Egon E. Binkert, a German sausage maker whose specialty meats became a Baltimore tradition, dies

Egon E. Binkert, a German sausage maker whose wursts, Westphalian-style ham and other specialty meats used everything but the “squeak of the pig” and found favor with an audience that included foreign embassies in Washington, died Dec. 2 from cancer at Kline House Hospice in Mount Airy.

The longtime Rodgers Forge resident was 99.

“He was a true craftsman who gave this city what it craves: authentic flavors,” said Rob Kasper, a retired Baltimore Sun food columnist and Bolton Hill resident.

“His sausages drew folks from great distances,” Mr. Kasper said, recalling when group of aficionados came from Virginia to taste Mr. Binkert’s meats. They “parked themselves in front of the sausage case, began to eat sausage, drink, munch on dark German bread and sing.”

Richard “Rick” Baruschka of Havre de Grace, owner of the Prost German Restaurant in Port Deposit, formerly worked for Mr. Binkert and became a client, featuring his wursts in his restaurant.

“I was a butcher back in Germany, so I know about sausage, and his products were very popular,” Mr. Baruschka said. “l worked for him for 10 years, and he was the hardest working man I have ever known for his age. His wife was a hard worker, too. They were very nice people.”

Egon Erich Binkert was the son of Johann and Hilde Binkert, farmers and sausage makers. The second of 11 children, he was born and raised in Geisslingen, Germany, near the Swiss border.

He attended a trade school for butchering and sausage-making, and was an apprentice when he was drafted during World War II into the Luftwaffe, the German air force, where he was trained to be a navigator.

“He never flew during the war,” said his daughter, Sonya Brigitte Weber, of Lutherville, who now owns and operates the business with her former husband Lothar Weber.

After the war, he received his master of trade in sausage-making — known as Metzgermeister Brief — and decided to emigrate to the U.S. with his young bride, the former Jrmgard Schiessel, whom he married in 1953. Her family owned a sausage shop.

The couple landed in Baltimore on Sept. 21, 1953. The next day Mr. Binkert went to work for Paul Schaefer, a German sausage-maker on Kenwood Avenue who also owned a delicatessen and gift shop on Eutaw Street near the old Ford’s Theatre and Hippodrome.

In 1963, Mr. Binkert and his wife decided to establish their own business on Middle River Road in Essex. He delivered sausages made to his own recipes, “mostly to German restaurants, hotels and clubs that had German, Swiss or Austrian chefs,” his daughter said.

He moved to his present location in 1980 in the 8000 block of Philadelphia Road, Rosedale, opening Binkert’s German Meat Products in a modest red brick building “that could well have been a dentist’s office,” Mr. Kasper said. “Instead, it was sausage central.”

The Binkerts constructed a modern plant with German-made, stainless steel machines that “chop the meat and mix in spices and force the mixture into diaphanous casings,” according to a 1981 Sun Magazine profile. The operation included smokehouses “where hardwood logs burn and the smoke is blown through the sausages for flavoring.”

“Smoke will penetrate anything. It goes through the casings into the meat and seeps through the smokehouse doors and out into the plant,” Mr. Binkert explained in the interview.

In addition to producing bratwurst made with veal, pork or beef, some of his other products included knockwurst, weisswurst, bierwurst, blutwurst, baurenwurst, tiroler, liverwurst and Holsteiner salami rings, which were made from smoked and dried pork and beef with mustard seeds. He also made kassler rippchen, a smoked pork chop that takes its name from the city of Kassel where it was first served.

“His answer about what was in his sausage was ‘everything but the squeak of the pig,’” Mr. Kasper recalled.

He developed an international clientele in the Nation’s Capital.

“Aficionados tasted his sausage at the Germany Embassy there, then found their way north to Binkert’s,” Mr. Kasper said. Other embassies that sent Binkert’s delivery truck scurrying to Washington included Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Hungary.

“Customers include military officers’ clubs, restaurants, country clubs, hotels, a German school in Potomac in Montgomery County and individual families,” according to the 1981 magazine profile.

“He wasn’t much of a talker, all business,” Mr. Kasper said. “And during our visit his wife was on the premises, but he never introduced her.”

Mr. Binkert was 81 when he retired in 2000 and turned over the business to his daughter and son-in-law. They continue to operate it along the principles he laid down and expanded its retail presence.

“All Binkert’s meats and seasonings are purchased from local sources, and the products are handcrafted daily in a processing area adjoining the store that turns 8,000 pounds of meat into 30 kinds of sausages and cold cuts each week,” reported The Sun in 2016, which noted the shop had “$1.3. million in annual sales.”

“We don’t butcher anything here,” Ms. Weber said in the 2016 article. “We put the meat in a grinder and put it into casings. We can cook it and smoke it.”

Mr. Binkert was a member of the Edelweiss Club, the German Society of Maryland, and the Swiss Club in Washington. He enjoyed traveling to Germany with his late wife. She died in 2011.

“He really didn’t have time for hobbies because it was all about the business,” his daughter said, “but he enjoyed reading and especially history.”

A visitation will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday with a Roman Catholic prayer service at 3:30 p.m. at Mitchell-Wiedfeld Funeral Home, York and Overbrook roads, Rodgers Forge.

He will be buried with his wife of 58 years in Erzingen, Germany, his daughter said.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Binkert is survived by two sisters, Maria Lang and Hilde Sanger, both of Germany; a granddaughter; and three great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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