Country Sausage Company
512 David St.
New Orleans, LA 70119
“Andouille is leaner than
a smoked sausage, and it’s good for gumbos and stuff. You
can also put a little more fat into it, which helps out when you
make the gumbo. It would dry out, if it’s too lean. So I
always like to add a little more fat to the andouille.” – Vaughn Schmitt
Vaughn Schmitt’s sausage is found
in gumbos all over New Orleans. Along with his business partner
Deanie Bowen, this second-generation sausage maker is proprietor
of Creole Country Sausage Company. There they make a traditional
andouille, a special-order mango sausage, and everything in between.
Vaughn’s parents, Fab and Ricker Schmitt, started Creole
Country in 1979. They felt compelled when their favorite sausage
producer in Church Point, Louisiana, went out of business. After
a two-week crash course—in Oklahoma of all places—they
started filling casings. Today, Creole Country provides sausage
to restaurants throughout New Orleans—a vital link in the
city’s renowned gumbo tradition.
NOTE: What follows is a portion of the original
interview that has been edited for length. To download the entire
transcript in PDF form, please click here.
Subject: Vaughn Schmitt
Date: August 9, 2006
Location: Creole Country – New Orleans, LA
Interviewer: Amy Evans
Amy Evans: This is Amy Evans on
Wednesday, August 9th, 2006 for the Southern Foodways Alliance.
And I’m at Creole Country Sausages here on David Street
in New Orleans, and I’m with Vaughn Schmitt. Vaughn, would
you say your name and your birth date for the record, please?
All right. You and Deanie Bowen
are the co-owners of this establishment, is that right?
But your parents started it?
My mother and father started it in
1979. And it was an old house that we shelled out and made into
a little sausage factory. And then they went to Oklahoma State
University for a two-week crash course in sausage making. And
from that on, they played around with different recipes, and we
basically started off making smoked sausage, andouille [sausage],
hogshead cheese, boudin—the basic sausages that people would
want in New Orleans. And from then on out we introduced ourselves
to the chefs in New Orleans, and they always came up with their
ideas of what they would want, and we would work together and
make different products. So we have a hot sausage called chaurice
and the chaurice—and now we have a crawfish [sausage], green
onion [sausage]; we have an alligator sausage; we have a craw-gator,
which is an alligator sausage made
with crawfish tails, because one guy wanted something different.
And then we have a cheese and jalapeno smoked sausage—very
unique. And we also work with chicken and make a chicken and apple
sausage some certain chef out there wanted. And we use turkey
products also, so we make a turkey andouille and a turkey Italian.
And then, if people out there are interested—if they have
heart problems and they can't have sodium or no preservatives
or this, that, and the other, I can also custom-make to their—their
wants or needs so the can enjoy the products with no—no
salts, no this, or whatever they want in it.
What were their names?
Fabiola Schmitt and Fred—well,
say Ricker Schmitt. So we called them Fab Schmitt and Ricker Schmitt.
Were they native New Orleanians?
My mother was from Church Point [Louisiana,
which is in Cajun Country]…My father was from New Orleans.
So what made them want to go in
the sausage business?
Well he was in politics, and he always
wanted to open a restaurant, and my mother wouldn’t allow
him to go—because that’s like too late working all
day—all the time working. So she said, “Let’s—let’s
go to Church Point and buy sausage.” And the guy in Church
Point closed down, and so they went over there and bought his
little equipment. He [my father] came back, and they came over
here and played with recipes; and they decided to open up a sausage
factory because they don’t think they had any people over
here [in New Orleans] that made quality sausage.
And where is Church Point?
It’s a little bit north of Lafayette
[in Cajun Country].
Okay. So when they got the equipment
and everything from the old place, did they get recipes, too,
or they just started from scratch?
Oh, basic recipes but I think what
they did is they went through cookbooks and looked for sausage
recipes and stuff you can get at the—I mean at the bookstores
and stuff and then they worked them out into they—they ended
up making a lot of good products from basic recipes. The basic
recipe is salt, pepper, a little garlic pepper, crushed red, and
then you get that and you throw a little Italian—to make
Italian [sausage] you would throw fennel in there. And then if
you want throw some sage for breakfast sausage or just have that,
and they’d set up and make smoked sausage. And then if you
want hot, you would add cayenne pepper, you know, but it’s
more to that—to it than that. You just add different flavors
to get different seasonings.
And so they opened this place, Creole
Country, in 1979?
The recipes that your mom had,
she wrote them down and those survived the hurricane [Katrina]?
Oh, we still have them and they’re
in my—I know them all now, you know so—but we still
have copies of them, and that’s still the heartbeat of the
company because that’s the basic sausage recipes.
Well how would you say your sausages
are different from other people’s sausages?
Well we use good quality meat, and
we don’t use any cereals, no soy, no byproducts. Every piece
of meat that comes in here—every day I get fresh meat in,
and it’s never been frozen. And every piece of meat that
I use is mostly used up by the end of the week, and it’s
all properly cooked and packed and stored properly and mostly
sold. By the next week it’s probably all eaten. So it’s
never going to be more than a few days old, if you buy it…But
every grocery store we sell
to is usually buying about twice a week, and by the end of the
week we’re already stocking them up with fresh stuff. So
I don’t over-stock.
So what’s the ratio of selling
to the grocery stores and to restaurants; is it about equal or
do you sell to more restaurants?
We’ve only got like six grocery
stores…I only go high-end grocery stores, which people don’t
mind, and they like the flavor, and they’re familiar with
the product. I’d say restaurants, those are my main business.
What are some other restaurants
that you sell to?
Well sell to all the Brennan Restaurants,
Ralph’s on the Park, Mr. B’s, Bourbon House, Red Fish
Grill, Napoleon House and, of course, Liuzza’s by the Track.
And let’s see here—Bozo’s Restaurant in Metairie.
Right now that’s all I can think of. Most of the major hotels
downtown, we sell to all them.
Can you talk a little bit about
the different the sausages? Like, in particular, the difference
between hot sausage and chaurice?
Well the hot sausage is mainly a salt,
pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper, white pepper, and paprika.
And if it’s seasoned properly, it’s going to taste
good with the proper meat, and it’s real good. The chaurice—the
French version of chorizo, which is the Spanish version of the
chaurice. I hope I’m talking this all right. But anyway,
chaurice is made with chili powder, four different kinds of peppers
and thyme, allspice, and the chili powder gives it a little Spanish-French
flavor. I don’t know how chaurice does it, but that’s
where we got this recipe out of the cookbook. So it’s—it’s—chaurice
was supposed to be a real hot sausage but I mild-ed it down because
the flavor was so good that so even the older people can come
in and enjoy it. So if someone special-orders, they want hot chaurice,
I’ll make a hot batch, you know. But the regular hot sausage
has no chili powder in it, so it’s just mainly a hot sausage.
Is the density of the packing of
the sausage different at all?
No, it’s the same meat, same
grind—just different seasoning.
And then andouille, can you talk
Andouille is a smoked sausage. That’s
a coarse-grind smoked sausage, which means it’s in bigger
chunks, and it’s real good. And it doesn’t have to
be—someone tried to make something different, and it’s
leaner than a smoked sausage, and it’s good for gumbos and
stuff. You can also put a little more fat to it, which helps out
when you make the gumbo, and they add the sausage to it. It would
dry out if, it’s too lean. So I always like to add a little
more fat to the andouille.
But like Billy [Grueber, chef/owner
of Liuzza’s by the Track] says, he likes to use your smoked
sausage for his gumbo.
Yeah. Because it has a little more
fat consistency, and it doesn’t dry out as much. Actually,
I use my smoked sausage for my gumbo also. It depends on the chef,
what they like, you know; some people like the lean, lean stuff
because it wouldn’t put any grease in his gumbo and everything.
But I always say, when you use a lean andouille, after you do
the cooking of the gumbo, you add it in the last half-hour or
so; the sausage flavor gets into it but it doesn’t dry it
out. And the smoked sausage you can add a little sooner because
then it will give it a little more flavor but, of course, it’s
best to wait to the next day to eat your gumbo, and that way you
can skim the fat off the top of the gumbo.
me about your gumbo.
Well my mother taught it to me. Of
course, she was—lived in Church Point [which is in Cajun
Country], so we’d make the roux. And Billy [Grueber] made
his roux on top of the stove; we make our roux in the oven at
a temperature of 400, I think, or 350 [degrees]. And we get half
oil and half flour and put it in the oven for, I think, ten or
fifteen minutes—and then have a timer, and we stir it all
the way until it gets dark enough to what we like. Start off with
a gallon of water, onion, bell pepper, and we boil that for a
while and put the chicken in there, of course. And I use boneless
thigh meat because that way we don’t have to pick it so
much. And then what we do on that, after we get it to like it’s
chicken soup, I’ll add chicken bouillon to get it—make
it like chicken soup—and once you got all that done, you
take out the meat and that way you can shred it to the way you
like it. And you add your roux and basically, you have gumbo.
You can salt and pepper it to your taste and then you’ve
got—everything else is being added. I’ll add okra
at the end and a little tomato, and then that’s basically
it. And then you can let it simmer for a little while with the
sausage and the chicken that’s tore up, and then you’ll
have gumbo. I mean you can add—like Billy [Grueber] adds
shrimp and oysters to his, which makes his a little different,
and it’s very good.
So do you make a thicker gumbo or
a thinner gumbo?
I think mine is a little thicker than
his, but I don’t like it thick-thick because you get too
much flour taste. So I think Liuzza’s by the Track has one
of the best gumbos in the city.
What do you think makes a good gumbo?
Deanie Bowen: Sausage.
VS: Good answer. [Laughs] Sausage.
Creole Country sausage.
Would you say that it tastes different,
[with the roux] being made in the oven than on the top of the
DB: Nah…It’s more consistent.
And, in fact, we can make it like that and keep it in the refrigerator,
so we don’t have to do it every time. You know, a lot of
times when you do it on the stove, it’s just for that one
All right. [To Vaughn] So where
do y’all get your meat that you use to make the sausage?
I get most of the meat—a lot
of it comes from Natko Supply Company and Scariano Meat Company,
and both companies have got affected by the storm also, and they’ve
been transplanted, so we all have been doing business before the
storm. Well since the beginning in 1979, these are the people
I’ve been dealing with. And there’s no reason to change.
You know, I might buy some from somebody else once in a while,
if they don’t have it. But you know, it’s like a family.
If you’ve been doing business with people for thirty years,
you’ve known them and it’s—it’s personable,
you know. We’re not just like a number. I call up the owner
and we talk; we’re friends—both companies—and
stuff and about—we’re supposed to be re-inventing
a new sausage as we speak. We’ve got to make a breakfast
sausage for the Wyndham Hotel—Wyndham. Or the Windsor Court,
that’s it. And it’s supposed to be a chicken and mango
[sausage]. So we went out to the International House of Foods
last—yesterday afternoon and went and bought all sorts of
mango. We’ve got a pulp mango in the can, we’ve got mango
slices in the can, and we have dried mango. So we’re not
sure which one we’re going to use because we’ve got
to go find the right taste with the sausage.
How often do you get custom sausage
orders like that?
It comes when it comes, you know. I
can't say it’s all the time, but every chef has an idea,
and whenever they think of what they want, I try to get with them
or get with somebody and work it out, so that they’ll do
business with us—or in this case they’ll do business
with Natko because that’s who they’re going through.
But if someone orders a custom sausage like this chicken and mango
sausage, then do they have exclusive rights, basically, to that
sausage, or could you sell it?
Well, not really. I—if someone else wants something different,
I’ll push it, you know. I’m in business to make money.
But for right now, it will be their sausage. But if it comes out
to be a sausage that someone else needs, I’ll put it on
my product list, and people will be able to read it. And if they
want to try, they get to have it. Yeah, so they just made the
[Vaughn is now making a batch of crawfish
Tell me again how many pounds [of
meat] this is.
Well it’s 180 pounds of meat
[pork] with about eighteen pounds of crawfish, and with the seasoning
and the vegetables you probably end up with a little bit over
[Vaughn begins loading the sausage
mixture into the casing, making ling spirals of sausage.]
Maybe you can kind of describe what
you’re doing as you’re doing it.
And then you rope it like that [into
a spiral], and you wait until you can hang them on a smoke tray—that’s
a smoke rack. So after you hang up the whole thing and stuff it,
we light up the smoker, roll them in, and they cook for like two-and-a-half
hours to—your heat at 160-degrees. And then after that,
we shower it because you need a shower to cool it down…And
then you sit it in the hall for maybe ten minutes and keep it
from—you don’t want to roll a hot product right in
the cooler. And then you roll it in the cooler, and it cools down.
And once it gets to forty degrees, you pack it and send it to
its new home.
I do about three or four racks a day.
But before the storm, I did six…And so a whole rack maybe
holds 200 pounds of—I mean, 240. I used to make them all
240 before the storm, but since it slowed down a lot, I try to
keep as minimum because I like everything to be made fresh. So
I make about 750 pounds a week of this crawfish green onion [sausage].
Do you have a favorite one of the
sausages that you make?
I think I like the green onion—the
smoked green onion, which is a basic smoked sausage with chopped
green onions in it. The chaurice is real good. I like the cheese
and jalapeno. I think I like most of them all, really. It depends
on what you’re preparing to eat with them. But that chaurice
on the grill, I want to tell you—you get the right barbecue
sauce on it, you’re going to get—anytime they had
a party out there and I brought ten or twenty pounds of chaurice,
that’s the first
thing that disappears. And the seafood sausage I was telling you
about earlier and basically—with the fish and shrimp—but
if you want to go more expensive, you know, you can add scallops
to it, and then you could add crawfish tails…But no, it’s—mainly
it’s the color presentation that helps out a lot, too. So
if the fish is clear, I put the green onion and it gives it a
green [color]. But if you have the crawfish it, will give you
that orange color. And the scallops in there and the—little
bay scallops would be cool, too. Of course, you bring the cost
up, too, you know.
All right, now we’re in the
kitchen [which is also the office] with the gumbo [that Vaughn
All right, we’re in the gumbo.
And this is my mother’s recipe—what I explained to
you earlier. And we just like boiled the chicken with the vegetables;
we pulled the chicken out, we shredded it, and then I got the
roux and I took the chicken—I shredded the chicken and took
the chicken out, of course, and put the roux in there, and then
we made the roux…After we put the roux in there, I added
the chicken back with the sausage and cooked that all down, and
then at the end I added some okra and tomato.
What sausage are you putting in
Smoked sausage, the same stuff Billy
[Grueber] put in his.
All right, Vaughn, I think we maybe
can put an ending on this, if you have some final thoughts about
Well this is—a lot of people
get out there and eat it and cook with it for me, please, and
To download the entire transcript
in PDF form, please click here.