Catholic butcher is a cut above the rest

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Lothar Erbe, a sausage-maker and Catholic from Frankfurt, generates laughter and plenty of conversations. But the real reason people congregate at his farmers market stand and his Purcellville retail store is simple: His hand-made, ultra-fresh sausages are gourmet-quality - no commercial brands can outclass them, especially his tender, lean lamb sausages.

How did this natural comedian choose sausage-making over show biz? He came from a hard-working German family and had an uncle who was a farmer. Erbe also had a natural affinity for the butcher's profession.

Erbe started butchering and making sausages in 1978. "I made an internship with a local butcher, and I was there in the fall season for two weeks," he said. "I did so well that he said I could come back whenever I wanted."

Not only did teenager Erbe come back, but also he became an official apprentice a year later, working with this master butcher until 1982.

"During that time, you have to go to a vocational school," he said. "They teach all sorts of courses, including chemistry, physics, math and biology." After vocational school and his apprenticeship, Erbe received a diploma from the local butchers' guild, allowing him to work as a professional.

He then packed his bags and went to work in France, Spain and Italy. Much to his surprise, local butchering techniques differed greatly from the German protocol.

"So in Alsace-Lorraine - which was first German, then French, then German and then French - butchers cut the meat in many different ways," he said. He learned, for example, that French butchers identify and cut seven different muscles in a chuck roast.

Throughout his travels, Erbe always was making sausages. "Since my work as an apprentice butcher, I was making sausages, curing hams, making bacon, making it all," he said. "I can make 985 different sausages. In Germany, there are at least 3,500 different kinds of sausages."

When he moved to the United States with his American wife in 2006, Erbe had to apply for work authorization and permanent residence. Once he received his papers, he worked as a meat cutter in a local grocery store and later was hired by a country butcher shop in Fauquier County.

"All the farmers in neighboring counties bring their meat to this butcher," he said, adding that the owner allowed Erbe to start Lothar's Sausages business so he could sell at farmers markets. "I was allowed to use that facility to make sausages, bacon and hams," he said. "I put a label on my product with my name, and it is a good feeling."

Recently Erbe launched his own retail business, working 14 to 15 hours daily to make and sell his product. He asked Father Ronald S. Escalante, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church in Purcellville, where Erbe is a parishioner, to bless the store and the cross Erbe hung on the wall. Erbe credits his strong faith for this success.

"There is God, and He helps you, listens to you when you talk to Him," he said. "I think it is God's will that I come here and that I make the sausages. I came back to this career. When sitting in church, I feel peace and the spirit. That is nice."

Greeley, a freelance writer, chef and parishioner of St. Veronica Church in Chantilly, can be reached at cookasia@verizon.net.

If you go

Lothar's Gourmet Sausages, 860 E. Main St., Suite A, Purcellville

For information call 540/338-1500.

Recipe: Bean soup with smoked sausage

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014