Updated: May 8
Frank Jakubczak retired once again in late summer, 2016. This time he and his family really meant it. The front entrance of the European Homemade Sausage shop was locked for good. The historical property on Milwaukee’s near south side would be placed for sale.
Many remember the first time Frank called it quits. Most wouldn’t tolerate it.
A concerted effort by hundreds, perhaps thousands more online, pleaded for the return of his hand-crafted sausages they had enjoyed for decades. Frank agreed to reopen, but wisely limited his work week. Generations of Kielbasa fans were at peace again, but they knew it would not last forever.
It’s a physical job, making great sausage one link at a time. The last time I shook Frank’s hand, in early 2017, he clearly had the same grip and strength developed over a career of some 60 years that required constant knife work and heavy lifting. I told Frank and his family that one day we could only hope to make the same great products that he has made for so very long.
The hard reality is that making Frank’s sausage and capturing that same flavor and experience is all but impossible.
Food is often the focus of greatest memories. As a boy I would be sent off to Chisago County, Minnesota, to spend part of my summer with my grandparents. I remember many days of fishing and gardening. The specifics of those days are impossible to recall. However, I remember each of those days I first arrived, with my grandmother’s kitchen completely full of fresh baked goods that was her signature personal welcome. Some 50 years later I can vividly remember the taste and smell of those cookies and cakes. Despite having some of her hand-written recipes for the same cookies, they never have tasted anything like Grandma Eleanor’s baking.
Sausage is no different. And let’s get back to Frank.
Every one of those extra days past Frank’s first retirement became even more special for you and me. Long-time customers would happily travel some great distances to stay connected with Frank. The European Homemade Sausage Shop continued to serve patrons making frequent visits, many buying extra packages and placing them in the freezer just in case. Frank’s customers have always known: There has not been, nor ever will be, any sausage as special as those made in Frank’s shop.
The Sommer family represents generations linked to making sausage. My father, his father, myself and my son have shared a passion for making great sausage. Our farm is also the heart of great sausage makers before us, and the Wysocki grandchildren continue to make their great products at the House of Homemade Sausage not far from here.
We plan to open our farmstead kitchen, sausage shop, and brewery for you to try our family’s recipes. We also are dedicated to work especially hard in order to reach something close to Frank’s products. However, to answer a common question from Frank’s loyal and dedicated following: Are you making Frank’s sausage? The answer is: We are working on it!
Soon you can give Old Germantown a try. More importantly, please let us know if we might be getting close to Frank’s legacy products. It very well might be an impossible task, but any compliment will be a great tribute to the Milwaukee master, who is and always has been the most humble of old school craftsmen you will ever meet.
Thanks, Frank! Old Germantown is honored to be connected to your legacy.