Ultimate Meat Guide: A Night at Thurn's

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

It's 1:30 a.m. on a Thursday, and fourth-generation butcher Albert Thurn is waking up for work. Across the street, at Thurn's Specialty Meats, the fire that fuels the shop's smoker is dying down, and it's time to add more wood. The smoker has run nonstop since Tuesday afternoon, flavoring beef tongue, imported trout and landjaeger sausage. Tonight, Albert is smoking beef bones that will be sold as dog treats, because nothing, not even bones, is wasted at Thurn's.

Albert walks around the back of the butcher shop in the dark and opens the tiny door containing the smoker's pit. He pulls a couple red oak and mulberry logs from a big pile, dropped off earlier in the week by tree trimmers, and tosses them in. Years ago, Albert found hickory was too pungent for his 60-odd cured products, whereas red oak is milder and complemented by the fruitiness of mulberry. Those two woods have been the winning combination ever since.

Albert props the smoker door open so a draft can continuously fan the flames. He stokes the fire every 30 minutes in between moving hams to the freezer and setting out spices. By 8 a.m., the shop will open and regulars will start pouring in. There isn't time to sleep. He'd rather be working, anyway.

"You don't even count your hours," he says, smiling. "My father told me years ago, 'The money's just a byproduct.' You just don't worry about it. Eventually, it'll come. And it did.

" 'Passion' is the key word," he continues. "And what gives you the passion is seeing your customers stand in front of you who sincerely appreciate your efforts."