John Hamlin (left) and his father Bobby (right) cut up deboned Boston butt steaks this past Saturday morning in an outdoor kitchen behind Bobby’s home in Ville Platte. The cut up meat is then stuffed, ground, and smoked in the family’s smokehouse to make homemade sausage (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)
Viande boucanée traditions
Traditions run deep in Evangeline Parish. From the way music is performed to the way food is cooked, everything revolves around those traditions.
While some of these long-lasting traditions are slightly fading away because of the ever increasing outside influences, other traditions are still clung to and embraced.
One of these still embraced traditions is that of smoking meat. Many of the mom-and-pop grocery stores in the parish make their own smoked meat, but there are also families who keep the tradition alive on their own.
Bobby Hamlin is the patriarch of one of the local families who smokes their own sausage. He started doing it with his three sons and learned how to make his own sausage after watching it being done on a small scale.
“I decided I wanted to try it, so we started experimenting over the years,” Bobby said. “We came out with our own way of doing it with our own little formula and system.”
What started out as a job among father and sons grew over time into an all day event with the whole family.
“We normally all run in different directions and all do our different things,” Bobby said. “So, this is just a way for us to visit and spend a day together.”
“It’s a good time to sit around and catch up because we have three hours of sitting around watching meet smoke,” said Bobby’s youngest son John. “It’s a lot of catching up to do and socializing.”
Joey, another one of Bobby’s sons, said, “I like to make sausage because it’s an opportunity to hang out with the family. I enjoy it, and it’s fun.”
He continued, “I’ve lived all around the world, and you can’t get smoked sausage like this anywhere. So, I make my own out of necessity. I have a house in Ruston, and I built a smokehouse up there. I tried to get Louisiana Tech to do it as a business, but I couldn’t get them to get the smoke right.”
The Hamlin process of making their own sausage begins with them deboning their meat and cutting it up into chunks.
“Then, we mix our seasoning and curing salt and start stuffing the meat,” Bobby said. “We use natural stuffing, and the machine will grind it and stuff it all at the same time. If all things work out, we can actually stuff 100 pounds in about an hour.”
“The smoking will take pretty long because we cold smoke the sausage,” he continued. “We really don’t want to cook it all the way. That’ll take a few hours depending on the weather. I use pure pecan wood in a smoker out in the back that we built. We try to do everything pretty much ourselves.”
For John, making sausage with his dad and brothers gives him an opportunity to pass the traditions he grew up with onto his own daughters.
“It’s good to teach my kids how to do it,” John said. “It’s good for them to know they’re going to have some of the family experiences that I had, and it’s good that they’re going to learn how to do things. We make our own sausage, seasoning, and hot sauce. My kids get to be a part of that tradition.”
This tradition is done several times during the year. As John said, “We do it quite often in the winter when the whole family gets here. My other brother Mackie comes in from up north, and, usually around Christmas, we’ll do bigger batches.”
The tradition also gives the Hamlins an opportunity to share their craft with visitors from Australia and France.
And, all-in-all, it gives Bobby a rewarding feeling. He concluded, “It’s great. We do it because we enjoy doing it. It’s a lot of fun.