Flavor is Never in Short Supply at Old Hoosier Meats
Writer / Julie Yates
Old Hoosier Meats in Middlebury is a northern Indiana gem. It’s a bit out of the way for some, but the staff’s old-fashioned way of preparing smoked and fresh-cut meats makes it well worth the drive. Owned by Randy Grewe, the establishment is truly old school, right down to the building it’s housed in.
“It was built in 1923 as a stand-alone high school gym,” Grewe says. “When Middlebury School, which had its own gym, was built in 1938, this building sat empty for a while. Then in the mid ‘40s it became a cold-storage facility that also had a storefront. Not everyone had a freezer in their home, and people could rent lockers and freezer drawers.”
Back then, the business maintained a separate site where meat was processed. Bulk quantities such as quarters and sides were sold in the building’s retail space. Through the years the clientele dwindled down, and the need for freezer space diminished.
“Nowadays there is a pole barn about every country mile with freezers in it,” Grewe says. “It’s a lot easier for people to use these than hitch up and come into town. I knew the guy that owned the place and felt like I could do something with it when I bought it 17 years ago in 2004.”
When Grewe purchased the business, the freezer facility still had some customers but the equipment needed updating. He considered the cost of repairs versus customer volume, and decided to discontinue the service. Instead he focused on butchering fresh cuts of meat and operating the smokehouse inside the building.
“The smokehouse is not stainless-steel walls with programmed temperature,” Grewe says. “It’s got 70 years of flavors in the block walls. There is real fire where the smoke goes through and we do it the old way by hand-feeding the fire. We make the decisions about how much wood to put on it. We use sassafras, which is kind of uncommon, but it gives a sweeter flavor. It’s very Indiana and grows on its own. Farmers don’t want it and they are glad to give it to us.”
Grewe acquired the original 1940s recipes from the prior owner. Within the 6’x12’ smoker structure, barbecued ribs, bacon from pork bellies, brisket, pulled pork and even beef jerky are produced the same way they’ve been made for 70 years.
The jerky is actually made from specially seasoned strips of meat, not molded and pressed together from ground beef. One popular side dish offered is smoked mac and cheese. It’s placed underneath the ribs so all the drippings fall into the pan. The cowboy beans include chorizo and Daddy Sam’s BBQ Sauce.
“Daddy Sam’s has the best ginger and jalapeño barbecue sauce I’ve ever seen,” Grewe says. “We buy it directly from them and sell it with our shelf staple items like unique craft sodas and brews, seasoning blends, candies, jams and soup mixes. In the fresh case we have high-end Boar’s Head sliced cheese and we do many special orders such as 2”-thick cut steaks. We also make our own specialty brats such as Hawaiian with pineapple, and jalapeño cheese beef sticks, in-house.”
For the holidays, customers can preorder smoked turkeys at $4.79 per pound, or old-country-style hams with a sugar and salt cure at $4.29. Even though 60 can fit in the smoker at a time, there is a limited amount so it’s best to call ahead. Many people order gift boxes or steaks, especially for workers in the recreational vehicle industry or family members who have moved away and miss the special beef jerky. Grewe and his staff put together meat and cheese trays as well. Gift certificates are another option, allowing recipients to pick out exactly what they want.
“We smoke ribs pretty much every Thursday,” Grewe says. “They are made with a dry rub and sold fully cooked. The just need to be reheated to eating temperature and can be an appetizer or a side dish. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday we have pulled pork in half-pound containers. People come in and grab a couple pounds and some sides for dinner. Our products are unique and you won’t find them in big-box stores. We can put together custom gift boxes. The customer tells us what they are looking to spend and what kind of product.”
Old Hoosier Meats is located at 101 Wayne Street in Middlebury. Call them at 574-825-2940, or visit their website at oldhoosiermeats.com.