25 August 2022

Want the secret Binalong sausage recipe? Only snag is you have to buy the shop too

| Sally Hopman
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Mick Dal Santo in front of the Binalong Butchery

Binalong butcher Mick Dal Santo is selling up the business after 30 years to care for his ill wife, Lillian. Photo: Sally Hopman.

Usually when property goes on the market, the owner or agent will offer a sweetener: something that adds just a little more value to the worth of the site.

Out at Binalong, they opt for something a little more savoury. Sausages. Sausages that Canberra folk, over the past 30 years, reckon are worth driving a 100 km-plus round trip for.

Butcher Mick Dal Santo has been making said sausages for most of his working life but earlier this year decided to close up shop when his wife, Lillian, became ill and he became her carer. He has since put the shop on the market and as well as a fully outfitted shop complete with cool rooms and office space on a 630-square-metre site, he promises to give his secret sausage recipe to the new owner. For a butcher, that’s almost like giving a child away.

The small business, in the centre of the village, has been the heart of the community for as long as anyone can remember.

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Born and bred in Queanbeyan, the son of a stonemason, Mick did his butchery apprenticeship in Canberra from age 16, remembering well that his first pay packet was $28.

Does he remember what he did with that first cheque? “Yes, I bought a gallon of ice cream with it.”

He hadn’t planned on moving to the bush, but when he fell in love with his now wife, Lillian, they settled in Binalong, which is about an hour’s drive from Canberra. It has been pretty much a seven-day-a-week job since then.

“Monday and Tuesday were always prep days for me,” he said. “Then we’d have the shop open all the days except Sunday – that’s when I’d make my deliveries to Canberra – we’d deliver to about 380 people on a Sunday in those days.”

For Mick, seems most everything he does, he does it to last. Like when he met Lillian 40 years ago in a Canberra club.

“I just saw her dance,” he said, “and that was it. We’ve been together ever since.

“But when she got crook, I just became her full-time carer, that’s what you do.”

Copy of newspaper front page

In 1996 Mick Dal Santo made the front page of the local paper for selling sausages to the NSW Parliament – and still has the $60 cheque for the Binalong bangers. Photo: Sally Hopman.

In his typical style, the couple’s friends and customers were told of the impending marriage via Facebook on 22 January, 2021:

“Woohoo! After 40 years, Mick and Lill are getting married so that means the Butcher shop is closed tomorrow Saturday 23 January.” Probably the only Saturday ever that the door has been closed.

There’s little doubt that the shop was Mick’s whole life up until Lillian got sick. The long hours, the connection with the community, continuing to snag good local and faraway custom with those sausages. One of his proudest moments, he’ll tell you, was when he sold his first package of sausages to the NSW State Parliament – and he still has the cheque for $60 to prove it. He even made the front page of the local paper back in 1996 – with a story headlined Breakthrough for Binalong Bangers.

Man with sausages

Mick Dal Santo prepares some of his famous sausages in the Binalong butchery last year. Photo: Supplied.

Few other butchers would race down to the local railway station when the Junee train rolled into Binalong – complete with a driver who loved Mick’s sausages. “I’d shove the bag of sausages through the window of the train and the driver would shove back the money,” Mick said. “That’s how we did things in those days.”

He was also the bloke to provide a meat tray for a good cause or help a mate out if required.

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One of his favourite things, over the years, was to take Binalong’s preschool youngsters on a tour of the butcher shop.

“I showed them how sausages were made,” he said, “although I didn’t tell them what we put in them. But they loved to watch all the ingredients mixed in together and come out as this one big sausage.”

Binalong was one of the few remaining butcher’s shops that wrapped the meat in newspaper – and tied it with string, keeping at least a couple of the traditions alive. And, until it became illegal, Mick was one of those old-time butchers who kept sawdust on the floor to collect, well, you know what it collected.

Mick said he was keen to sell the shop on a walk-in, walk-out basis.

Binalong Butchery is on the market through Ray White Rural Canberra and Yass.


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