In the heart of Richmond’s picturesque Steveston Village, you’ll find a small shop selling handcrafted German sausages and charcuterie, along with cheeses and other high-quality products. In the shop’s modest quarters, co-owner Jens Hertha enthusiastically greets customers—many of whom he knows by name—and recommends items to try for summer barbecuing.
Hertha wasn’t always a purveyor of artisanal products at D Original Sausage Haus (#130 – 12000 First Avenue, Richmond). The idea for the shop began roughly a decade ago when Hertha worked at a bank and used to watch Canucks games with his friend Thorsten Stock. For their noshing during the game, Stock would bring the most amazing sausages, reminiscent of the kind that Hertha had when he was growing up in Annweiler, Germany.
“I haven’t had sausages like this since I left Germany,” Hertha declared to Stock. He discovered that the maker of the sausages was Stock’s father, Drews Driessen, a fifth-generation sausage maker who hails from Bremen, Germany. Stock told Hertha that his father had no retail location and that he only sold his products to commercial establishments, like Salt Tasting Room in Vancouver’s Gastown. Disenchanted by his work at the bank, Hertha made it his mission to make Driessen’s products more accessible and affordable to the public. In 2011, he and Stock opened D Original Sausage Haus in Steveston, where Hertha has lived ever since he moved to Canada in 2004.
Hertha is committed to Driessen’s products due to the exacting sourcing and quality of his products. Driessen works out of a scrupulously maintained production space on Main Street in Vancouver, relying on time-honoured traditions with locally sourced, ethically raised meat. The master sausage maker previously worked at Fletcher’s and Grimm’s Fine Foods but left large scale operations to pursue his artisanal craft.
“You just taste that it’s different,” says Hertha who loves the texture and clean flavours from Driessen’s sausages, which are less fatty, and contain no filler or chemicals like nitrates. He says that fears over “processed meats” don’t apply to the products that he sells, due to Driessen’s stringent standards and use of the best ingredients.
During the summer months, the shop expands its offering of sausages for cooking on the barbecue so that there are 8 to 10 selections (such as British bangers and currywurst) in the display case at any given time. Hertha is partial to the Toulouse, which he describes as “simple and good,” due to its minimal use of ingredients: pork, black pepper, and garlic. Customer favourites include the Italian sausage flavoured with garlic, oregano, thyme, and fennel; and the cranberry apple bratwurst. Over the years, the shop has collaborated with Richmond breweries, like Fuggles & Warlock Craftworks and Britannia Brewing, to make beer-infused sausages.
Customers often come to Hertha, wondering why their sausages at home don’t taste the same as when Hertha grills them at events they’ve attended. “You cook them until they’re dry and shriveled up and taste nothing like they’re supposed to,” he replies, adding, “You want them to stay juicy.” He recommends cooking them at about 350 – 400F; any higher and the outside can char, while leaving the inside uncooked. He grills Driessen’s sausages 4 – 5 minutes per side, flipping them every minute or two to ensure even cooking and heat. Pair them with sauerkraut or knödel (boiled dumplings), suggests Driessen, for a German feast (both are available for purchase at the store). He says that the sausages, with their casings removed, work as a tasty substitute for ground meat in dishes like pasta.
Besides raw sausages, D Original Sausage Haus sells smoked sausages, like European wieners and smokies, that are also great on the grill. Driessen is constantly experimenting and innovating in terms of flavour options, sometimes with Hertha’s input. For example, Hertha suggested creating a honey garlic smokie, a more North American flavour inspiration that has become a crowd-pleaser.
In addition, the shop sells Driessen’s charcuterie, as well as local and primarily French cheeses, like comté, that customers pack in their picnic baskets. The various air-cured and smoked salami, like a version with truffle or the saucisson sec, are intense in flavour. Hertha says that he was surprised and impressed at the amount of labour and time (up to two months) that go into producing high-quality salami.
The salami is delicious in sandwiches that Hertha and staff make at the store for take-out. Hertha was intent on making “a proper sandwich” loaded with meat and cheese, with only German mustard, mayo, and pickles as fixings. The assembled sandwich, on a demi or pretzel baguette, really showcases the quality of the ingredients. Take a walk along Steveston’s boardwalk as you enjoy your sandwich for the ultimate summer eating experience.