Smokehouse of the Catskills: Immigrant Food Culture Lives On

Bundle of uncooked sausages hanging from silver hooks

When Mike and Heidi Ferraro learned that their beloved metzgerei was going out of business, the news hit hard.

“Both of us were raised coming here,” Heidi reminisces. “It’s part of the history of our area.” In an effort to save the German-style smokehouse, the husband-and-wife team sought to buy it from Bill and Peter Muellner. The Austria-born brothers had opened the Saugerties shop in the 1940s after fleeing war-torn Europe.

“They were tough negotiators,” Mike Ferraro says of the Muellners, but with persistence (and some help from family), the Ferraros finally struck a deal. One condition was absolutely non-negotiable: The Muellners insisted that they remain until the Ferraros could master the Austrian brothers’ Old-World recipes and techniques.

The small shop, packed with hard-to-pronounce delicacies, lies just west of Saugerties on Route 212 as the road winds into the mountains. Little has changed at the Smokehouse of the Catskills in the 17 years since the Ferraros took over. All of the 70-plus German-style products are still made in house, by hand, using only the freshest meats. You’ll find no chemicals or fillers here— just flesh, smoke and spice.

A glance into the Smokehouse’s butcher case reveals sülze, a German-style head cheese, and blut zugenwurst, a delicious mosaic of blood and tongue. Large rounds of schinkenwurst, a ham sausage, wait to be sliced, while long maroon chains of landjäger hang behind the counter. In Austria, hunters historically relied on this chewy dried and smoked sausage on long wilderness forays. Here, it’s a handy grab-and-go snack.

Mike and Heidi are doing their best to keep the Muellner brothers’ traditions alive as they pass what they’ve learned to their adult sons, Mike and Peter. Hopefully, with a new generation carrying on the business, the Smokehouse of the Catskills will live for another 70 years.

This story was originally published in December of 2018.