There’s a tradition at Gaspar Sausage. When it comes to making their signature product, they don’t like change. In fact their company motto should be “If it works, don’t fix it.” They still use Justina Gaspar’s original recipe for linguiça, the one she brought with her from Portugal nearly a century ago. The company is still family-owned, operated today by the grandsons of Manuel Gaspar, who founded the business in 1923.
The company is not hide-bound, however. They have found a few different ways of offering linguiça to the public.
Traditionally, Linguiça (pronounced “lin-gwee-sah”) was prepared in natural casings, long coils of well-seasoned sausage that was sold and consumed in huge chunks. Shrewd to the ways of the modern consumer, the Gaspar family today has added Linguiça hot dogs, cocktail franks and slices for sandwiches. They grind it for patties and make a light version out of turkey thigh meat. Justina might not understand the turkey-based product. But she would probably enjoy the additional sales.
Gaspar has done the same thing with Chouriço, a spicier traditional Portuguese sausage similar to Mexican Chorizo. The order form for that product includes doubles, singles, a mild and an extra hot version, slices, franks, ground bulk, and a turkey-based version.
The turkey products have been a success, according to Bob Gaspar, Director of Marketing and grandson of the founder. “We tried to create a lighter Linguiça; fewer calories and less fat, but still keep the taste. It’s a good choice for people who are trying to cut back on calories but aren’t ready to give up their traditional foods.”
Asked about opening non-traditional markets, Gaspar noted, “Our regular Linguiça is catching on as a pizza topping in our Northeastern marketing area. The taste is like a cross between kielbasa and pepperoni, it’s spicy but not hot. It makes a tasty pizza.”
Gaspar’s sales are curiously regional, closely following ethnic populations as they hop, skip and jump across North America. Linguiça is popular in New England and very strong in the Portuguese communities of Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. Demand also followed the migration of retired New Englanders to the South. Ex-patriates from the frozen North can find their favorite sausage in Publix supermarkets in Florida. Skipping several hundred miles out to sea, they sell well in Bermuda to the large ethnic population there.
Because the Gaspar family has been making Linguiça since World War I, they also have a devoted group of fans who enjoyed the sausage as children and later spread out across the country pursuing careers. To supply their demands as well as that of the tourists who visit the picturesque southeastern Massachusetts fishing region around Dartmouth where they are located, Gaspar also operates a profitable mail order business out of their North Dartmouth plant.
At Gaspar, Linguiça is made in 250 pound batches from freshly ground pork. They use Kramer-grebe chopper to grind whole muscle cuts. The meat is combined with vinegar, salt, garlic, paprika and a few other spices. The mixture is allowed to marinate overnight then stuffed into natural casings using Vemag, Nandtman stuffers.
Sausage production is finished in two large Fessman smokers. It takes about 3 hours for the meat to reach a uniform internal temperature of at least 110 degrees. The racks of sausage are then pulled from the smokers and carefully inspected.
The sausages are immediately placed in cold water shower to quickly remove most of residual heat, important to extending the shelf life of the product. A blast chiller finished the job, taking the temperature down to about 40 degrees before packaging. Total annual production is about 3 million pounds a year.
Much of Gaspar’s Linguiça is vacuum packaged on a Model 8300 Rotary Chamber Vacuumizing Machine. According to Charlie Gaspar, President of the company, it was the first 8300 sold by Cryovac. A spokesman for the packaging company noted that it was the first of 1,000 of the 8300/8600 series of machines sold since the line was introduced in the mid-seventies.
“We bought it off the floor at the AMI show in 1974,” said Charlie Gaspar. “We keep what works and it has been the Maytag of packaging machines, it never breaks,” said Gaspar. “We’ve had Cryovac technicians in a few times to upgrade it and we’ve replaced a couple of timing chains. Other than that, we’ve used it non-stop since we put it in our old plant almost 20 years ago.”
Gaspar also uses a Multivac 855D as a laminate packager for some of their products; franks, ground bulk sausage and slices, all of which are standard in shape and size. Both machines outfitted with Videojet code daters which allow them to do pricing on their case ready product. “It’s something our customers asked us to do,” said Bob Gaspar.
The company plans to continue to grow by not changing a thing. Manuel Gaspar’s grandsons, Charles and Bob will see to that. They’ll measure their success by the pound, adding production as demand for their specialty sausages expands. All the while, the recipe will remain the same.