MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Back in the day, every town had to have a meat market. They were a necessity, says Ryan Schmidt, owner of Schmidt’s Meat Market in Nicollet.

“Meat markets, butcher shops in small towns used to service a 10-mile area of the farmers that surrounded that,” Schmidt said. “They didn’t have a cold storage, so they would rent lockers from butcher shops and meat markets.”

Nowadays, only some towns are lucky enough to still have one.

“We make 70-plus varieties of sausage,” he said. “The original variety is one my grandpa made, and that’s the same recipe he made way back when.”

Gehrhardt and Esther Schmidt started making sausage in 1947, when they bought an existing meat market and slapped on the name “Schmidt’s.” It’s been in the family ever since.

Today, the place sells nearly half-a-million pounds of sausage a year. We wanted to know what makes them the best.

“I think it probably has to do with how we make it,” Schmidt said. “We slow smoke it. It takes almost 48 hours for it to smoke, so I think that’s what makes it different than what other meat markets might make.”

Schmidt says their old, traditional gravity-style smokehouse sets them apart from the rest.

“We fire up chunks of wood to generate the heat and smoke,” he said. “It’s a much heavier smoke than the modern smokehouses utilize.”

And you can smell that smoke from blocks away.

“I’m very happy and very proud to continue the Schmidt name and the tradition of what we do here,” he said.

Schmidt’s Meat Market is open Monday through Saturday, and closed Sundays. It’s about 15 minutes northwest of Mankato.

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