Despite a devastating flood, an autumn tradition for andouille sausage is still smoking in the River Parishes.
A 60-mile round trip might seem a bit excessive just to stock the fridge with sausage, especially when the trip starts in New Orleans, where a great link is always much closer at hand anyway. But I’ve never regretted any such highway runs I’ve made to LaPlace. Chalk that up to the extraordinary andouille sausage produced in the traditional smokehouses in this River Parishes town.
This community was of course badly — and unexpectedly — battered by floodwaters from Hurricane Isaac, and the town’s Andouille Festival, an annual tradition in October, is canceled this year as parish officials concentrate on recovery work.
Despite the damage, however, LaPlace is rebuilding and its food culture is holding strong too. The smokehouses in this town, and other nearby communities, help fuel this tradition, and they’re back in business. That means that as fall weather moves in, as local cooks return to their gumbo pots and as tailgating season hits high gear, the elemental goodness of andouille will be right there too.
The style of andouille we’re talking about here is bigger, brawnier, and most of all smokier than what you can find most other places, even around Louisiana. In the River Parishes, andouille has truly been an artisanal product long before the current foodie vogue for hand-made this and that. This local style comes from the cultural mixing between French and German neighbors back in the colonial days of a riverside area that, after all, is often called the German Coast.
In downtown LaPlace, this heritage is tended by Jacob's World Famous Andouille and Bailey's World Famous Andouille, which sit practically next door to each other, and two miles away, at Wayne Jacob’s Smokehouse, which, despite the common name, has no affiliation with Jacob’s. How Louisiana is that? Wayne Jacob’s also doubles as a restaurant, so here you can stock your cooler for home, and then sit down to a meal of andouille burgers, andouille bacon, andouille po-boys and even andouille “chips” — or thin, fried slices.
Aficionados of the smokehouse arts will also want to visit the adjacent town of Reserve, home to the Depression-era butcher shop Cox's Meat Market, and also Don's Country Store, a combination grocery/hardware store with bins full of house-made andouille and all the cast iron cookware you could ever need to prepare it. Across the river in Vacherie, handmade andouille is the big thing at Spuddy's Cajun Foods, a restaurant and meat market. This place makes a great lunch stop for visitors touring nearby plantations like the Oak Alley, Joseph or Laura plantations.
These are all small, family-run smokehouses, and each puts its own nuanced stamp on its products. This means that finished andouille from each stop around here can differ as greatly as the wines produced in the same valley, and parsing their distinctions can be as pleasurable as chasing the same varietal grape from one vineyard to the next.
This part of Louisiana has been through a lot lately, but despite the great soaking, the tradition of River Parishes andouille is still smoking.
513 W. Airline Hwy., LaPlace, 985-652-9090; www.baileysandouille.com
Cox's Meat Market
1162 Hwy. 44, Reserve, 985-536-2491
Don's Country Store
388 Central Ave., Reserve, 985-536-2275
505 W. Airline Hwy., LaPlace, 985-652-9080; www.cajunsausage.com
Spuddy's Cajun Foods
2644 Hwy. 20, Vacherie, 225-265-4013),
769 W. 5th St., LaPlace, 985-652-9990; www.wjsmokehouse.com