The Bacon Beat / Smokehouse

Nolechek's Polish Sausage FAQ: Wisconsin's Fourth-Generation Smokehouse Talks Kielbasa, Polish, & Old World Sausages

Nolechek's Polish Sausage FAQ: Wisconsin's Fourth-Generation Smokehouse Talks Kielbasa, Polish, & Old World Sausages

Let’s take some time to address one of the age-old questions of our time…and no; it’s not, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” The question today is, “What is the difference between polish sausage and kielbasa?”
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Super Bowl Party Food: Bring Nolechek's Specialty Bratwurst

Super Bowl Party Food: Bring Nolechek's Specialty Bratwurst

...did you know that Nolechek's specialty Wisconsin bratwurst comes in a wide variety of flavors? We have sixteen (16!) types of specialty bratwurst...and that’s not even including our Traditional Bratwurst, Chicken Bratwurst, or our signature Hickory Smoked Brats.

Here’s an introduction to the Sixteen Nolechek’s Specialty Bratwurst Varieties that we craft at our place in Thorp, Wisconsin:

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Nolechek's Best Loaded Baked Potato Soup Recipe

Nolechek's Best Loaded Baked Potato Soup Recipe

Nothing says winter comfort like a toasty-warm bowl of soup, especially our hearty Loaded Baked Potato Soup with all of the fixings! The crispy crown jewel of this steamy winter dish are the savory bits of Nolechek’s Hickory Smoked Honey Cured Bacon that we generously sprinkle on top of each bowl, plus the melty Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese we like to heap on top. Easy to make and even easier to love, this potato soup recipe is one of our all-time favorites and we know everyone at your house will love it just as much as we do!
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Nolechek’s Smoky Slow-Cooker Comfort Food Recipes

Nolechek’s Smoky Slow-Cooker Comfort Food Recipes

There's a lot to love about slow-cooker cooking. If you play your culinary cards right, you can make an entire meal in one simmering pot. That means you can focus on curling up in front of the fire with a good book instead of spending hours in the kitchen. That also means that clean-up is a breeze. Here are three of our favorite simple slow-cooker dinner ideas:
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Bacon & Brown Sugar: Sweet & Savory Holiday Appetizer Ideas

Bacon & Brown Sugar: Sweet & Savory Holiday Appetizer Ideas

Thinking about what special treats you’re going to prepare for the holidays? We’d like to mention that it's the most wonderful time of the year...because it's time for extra bacon! The holidays give us all an opportunity to indulge in wonderfully rich snacks and sides, so we selected three easy and decadent treats for you to whip up. Best of all, these tasty bites are super simple and they all happen to involved two things: Bacon & Brown Sugar, which we think you’ll agree make mighty fine partners after you try these recipe ideas!
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How To Prepare Your Nolechek's Holiday Ham

How To Prepare Your Nolechek's Holiday Ham

Need some tips on how to prepare a perfect Nolechek’s Hickory Smoked Ham for the upcoming holiday? We'll give you a few of our best ham cooking pro tips in this installation of Nolechek's Bacon Beat, including how to gently warm, custom glaze, and serve everyone’s favorite Christmas table centerpiece! 
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Nolechek's Even More Wisconsin Bratwurst Sausage Sampler

Send Wisconsin’s Best Meat & Cheese: Nolechek’s Top 5 Gift Picks

We've created our list of Nolechek's Favorite Holiday Gift Picks to help you with your holiday shopping. Covering everything from gifts for your favorite bacon lover to snack assortments for people who like to party, plus peeks at some of our featured Wisconsin cheeses, we'll help you choose the perfect Wisconsin-made gifts for friends and family. 
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Giving Thanks at Nolechek's Meats

Giving Thanks at Nolechek's Meats

One of the most profound realizations I’ve had the past two years is how thankful I am for my faith, family, and friends. I am beyond grateful for the people in my life – whether past, present, or the ones I have yet to meet; whether they relate to my personal life or I know them through the business.
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Nolechek's Favorite Thanksgiving Snacks

Nolechek's Favorite Thanksgiving Snacks

We put together a list of our favorite Nolechek's snacks so you can make impressive snacks for your Thanksgiving and holiday gatherings, Wisconsin-style!
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Nolechek's Smoky Thanksgiving Sidedishes

Smoky Sides for Thanksgiving

What's on the menu besides turkey (or a nice Nolechek’s Hickory Smoked Ham) and stuffing? We put some of our favorite Nolechek's side dishes together to help give you some ideas for new holiday side dish favorites. From creamy Bacon Mashed Potatoes to crisp Wedge Salads and caramelized Roasted Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, we have our Top 5 Thanksgiving Side Dish Ideas all picked out for you! 
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Game Day Recipe: Nolechek's Bacon Beer Cheese Dip

Game Day Recipe: Nolechek's Bacon Beer Cheese Dip

If you're from Wisconsin or have lived in our state for any length of time, you've probably experienced the creamy, savory goodness that is Beer Cheese Dip. A good batch of Beer Cheese Dip is just about as close to football party food perfection as you can get...and we have the secret ingredient to bring it ALL the way to the level of perfection...
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Lindsey Fox Talks: Learning Nolechek's Production Techniques

Lindsey Fox Talks: Learning Nolechek's Production Techniques

Today I had the opportunity to cure a batch of our famous Hickory Smoked Honey Cured Bacon. Typically, Chad, Nolechek’s resident bacon curing-smoking-slicing expert, cures each 2000-pound batch of our bacon. However, today he was on the schedule to slice with Jenn, Caroline, and Lucille and I was on deck to cure. As I was curing, I was reminiscing about products I learned how to make and what it means to carry on the tradition of making ham, bacon, and sausage that’s been passed on to me by Bill and Kelly. 

Growing up in the business, I wasn’t responsible for making the actual product, but instead worked in retail, packaging, developing HACCP, and of course, cleaning. If there’s one thing I learned at a very young age, was you can’t clean enough and if you weren’t busy, there is always something that needs to be cleaned. My least favorite and still is today, is cleaning ceilings. But, I digress. 

I didn’t go down into production until a year after I returned to Nolechek’s, in 2015. Chad was transitioning out of the business and there was a void to fill and it was time for me to learn to chop sausage. The University of Wisconsin – Meat Science offers short courses on meat processing, so I took signed up to learn the science behind what we do in production at Nolechek’s. 

The first surprise was that most meat processors use a grinder to mix in seasonings, water, and create the right consistency. We’ve used a bowl chopper at Nolechek’s Meats since the early-70s. The first bowl chopper we used had a cast iron bowl, four blades, a 50-pound capacity and cost $8,000, which was a large investment for Nolechek’s at that time. A chopper allows us to process sausage at a much lower temperature, which allows for better extraction of protein, binding of water, and overall yield. Each of these elements are important because it allows us to craft sausage that offers the highest quality texture, mouthfeel, and visual particle definition. Today we use an Alpina bowl chopper that has six blades, three speeds, and a 100-pound capacity. We can run it as slow as 300 rpm, to mix cheese in; or as fast as 1000 rpm to create an emulsion for skinless wieners. 

I was so intimidated to learn how to run the chopper because it’s not a black-and-white process. You must be aware of the start temperature of the raw product, the order in which you chop the lean and fat, and how the texture should look when finished. There are so many variables to take into consideration. Fresh sausage is chopped differently than smoked sausage and specific products in each category are chopped differently, too. Today, Chad and I split chopping duties, depending on what is scheduled for production. I chop summer sausage because Chad runs the Poly-Clip and stuffs it, but Chad chops fresh bratwurst and other smoked sausage because I’m responsible for hanging the product on those days. 

Some may say a disadvantage to using a bowl chopper is that there can be a wide range of variability because it is operator-controlled. But, to me that was the challenge, and I knew I had perfected the craft of using the bowl chopper when the consistency of the product was the same between batches. I no longer referenced my cheat sheets to see if the lean goes in before the fat (fresh bratwurst) or the fat before the lean (summer sausage), what temperatures to chop the lean and fat to (skinless wieners); and most importantly, I (rarely) ask Kelly anymore if the texture looks right. It truly is an art form that I learned from Chad and perfected under the watchful eye of Bill and Kelly. 

I also found myself reminiscing about learning to cure bacon with Bill and how it was a multi-step process that started with observing and asking questions, moved to writing down the steps, and ended with me speaking up and telling him I was ready to have a go at it by myself. The whole process of curing is methodical; from preparing the individual components for the brine (ascorbic, salt, cure, honey) to mixing them according to a specific order so that all ingredients are properly distributed in the solution to running the needle injector and finishing the process with tumbling the bellies. It’s all part of a process that has remained unchanged since I can remember. 

I think the most impressive thing about what we do at Nolechek’s is that the consistency and quality of our product that has withstood the test of time. It’s our attention to detail and knowing, from start to finish, who has been involved in crafting each product and being proud of the fact that everyone understands how important they are to the process at each level. It’s about the story and the people behind the products that really make them special…besides how they taste, of course. The story and the people are what creates a connection with our fans and in turn, our fans share their stories and connections with our products. How they remember coming to the store with parents or grandparents; the special meals they would enjoy with family when they came to visit; or the people they remember that worked here from generations past. It’s all part of the bigger picture and every single bit of it is what makes Nolechek’s Meats special and meaningful, we create food that is an experience. 

  - Lindsey Fox

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