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ARTIST PROFILE: Bruce Reed, the art of sausage making

February 13, 2015
By MARTHA ALLEN - Correspondent , Lake Placid News

KEENE VALLEY - The North Country is seeing a lot of snow this winter, but that's not Bruce Reed's problem.

Not anymore.

After 20 years serving the Town of Keene as Highway superintendent, Reed retired in 2013. Now the only snow removal that concerns him involves his own driveway and the Valley Grocery parking lot. Reed is making sausage.

Article Photos

Bruce Reed, the Sausage King, and his wife Carol Hall Reed at Valley Grocery with some meat
(Photo — Martha Allen)

The Valley Grocery, still commonly referred to as "Dick's" in Keene Valley, was bought by Richard Hall and his wife Joan in 1969 and run by Hall and his family until his death in March, 2014.

Bruce is married to Carol Hall Reed, Richard and Joan's daughter. Both Bruce and Carol are Town of Keene natives; between them, they are probably related to half the people in town.

"Carol asked me to come in and work in the store after her dad passed," Reed said. "I said, 'We've got to do something different. Let's make our own sausage.' We didn't know if it would do well."

The store has always had a reputation for good quality meat. Reed doesn't want to change that.

"I've brought in new things, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Looking back, Reed says it all started in hunting camp.

"About 15 or 20 years ago, the guys in hunting camp decided to do something new with our venison. We started making venison bologna and venison sticks."

Valley grocery does not sell venison. All meat sold is inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture. Reed could buy USDA-inspected venison, he says, but the cost would be prohibitive. While the venison sausage was solely for private consumption, it did give Reed the inspiration to continue as a sausage maker.

These days, Reed said, "I only use pork butt or pork shoulder. Other sausage makers use everything, but we don't use any scrap."

Other manufacturers are likely to add fat to their products as well, but Reed's sausage contains no added fat.

"People have to add oil to cook it. People think it's a little bit healthier."

Reed makes his sausage in 20-pound batches. The store's butcher area has two meat grinders, one just for sausage.

"I cut it all up, grind it all and season it all," Reed said.

He creates his own recipes, which involve various herbs and spices and sometimes hot peppers. At first he produced sausage in bulk and sold it in pound packages. Now he has also makes links. Varieties include Italian sweet, mild and hot, chorizo, sage and another breakfast sausage.

The best way to cook it is to parboil it a little-about eight minutes-then brown it on the grill or in a frying pan, Reed says.

"You don't want to cook the flavor out of it."

Reed began making sausage in May, and "Toward June and July it really started to take off. People come in and buy it and take it back to the city. A lady asked, was I Italian. I don't have any Italian in me, far as I know, I told her. She said she's gone to high-end butchers in the city (New York), and there's no comparison."

Valley Grocery staff have a tradition of entertaining their customers by dressing up for Halloween. Last Halloween Kelly Hall came in to work disguised as Bruce Reed, wearing a white chef's coat with a sign reading "Sausage King."

"I was a little worried that Bruce might not like it," she said, "But he was fine with it."

Asked about this, Reed grinned.

"Call me what you want, Sausage Man, Sausage King, I don't care," he said.

Soon, after an operation on his shoulder, Reed will temporarily be an instructor rather than a hands-on sausage maker.

"The girls (Carol and Kelly) will be making the sausage for a while."

What is in the future for Valley Grocery sausage?

"Let it go, see how it runs," Reed said. We sell it fresh and frozen, and we try to keep one batch ahead. We can't do much more, because we can't keep up with it."



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