree Farms in the South Island and I only use prime New Zealand South Island beef, nothing is imported and Westmeat are very reliable suppliers, they make sure I get the best quality possible.”
The main difference in the range of about 40 different products is there are no bread crumbs, fillers, soya or anything else, “even the skins are natural lamb and pig casings not artificial, that’s why I can’t make a straight sausage” she says with her trademark grin.
The skins are a specialty product, Doris gets her natural casings from a company in the North Island, “they only make them for export but because I have dealt with them forever they treat me and a few other small producers well.”
Doris’ dried sausage is just a pork sausage dried while the salami she makes is fermented and dried and she has about 40 different products in total but the most popular is bratwurst, “I sell more bratwurst than everything else combined because they are the most versatile, everyone seems to like them because they’re not too spicy but still have flavour. They are perfect on the barbecue in summer on mash in the winter.”
These are artisan products, not bulk produced, some of the processes are long, the dried and cured products takes up to four months from the time she buys the meat to being able to sell it, and they are made using meat that hasn’t been pumped full of water. “If I start with 10kg of meat I end up with about 5kgs of salami or bacon.”
I asked Doris if there was anything else she wanted to say for this column and she said “every week people make my day, I can’t believe grown people come to the market and say they have been eating my food since they were children, how they came to the market with their parents or grandchildren and now they come in with their own children and still love the product.
“Thank you Nelson for loving and buying our products for so long, I can’t imagine doing anything else.” But she says the most important person is André, “without him this wouldn’t be possible, we have lots of small specialised pieces of equipment he looks after, he’s the quiet most important person in the background.”