Bockwurst is back: Seasonal white sausage a big draw at butcher's retro shop in Scranton

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SCRANTON, Pennsylvania — In early November the big sign appeared in the window to proclaim: "Bockwurst is back."

And, ever since, customers have been filing in steadily to Gutheinz Meats on Cedar Avenue in Scranton, many of them eager to order the traditional white sausage that lots of fans enjoy on rye bread with mustard.

Or plain. Or with other condiments.

"Horseradish!" Bill Walsh of Scranton said, naming his favorite way to spice up the delicate links that Gutheinz owner Allen Leach makes fresh each week from a blend of veal and pork speckled with the occasional bit of green chive.

Step into the Gutheinz market with its tall ceilings and retro look, its cash-only policy and hand-written receipts, and you get a sense of history. The business was founded in 1879 and loyal customers say their families have been enjoying Gutheinz meat for generations.

"When I was a boy a horse would pull the wagon up and down the streets," said Walsh, 83, remembering how housewives would buy meat from the wagon, or send their children out to do it.

At Gutheinz, the bockwurst is a seasonal item that Leach starts making around Election Day in November and will continue to make until Easter. A glance at the store's Facebook page offers evidence people had been looking forward to the opening of bockwurst season, with at least one customer promising to drive up from Bethlehem, about 80 miles away.

"Everybody gets it," said Charlie Biko of Clarks Summit, who likes to stop by the store every week, timing his visit for the deli's limited hours of 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

"I love the bockwurst," said Joe Schieg of Scranton. "And they have the best lunch meat around."

Busy behind the counter and greeting long-time customers by name, Leach paused to give some cooking advice. He recommends cooking bockwurst for seven minutes or so in water that is simmering, but not boiling, because boiling can make the delicate casing on the sausage split, which can spoil its looks and make it lose some flavor.

The entrepreneur has worked in the family business since he was a teenager and, during bockwurst season, follows an old-time recipe to prepare 300 to 500 pounds of the white sausage each week.

While you can find Gutheinz meats at Gerrity's and Price Chopper supermarkets, some people still like to stop by the old-fashioned shop on Cedar Avenue to stock up on bockwurst, cheese, kielbasa and the biggest sellers — Gutheinz hot dogs and Texas wieners.

The baloney is good, too, said Bill Theese, 68, of Scranton, who expected to go home on a recent Wednesday and "take some cheese, bologna and golden mustard and make myself an old-fashioned American sandwich."

Another customer remarked that most of the people who stop by the store seem to be of retirement age. But then Tom Walsh of Throop stopped in to shop with his 6-year-old granddaughter, Hailey.

Did she ever have bockwurst before? No, the little girl said.

But does she like hot dogs? Yes.

And does she like to try new things? Yes.

Bockwurst may have been about to get its newest fan.


Information from: Times Leader, http://www.timesleader.com

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