After a truly enjoyable morning and the sights and smells of incredible foods, Taylor and I were darn hungry. We headed to my Mom and Dad’s hometown of Tripp to grab a sandwich at Ron’s Market. Then, we stopped briefly to pay respects to my Dad, my grandpa, and grandma and headed a few miles east to Kaylor, home of the famous Kaylor Locker.
“Kaylor Locker stays strong,” said KELOLAND On the Road host, Mike Huether. “Yes, it does,” said Kristi Konrad.
“Give a little history of Kaylor Locker, please, for us,” said Mike Huether. “My father-in-law purchased it in 1969 and he’s been the owner ever since,” said Kirsti Konrad. “The Kaylor Locker is famous,” said Mike Huether. “Oh, yes,” said Kristi Konrad. “I mean for so many things. What keeps it in business?” said Mike Huether. “Good home family business, you know. Everybody knows Kenny from all the little guy that, you know, brings the meat to. He delivers to bars, to restaurants, grocery stores, so they just know him as ‘The Chislic King’,” said Kristi Konrad.
Kristi Konrad is the daughter-in-law and now “the assistant” to Kenny Konrad, who along with his wife Gaylynn, have owned the Kaylor Locker since 1969. “He puts in a lot of hours, that guy, and it’s just been his dedication to his business and Gaylynn is right there alongside with him,” said Kristi Konrad. “It’s his hard work and, and the employees hard work that’s made this place keep going,” said Kristi Konrad.
Fifteen employees, many who have been there for over 20 years, create some of the best hot dogs and smoked sausage you will find. However, it is the mutton and lamb chislic that Kenny and the Kaylor Locker team is famous for. “It’s sheep basically, that’s been cubed up and put on a stick or in a bag. Yep. So, we sell a lot of, a lot of sheep meat, you know as, as chislic,” said Kristi Konrad.
Named the state of South Dakota’s “official nosh” in 2018, no single meat dish is more strongly associated with South Dakota than chislic. I have so many fond memories of the Hutchinson County Fair and the Tripp Sports Days and yes, the sticks of chislic I ate at the fairgrounds as a kid. “I can still see at the stand, you know, with my Dad buying the chislic and, and the garlic salt, the crackers,” said Mike Huether. “Oh, yes,” said Kristi Konrad. “Can you… can you eat chislic without crackers?” asked Mike Huether. “No,” said Kristi Konrad. “You are not supposed to,” said Mike Huether. “You’re not supposed to, or without garlic salt,” said Kristi Konrad.
Chislic can also be served as beef or venison, however I am a huge fan of good old-fashioned sheep chislic. German-Russian immigrants, just like my ancestors, brought this to KELOLAND in the 1870’s and its popularity just keeps growing and growing. Whether you grill it or deep fry it, you better grab your own bites while they last. “You want to cook it medium rare and eat it right away while it’s hot. Because if it cools down, it just gets a little bit tougher. But, like I said, if ladies stand by the grill with your husbands, or you won’t get any,” said Kristi Konrad.
The Kaylor Locker has never been busier and it is great to know other small-town lockers are faring just as well. It takes a team effort. “The meat locker business, there’s getting to be less and less so we have to work together. You know, when we’re full okay, call Bill over at Delmont, call Scotland Locker, and we just, or call Mitchell Locker, you know. We’re trying to help everybody out because there’s getting to be less and less lockers and we all have to work together,” said Kristi Konrad.
Kaylor has been home of the Kaylor Locker since 1946 and is home to maybe the most recognized personality in the chislic business, too. “Who gave him the name, ‘The Chislic King?’,” asked Mike Huether. “I don’t know who gave him that, but it just, a lot of people call him that,” said Kristi Konrad. “The Chislic King,” said Mike Huether. “Yeah,” said Kristi Konrad. “Kenny Konrad, the Chislic King,” said Mike Huether. “Yeah, he’s been doing it long enough, he’s got to be the king,” said Kristi Konrad.
As much as Taylor and I wanted to stay and chat, we had one more important stop on the day’s journey. It was time for dessert, so we headed to Pietz’s Kuchen in Scotland, South Dakota. “I don’t think there’s a state, I think my wife could testify, that hasn’t come through that, that front door. And we ship all over the United States. There’s not a state we haven’t shipped to, except Hawaii,” said Roger Pietz. “Come on Hawaii! Let’s go,” said Mike Huether.
Folks are coming from all over for the Kuchen. This cake-like German pastry is made with a filling of custard and various fruits that sit within a tasty dough. It was first introduced in the 19th century. Roger and Lori Pietz started making their own family recipe of kuchen commercially in their basement in 2008. “I thought the hardest part of leaving the farm, I used to raise a lot of cattle, and I thought, man, that’s going to be tough on me. But we got into this. I got so involved in it. I didn’t think backwards, I only thought forward,” said Roger Pietz.
Roger and Lori went from farming to baking a couple of thousand kuchen per month. “So, you went gangbusters right from the beginning,” said Mike Huether. “Yeah,” said Lori Pietz. “Wow,” said MIke Huether. “There was a huge demand for it. People really love kuchen,” said Lori Pietz.
Peach, Strawberry Rhubarb, which is my personal favorite, and Very Berry which has blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, are the top sellers. And now, Pietz’s Kuchen is serving kolaches and a South Dakota style pizza too. Oh, my goodness!
“We try to support the farmers in South Dakota, so we buy cheese out of Dimock, we buy the honey out of Yankton, South Dakota, we buy flaxseed out of Raymond, South Dakota and we buy the seasonings out of Gettysburg, South Dakota,” said Roger Pietz. “People of South Dakota are supporting what’s made in South Dakota, and I, you know, I just can’t say enough about the people because they are so strong hearted and strong willed, and that’s why, the reason we’re here today,” said Roger Pietz. “And you certainly have evolved. You went from, you know, making these Kuchen, kolaches and the biggie is your pizza,” said Mike Huether. “We have the whole meal for you,” said Lori Pietz. “We could have dessert, have the pizza and then more dessert,” said Mike Huether. “Yeah, well, life is short. You should have dessert, first, right?” said Lori Pietz.
In the year 2000, the South Dakota State Legislature declared kuchen as the official desert of the Mount Rushmore State. Hop in your car or truck and do your own search for kuchen in bakeries in towns and cities near you. “KELOLAND, I know there’s still people out there who’ve never tasted kuchen, so come on,” said Mike Huether. “Well, it’s a sweet dough with fruit, an awesome filling of custard, and we say, ‘Enjoy a bit of homemade delight.’ That’s how I would describe it,” said Lori Pietz.
There are so many towns, and yes foods, we could have explored from beef jerky, fry bread, donuts, kolaches, pheasant chowder, beer, wine and so much more. So find a store, celebration or festival in a small town near you.