Hardly anyone makes their own andouille or boudin these days -- unless you live in Louisiana. But we found one guy still making these sausages -- along with more than a hundred other varieties -- at his family-run business about 45 miles west of Chicago.
With Fat Tuesday approaching, everyone is Cajun for at least a day and that means classic sausages like andouille and boudin. But at Ream's Elburn Market, in tiny Elburn, Illinois - about 45 miles west of the city - Randy Ream has Louisiana sausage on hand year-round.
"I kind of started back in high school, just making a few brats here and there. About 1981 is when we really started getting into it," said Randy Ream, Ream's Elburn Market.
They bought a smoker, for one thing, and today, make an average of about a hundred different pork products, including a wonderfully smoked Polish. Decisions here are difficult: tiny smoked links, assorted salamis, several bacons that come from house-cured slabs of pork belly, plus award-winning sausages and brats.
"In my sausage-making I like to do a lot of diverse sausages, so I make Hungarian, I make Romanian, I make Lithuanian, and then actually the andouilles and the boudins are just kind of a natural, because that is from Louisiana," said Ream. "The andouille is a heavily spiced smoked sausage, and that's primarily used as a seasoning sausage rather than something that would stand alone sausage."
It contains lots of garlic and black pepper, great if you're making gumbo. But the boudin is different. It begins with pork liver - a secret ingredient that's ground up in seconds; same goes for the assorted pork and fat, which is blended together in the same giant grinding machine. Then Ream's homemade "dirty" rice, which is seasoned with bell peppers and spices. The entire mixture is transferred to a large sausage stuffing machine. Ream first covers the opening with a natural casing, then methodically fills them up with the porky rice mixture, dividing them into links that are placed onto metal racks, then eventually wheeled into a large oven where they will steam cook for about 45 minutes. All you have to do once you get them home is quickly microwave them or heat 'em in a skillet.
Ream says this time of year is especially good for both the sales of andouille and boudin.
"Yeah when people start making gumbo again, and it does kind of peak for the Super Bowl," said Ream.
You don't have to make the drive out to elburn - although the store is quite a site to behold.. You can now mail-order your sausages directly from the market.
Ream's Elburn Market
128 N. Main St., Elburn