Rocky Tays' Story

Houston Chronicle Magazine

November 5, 1998

One of the best known sausage-makers in Central Texas is Rocky Tays, a descendant of German immigrants and wurstmeister of the New Braunfels Smokehouse. The Smokehouse is just off Interstate 35 and Texas 46 South. During Wurstfest, the Central Texas town's venture into sausage-eating hedonism, Tays and company will make 40,000 to 60,000 pounds of sausage. The Smokehouse produces 13 varieties of the meat in an icehouse that has been converted into a packing plant and smokehouse. Sausage-making is in Tays' blood. Besides making it at work, the former schoolteacher makes sausage at home with his family. Even though Tays is proud of using an authentic old recipe that the first smokemasters brought with them from Germany, he admits that a bit of regionalism has crept into it.

"We put red pepper in it," he says. "That's the Mexican influence." Otherwise, it's pure German.

"Every family around here has their own recipe," Tays says. "The stuff that I've done is stuff that my grandfather taught me."

The smokehouse uses both pork and beef for its sausage, and Tays says it consists of 80% or more lean meat. The sausage casings are the intestines of pigs, sheep, and cattle. Each of the fillings has a different grind, depending on the recipe. Each variety also has a different combination of meats.

When he isn't making sausage or serving as one of the Wurstfest's 100 Opas (grandfathers), Tays takes sausage-making into the schools, passing along the German heritage. In his lecture kit, he has an old wooden sausage machine, like those used more than 100 years ago.

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