In the 1950s, two young German butchers, Harold Quaas and Heinz Specht, made their way to Baltimore and started making sausage. At the end of the month, after more than 40 years of making bratwurst, liverwurst and dozens of other meat products, they will stop.
Slowed by health problems and facing a new meat inspection system, Quaas, 68, and Specht, 57, are closing Paul Schafer Meat Products Inc. on Kenwood Avenue in Northeast Baltimore. The plant, an unimposing brick building in a residential neighborhood, supplies sausages that are sold in Baltimore and also shipped throughout the United States.
The impending closure has upset fans of forced meats. "We're going to miss them," said Ed Mueller, whose family has run Mueller's Delicatessen in Northeast Baltimore for 50 years. "People came from everywhere for their liverwurst. Germans love their sausages, especially at Christmas."
Recently, I talked with Quaas and Specht in their small office. They reminisced about their "salad days" as sausage makers.
Quaas recalled arriving in Baltimore on July 4, 1954; meeting Paul Schafer at the German House, a restaurant and fellowship hall at Cathedral and Preston streets; and being hired on the spot. Schafer, a butcher by training, would expand his fledgling meat-and-bakery business into a thriving grocery operation.
Three years later, the Baltimore sausage business hired Specht. He, like Quaas, had been trained in Germany as a master butcher, a program that required years as an apprentice, learning all aspects of the trade. "Give us a pig, and we can turn it into a finished product," Specht said.
The two men worked in the Kenwood Avenue sausage shop. Their wives later got jobs in Schafer's Old World Delicatessen on Eutaw Street across from Lexington Market. This store sold so much sausage that the doors on the display cases were removed during the Christmas rush to allow the crowds quick access to the goods, Quaas said. Later, Schafer stopped operating the store. And 22 years ago, Quaas and Specht took over the Kenwood Avenue sausage- making operation when Schafer retired.
Quaas summed up his sausage-making philosophy in a sentence: "You use good stuff and good spices." When pressed, the sausage makers were more specific. Specht said one key is using lean beef, usually bull meat, and mixing it with pork. While many sausage makers use this mixture, they differ in the kinds of spices they use. Polish sausage makers are fond of garlic, Specht said, but Germans go easy on it.
Sausage makers from outside Baltimore are asking for the recipes, Specht said, adding that no decision has been reached on what to do with the recipes.
A federal meat inspection system known as Haccp also figured in the decision to close, Specht and Quaas said. The regulations require them to test for disease-causing bacteria. Quaas and Specht say they don't want to take on the new procedure.
Specht's 27-year-old son, Heinz Jr., who has worked at the plant for seven years, said he did not find the Haccp procedure daunting. But he said he did not plan to take over his dad's business.
Recently, wholesale customers have been ordering extra supplies and sausage eaters have been journeying to the plant on Saturday morning when it sells retail. "Everybody tells us they don't want us to close," Quaas said. "We say, 'Sorry, but that is the way it is.' "