Terry Tucker, left, and Jim Tucker.

Smoking Allowed

Where there’s smoke, there’s flavor, and that’s what keeps Ohio Farm Bureau member Terry Tucker’s customers fired up about his smoked meats and sausages. Tucker is the second in this third generation, family-owned and operated Marshallville Packing Company in Wayne County. It’s Ohio’s largest meat market and a meat lovers paradise. Browsing through the expansive cases that span the length of the store is both entertaining and enlightening.

There are rows of fresh and smoked sausages and wieners, lunchmeats, slabs of ribs, pork and beef bacon, roasts, steaks and chops cut to order, fresh chicken from Gerber’s Poultry in Kidron, and bison meat from Red Run Bison Farm in Marshallville. There are also plenty of products that make kids squeal with delight—fresh pigs feet and snouts, chicken feet, brains and tripe, smoked turkey tails, mountain oysters and more.

“We carry more than 165 items,” said Tucker, “most made from original recipes, some tweaked here and there over time,” but most hold tight to flavor profiles delivered through curing and smoking techniques learned 50 years ago at the side of a master sausage maker.

The business was founded by Tucker’s parents in 1960. Tucker still holds on to time-honored methods for putting the best product on his customers’ plates.

“We still process beef the old fashioned way,” said Tucker. Beef cattle and hogs, primarily from Ohio producers, arrive from the company’s own slaughter facility in Orrville. “It comes to us as ‘swinging cattle,’ ” he said, a term that means the meat arrives whole, or in halves or quarters. The beef will hang for 10 days to develop deep, rich flavor and naturally enhance tenderness before it is butchered into fresh cuts.

Today’s smokehouse
The Marshallville facility is a series of rooms, each busy with a specific process. In one room, products like bacon and picnic hams bathe in curing solution. In another, smoked turkey wings, drumsticks and ropes of sausage wait to head to the packing room. Employees in another room expertly fill natural casings, instinctively and methodically twisting the ropes into 6-inch wieners. In the spice room, shelves are stacked with flavorful essentials such as fennel, cracked pepper, sage, oregano, anise, basil, thyme and dried bell peppers for sausage blends and curing compounds. But where things really get cooking is the smokehouse room.

Today’s smokehouse is actually two computer-controlled lockers with all the bells and whistles necessary to control humidity and infuse just the perfect amount of smoke into meats. It uses dried hickory sawdust from Wisconsin and can hold 100 hams that will take 13 hours to slow smoke to perfection or about 700 pounds of sausage or trail bologna that will smoke for about five hours. The sweet smell of hickory smoke is a frequent and familiar scent in the surrounding neighborhood and, according to Tucker, complaints are rare.

“The best meat to smoke has traditionally been cuts of pork which had a higher fat content so they absorb flavor better,” said Tucker. But beef, turkey and chicken also benefit from a puff of smoke. What makes smoked foods desirable to the palate, Tucker can’t say for sure. “Most smoked products have a salty flavor,” he said. “We do love our salt and combined with smoke, well it’s a flavor people just plain like.”

The family business
Marshallville Packing has been a life-long career for Tucker. Both he and his brother John, recently retired, returned to the business after college and military service. John’s son, Jim, has stepped up for the next generation to carry forward the family business and flavor traditions.

“The benefits of working with family are numerous,” said Terry. “The commonality of purpose works for us.”
Terry points out that it’s not just blood relatives that make this a family business, but 27 full- and part-time employees. “We work beside them as much as we are with our own families at home. Hopefully that family feeling all flows over into their lives,” he said. “I know it makes me a little better for it.”

Marilou Suszko is a food writer from Vermilion and author of Farms and Foods of Ohio: From Garden Gate to Dinner Plate and me.

Marshallville Packing Company & Marshallville Meats
50 East Market Street
Marshallville, OH 44645
(330) 855-2871

You can find Marshallville Meats on the menu at:
The Barn Restaurant
877 West Main Street, Smithville

Samantha’s Restaurant
4954 Portage Street, North Canton

Paul’s Green Farms
12495 State Street NE, Alliance

Ann’s Restaurant
1604 South Hawkins Avenue, Akron

Where in Ohio can I find Marshallville Meats?
While the Marshallville Meats store is a virtual super store for meat lovers, it produces products to certain proprietary specifications for the following retail locations:

Olesky Wholesale Meats
2700 East 40th Street, Cleveland
Slovenian sausage and kielbasa, delightfully heavy on the garlic

Apple Cured Meats at the West Side Market (Stand E-12)
West 25th and Lorain, Cleveland
Low sodium, apple cured meats