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Herrmannsdorf: learning about sausage, bread and cheese

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

 “We would like to instil in the minds of consumers again that the artisan production of food really is an art,” is how Karl Schweisfurth explains his ambition. Since the beginning of June 2014, Herrmannsdorfer Landwerkstätten has been offering courses no longer just at weekends to turn this idea into first-hand experience.  Four events a month have been organized in a food workshop set up specifically for this purpose on the farm to the south-east of Munich. Their target group consists not only of committed consumers who would like to experience how sausage or bread is made but also staff from specialist wholefood stores. What they experience can help them in their everyday work behind a counter.

(Picture: The farm shop as specialist organic store in Herrmannsdorf)

“We’ve noticed that from year to year our customers have been getting more interested in the actual production of food.” So what was more natural than to mount courses where organic food is produced and processed in order to pass on the know-how accumulated over the last 25 years. A roughly 150 m² room was set up with tables and all the right equipment to run courses with between 12 and 20 people. “The offer most in demand so far has been butchering half a pig and making bratwurst.” This involves participants learning what is special about processing warm meat (without adding curing salt, phosphate and citrate), how a mincer and a sausage filler operate and how a good sausage mix is seasoned with herbs and spices. (Pictures on left and right: Taking part in one of the first sausage processing courses in Herrmannsdorf)

Seven different courses are currently being offered: two on sausage production (2-3 hours/4 hours), two on meat processing and two on baking. In the case of baking, one is for pretzels and rolls and the other covers loaves of bread. The participants learn a great deal about grain, types of flour, yeast, sour dough and doughs with long and short fermentation rest periods. The courses are at various times over the weekend and on one evening in the week (e.g. 18.00 – 21.00). Very popular are courses combining making weißwurst sausages and baking pretzels. The courses can also be booked by groups.

The specialist trade can not only register individuals for the courses but can also have whole courses organized specifically for them. Monika Hartmann heads the bio-catering team at Herrmannsdorfer Landwerkstätten. She organizes firms’ events and private celebrations, with the possibility of integrating course content and tours to see the pigs and chickens, the market gardens and the food production facilities. Meals can be had at their own on-site pub Zum Schweinsbräu

(Pictures: A view of Zum Schweinsbräu; Restaurant staff; Taking a break in front of the workshop)

The The people at the Herrmannsdorf Landwerkstätten constantly apply themselves to improving their organic agriculture and processing. The ‘grand symbiosis’ has been particularly successful: 15 cattle, 80 pigs, 1,000 chickens and 400 ducks live together on a clover grass field of about 3 hectares. The whole area occupied by the animals is fenced. "We see some nice symbiosis," explains Karl Schweisfurth. "The cattle keep the grass short, and the pigs and chickens have always got young fresh grass. The pigs turn the soil over, and the chickens peck for worms and tasty morsels." Moreover, hawks wouldn’t dare to get at the chickens because they’re afraid of the cattle. After a couple of years, the mobile stalls and the fodder and watering facilities are moved to the next field, and on the freed-up land – well manured and rejuvenated - they continue the rotation with wheat and rye.

Supplies of meat and sausage products from their on-farm butchery go to over 100 shops mainly in the south of Germany: wholefood shops, fine food shops, farm shops, plus restaurants and company catering. Within 24 hours, the fresh food service of the haulage company Dachser takes supplies twice a week to all parts of Germany. They don’t supply the conventional retail trade. In the Munich, Nuremberg and Regensburg region, they use their own vehicles to deliver goods to their customers several times a week. Customers are, for example, VollCorner with over a dozen specialist organic stores in the Munich region, the specialist organic health food store Biogate in Trier, the celebrity chef Vincent Klink (Wielandshöhe), and the organizer of the Muffathalle (also in Munich), whose slogan is: Bierhalle, no Junk. The Viehhof open-air cinema and ten Aramak company restaurants in Munich sell Hermannsdorf organic sausages. (Picture on right: Chilled truck at the farm)

Not every customer of organic sausage gets his fresh meat from Herrmannsdorf. “Fresh meat is and will continue to be a product that requires a high level of input for which you need specialist staff. That’s a way of creating a different profile from organic stores that don’t go in for fresh products,” says Schweisfurth. However, staff have to run a meat counter well and with a sense of responsibility or otherwise it can quickly become a loss-making undertaking.

The sausage product range (130 references!) has been expanded over the last 25 years with a myriad of specialities. Particularly impressive are the hams cured on the bone, like San Daniele ham, ham-liver sausage from free-range pigs and the mould-ripened fennel salami, that was awarded gold in 2014 as the best organic product in Bavaria. In five rooms you see several thousand massive hams and slim salami sausages on racks and hanging from hooks undergoing a maturing process that can take anything up to two years. The total value of sausage products in the dark vaulted curing cellars is around € 90,000. An outside smokehouse, the so-called “Selch”, built with wooden beams, is where sausage and ham are cold smoked. (Picture on left: Karl Schweisfurth in front of posters with his organic butchers)

Master butcher Jürgen Körber is especially keen on warm meat processing. However, it’s only possible if animals are slaughtered on-farm and the meat can be processed while it is still warm. This is hardly found at all these days, because slaughtering has been centralized perversely in large-scale abattoirs. But it’s still possible at Herrmannsdorf thanks to considerable investment in a modern hygenic slaughtering facility. Meat is therefore processed within two to three hours after slaughter while still warm. This means no added citrate or other chopping additives in sausage production. (Picture on right: Hams in the maturing cellar)

Around 100 organic farms in south-east Bavaria benefit from the extensive marketing system of the Hermannsdorf company.They all belong to an organic association, and many of them are pioneers in organic farming. “We would like to target support at smaller farms in order to preserve the traditionally small scale of agriculture in southern Bavaria and to enable small farmers to survive long-term. This is why we have some suppliers who bring us only one or two animals a year, even though this seems costly in terms of organization,” Schweisfurth explains. Except for poultry, all the meat is slaughtered in the butchery belonging to Hermannsdorfer Landwerkstätten, and they don’t buy in meat for shops or processing.

Comprehensive information about the different sorts of sausage and ham is provided in a detailed and well illustrated brochure that contains a brief description of the available varieties, all ingredients (full declaration), reference to allergens, curing salt, lactose, etc., and a short description  of the skilled work involved in production. (Picture on left: Ham and salami)

All the spices used in producing sausage are mixed on-site and some are even grown on the farm. Last year, all industrial sugar in the sausage was replaced by honey, which means that the Herrmannsdorf farm meets the strict guidelines of Slow Food Germany. The fine liver patés are produced fresh every week – cooked as in France in a dish and glazed with a layer of gelatine. They have recently introduced new products and now offer fast food like a ready meal of lamb curry, veal ragout and chicken soup, all in 500 g jars (picture).

“Every week we get between one and ten coaches or groups bringing us regular visitors,” says a delighted Elfriede Hintz, who is responsible for marketing and PR work at Herrmannsdorfer Landwerkstätten. This means that everybody – from school children to clubs for the elderly - have an opportunity to experience first-hand how pigs, cattle and chickens can be kept under strict animal welfare conditions.
“The several thousand visitors in all age groups experience an extremely varied farm with artisan processing, and they like to stay for lunch too and  know all about what they are eating when they taste the results of our special production methods here,” says Frau Hintz, who represents the Hermanndorfer Landwerkstätten in the organic processors’ association AöL. A visit is then often rounded off with a Cappuccino in a leased coffee roasting facility. Visitors to Herrmannsdorf come away with a feeling of wellbeing and, with a 50-page welcome brochure, well informed. (Picture: The organic coffee roasting business was founded five years ago and under the name Merchant & Friends sells a variety of coffees, including from Ethiopia. As well as freshly roasted coffee and Espresso specialities, Andi Merchant offers regular seminars and barista training)

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