The Family Story Behind North Carolina's Most Famous Sausage
If you're from North Carolina and whipping up a batch of biscuits and gravy, chances are you're using sausage from Neese's. The pork farm has been a North Carolina institution for over 100 years, ever since J.T. Neese started selling sausage from the back of his wagon. Today, they are five generations in and still making some of the best sausage in North Carolina—if not the country—using the same recipes passed down through the family.
The Neese family story started back in 1769, when George Neese, a German farmer working in southeastern Pennsylvania, directed his covered wagon onto the Great Wagon Road, riding south to Guilford County. He staked his claim to a few acres of North Carolina land and started his family's legacy as farmers. As the centuries rolled on, the Neeses stuck it out in Guilford County, working as horse and cattle trading and blacksmithing, but were primarily farmers who ate what they grew, making sausage for their family meals.
By the time the 1900s, rolled around—after the family had been working the land for close to 150 years—J.T. Neese, known as Mr. Thede, had the idea to make a business out of sausage. In 1917, he was selling and delivering sausage from the back of "a prairie schooner"—a covered wagon similar to the one George Neese used to bring the family to the South. J.T. came up with a special recipe for hand-ground sausage that included ham, pork cuts, as well as pepper, sage, and other seasonings that he kept secret. A few years later, his wife, Miss Annie, devised a liver pudding to add to the menu, and soon the family had a flourishing business in pork products.
WATCH: We Made Our Editors Try Livermush – And The Results Were Hilarious
By 1925, Mr. Thede was delivering Neese's sausage and pudding to customers in Greensboro and High Point, North Carolina in his Dodge truck. Mr. Thede's sons, Tom and Homer, soon joined the family business, eventually taking over for their parents, before passing the company down to their own children, the fourth generation.
In 2017, Neese's celebrated 100 years of churning out some of the South's greatest sausage. Over the years, the menu has grown a bit—the company now sells bacon, scrapple, three varieties of sausage, mush, souse, a North Carolina cousin to head cheese, and C-Loaf, a Southern delicacy that is either loved or snubbed. A century in, though, and they are still using the sausage recipes developed by their parents, unchanged and without any of the "modern additions" like nitrates, nitrites, MSG or any other chemical preservative found in some sausages.
Neese's isn't just a beloved Southern institution for their food, though. They believe in giving at least 10% percent of their profits back to their community, donating to fundraising drives and scholarships, giving food or trucks, or whatever people in their community need. "We're trying to do things right," Tommy Neese told the NC Pork Council. "We really are." That kind of thinking might just help the company keep going for another hundred years.