Sausage-making tradition links three generations
Mention the name Tramonte, and many Galvestonians think of the local real estate firm founded by Joe Tramonte and owned by his son, V.J. But for some lucky locals, the name Tramonte is synonymous with home-made Italian sausage.
Like many much-loved family specialties, the sausage recipe has a rich heritage linking three generations of Tramonte men who, each year at Christmas, make hand-made pounds of pork, pepper and fennel sausage to share with family and friends.
It began in 1917 with Jasper and Christine Tramonte, who started the festive tradition using a recipe from Jasper’s native Sicily. Their son Joe and his wife, Margaret, continued the tradition, which had an extra sweet resonance for the couple as they remember Joe delivering the sausage to Margaret’s home when she was a child.
Nowadays, it is Joe’s son Joseph Jr., who is known as Tra, and Tra’s wife, Kay, who hand-make at least 50 pounds of sausage each year for friends and family in Galveston and Wisconsin.
“The recipe was lost for a few years and we tried to recreate it, but it wasn’t quite the same,” Tra Tramonte said. “I couldn’t believe it when mom found Grandpa’s recipe in his own handwriting in some of her files.”
Not one to do things by half, Tra Tramonte purchased meat-grinding and stuffing machines and taught himself how to make sausages by watching online videos, he said.
Tra Tramonte is proud to make the sausage each year as a way of honoring his grandfather and the family tradition, he said.
“Grandpa owned the High Grade Meat Packing Company in Galveston, which grew to be the largest in the southwest U.S.,” Tra Tramonte said. “I remember visiting as a kid and gnawing on raw wieners.”
Tra and V.J.’s great-grandfather, Dominick Tramonte, and grandfather Jasper Tramonte founded it in 1916 in the 6200 block of Broadway where today there’s a shopping center anchored by Target and Home Depot. There were stockyards, a slaughter house, rendering plant and more, V.J. Tramonte said.
It’s the mix of black and white pepper that gives the sausage its flavor, said Tra Tramonte, who thinks resting it overnight helps, too.
“It is also about mixing it by hand,” he said. “You can’t just flap it about, you really have to get your hands in there and mix it.”
The Tramonte family might share the sausage with friends and family, but not the recipe. That’s a secret.