Talking to Wouter from Brandt & Levie
Brandt & Levie, the notorious sausage makers. Who doesn’t know them? My first time eating their sausages was when we ordered groceries from the Lindenhof and I fell in love with the apple and calvados one. Hmm…I still think about it. Today we talk to Wouter Leeuwenburg, who studied marketing at the VU in Amsterdam, but who is nowadays sausage maker at Brandt & Levie.
Profession: Chef of sausage making
Tell me how did it all start?
Jiri, Geert and Samuel have known each other from working together as chefs in a variety of restaurants in Amsterdam. That’s where they learned how to make sausages too. In 2010 Samuel and Jiri traveled to Italy to get inspired. Through the Slow Food movement they got to do internships at different butchers and sausage makers and one of the things that they noticed was the importance of working with organically grown pigs. A lot of these pigs were from Dutch origin, so when they were back in NL, they decided to make dried sausages. Thats when Geert joined.
Because they worked with the Lindenhoff in their previous jobs, the link was easily made and they quickly decided they wanted to work together. The Lindenhoff works with the Baambrugse pig at their farm and there was space for the guys to come and join them there.
Why so passionate about food?
My parents always say I was very young playing with pots and pans in the kitchen. Sundays my grandmother would always come over and cook us Indonesian food (she lived there). I have always worked in the hospitality business and than mainly as a chef. I think food has forever been a part of me, I grew up with it and can’t do without it either. Together with friends it has now become a thing where we cook together a few times a year and it is all fun and food. It makes me happy and also relaxes me when I am cooking. I can’t wait for the others to try the yumminess I’ve made them.
Where does the meat you work with come from?
Brandt & Levie works with 3 different pig farmers, so that means 3 different kinds of pigs. The pigs from Baambrugge come from Alphen aan de Maas from a farm called Pijnenburg. Our second farmer is the Helderboerderij from Winterswijk and the third farmer is Sanderhof from Braamt. We work with pigs that come in as a whole animal and we debone, slaugther and make them ready for the next step: transforming them in to sausages.
Where do you guys get inspiration from to come up with new creations?
With the chefs background of Geert, Jiri and Samuel and their shared passion for food we (the whole team) come up with the most exciting and flavorsome combinations. Every first tuesday of the month we have “Worstlab” aka sausage lab where the team is allowed to experiment and come up with a new product or even test a recipe. This could mean a new sausage, dried or fresh.
What kind of sausages do you guys sell? What is the most special sausage? And the most sold sausage?
We sell dry and fresh sausages. Our dry sausages ripe for a month in a special ripening room and there are 8 flavors: lavender, rosemary, fennel, black pepper, garlic, piment d’espelette, chili and our newest flavor Chipotle with cacao. This is by far our most special sausage we make. A sausage that has more structure and is spiced with cumin, cacao and chipotle peppers.
Our fresh sausages are the ones that need to be fried before eaten. We call it recipe in an intestine (recept in een darm) and we’ve experimented quite a bit with these. The ones always available are lemon with thyme, garlic with parseley, porcini with rosemary, blood sausage, boudin blanc and a lot more.
Besides sausages, we also produce pate with gin and peppercorns, pancetta (dried pork belly), coppa (dried pork neck) and cooked ham.
Can you share one of your favorite recipes to produce sausages?
I will never forget visiting Berlin and eating a Curry Wurst for the first time. I took a bite and I spit it out with the same speed. It tasted like <peep>. It took a lot of time before we decided to give it a go and start experimenting with Curry Wurst. Turns out, a Curry Wurst might be a little ordinary, but it sure tastes damn good. This is our version of German pride. Personally, I like my sausage to be chunky structured, not too fine. However, this sausage is better made with a 3 mm hole grinder plate.
Recipe of our Curry wurst:
1 kg pork meat (kinnebak & shoulder)
1,5 gr karwij
0,8 gr all spice (pimentkorrels)
1 gr foelie
1,5 gr mustard
3 gr vinegar
20 gr room (2 % of the meat used)
2,5 gr black pepper
1,5 gr white pepper
15 cl water
14 gr salt
Grind your meat on a 3mm fine plate.
Mix in all ingredients and knead the meat until it starts sticking together.
Put the sausage meat in the “sausage maker” in a thoroughly rinsed pig intestine.
You can serve this curry wurst with a summery potato salad mixed with pancetta and chives. Sauerkraut would also be a great match too.
Where do you guys eat? What are your hotspots?
Hmm how can I best describe this as I don’t want to use the term “nouveau RAW”, but those are the places we enjoy most. We love pure food created with good quality products and lots of flavor in a relaxed environment. Think Rijsel Rotisserie, Marius, Wilde Zwijnen, Hotel de Goudfazant, Cafe Modern, Toscanini, Cafe de Klepel, etc. But we can also enjoy a michelin star restaurant, like “In de Wulf” in Belgium.
Is there currently a new product you guys are working on and can you share that with us?
At the moment we are working with maximum capacity, but still we can’t produce enough to satisfy customer needs. We are currently looking for a new space so we can grow. The moment we have that space, we can start producing more. Our goal is to use the most we can from our pigs, so adding “liverwurst” to our range would a next priority.
What does the future of Brand & Levie look like?
In about two years I hope we’ve found a space for our production, our office, a small butcher shop and room to give workshops. With having more space, a wider range of products would be ideal, think liverwurst, mortadella, lomo and cured hams. Hopefully we’ll keep making the best sausages in Netherlands with a strong team.
Your fave cuisine?
Ooh hard to choose, because I like everything. However, I love the Asian cuisine. There is so much flavor in the dishes, that comes from combining all ingredients. Thai and Vietnamese are big time favorites.
A Thai papaya salad, called Som Tam
Recipe of the Som Tham
1 green papaya
small piece of palm sugar
Juice of half a lime
Cut the long beans in smaller sized about 2 cm long and quickly blanch them.
Dice the tomatoes.
Make your marinade by combining all ingredients and mix wel until the sugar has completely dissolved.
Drizzle marinade over the salad and sprinkle peanuts and dried shrimp.
What kind of food did you have today?
I don’t eat a lot of sausages at work anymore (this used to be different in the beginning). So today I had a salad with cabage, red peppers, cucumber and a peanut butter and sambal sandwich. A lot of us love to eat spicy food and especially sambals. Its kind of a tradition now to take home a jar of sambal or pica for the colleagues when going on holiday.
On the website of Brandt & Levie, you can find out where you can buy and eat their sausages.
If you guys liked this interview, be sure to check out my other interviews too.