make the sausage

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RUMFORD – Jeremy Volkernick tapped the memories of relatives and friends, researched the Internet, and bought cookbooks of Lithuanian and Polish recipes.

He devoted hours upon hours in the kitchen with his wife, Kelly, trying to reproduce the flavor of the Lithuanian sausage he remembered fondly from childhood. And finally, nearly 15 years later, he found it.

Starting Saturday, Jan. 20, that very special, secret recipe will be available for anyone who wants to enjoy a sausage with a rich heritage.

“My great-aunt never gave me the recipe but she told me what was in it, but I didn’t know how much – a little of this, a pinch of that was all that she said,” said Volkernick. “In 1993, I made 10 pounds. It was close but not the same.”

His father, Anthony, provided lots of encouragement as Volkernick tried with a seemingly endless variety of onions, and a range of spices.

“My father always told me not to give up,” he said. “In 1993-94, I felt I had the authentic Lithuanian sausage, but I wanted something a little different.”

The product that will be unveiled Saturday is a Polish-Lithuanian sausage. It will include only pork – not the beef Polish sausage often contains – onions, salt, garlic, black pepper, and some herbs and spices only he knows about.

In fact, he prepares the spice packet that Luce’s Meats of North Anson will use to produce the sausage. The meat will be fresh, as the producer slaughters animals on site, and no preservatives are included in the mixture.

Volkernick, a Rumford firefighter, wanted to make and sell it from home, but the cost of outfitting his kitchen to comply with state standards was thousands of dollars.

“I was crushed at first, but I continued to make it for friends. I didn’t want to get into trouble,” he said.

He and Kelly even made 100 pounds of the sausages for their wedding reception six years ago.

“People kept asking me where I got it and how I made it,” he said.

Finally, in 2006, after talking about the sausage for so many years, and with the encouragement of his sister, he and Kelly sat down and seriously talked about producing the special food.

Although developing the sausage has been a personal passion for Volkernick, he also is concerned about the heritage of his ancestors.

“Much of the Lithuanian heritage has died out; I want to keep a tradition alive,” he said.

The Polish-Lithuanian sausage, in both rings and links, will be available for sale at his 20 Swift Ave. home on Saturday, Jan. 20, then again on Saturday, Jan. 27, when a ribbon cutting will be held.

After that, it will be available every Wednesday at his home.

He is also preparing to market the product in many area and southern Maine stores as well as at farmers’ markets.

Kelly, who was educated in business, will keep the accounts.

He also wants to put Rumford on the map.

“This recipe was developed in Rumford. I’m proud of that,” he said.

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