Author: Patty Lee


The Renaissance Forge

The Great Artisanal Ham Tasting 2015

In 2014 the team at S. Wallace Edwards & Sons invited us to co-host a tasting of exquisite long aged prosciutto style hams. The kind of hams Parma, Italy has made famous, but these hams were not from Europe. They came from all over the US, from producers who have been practicing traditional curing techniques for many generations.

The goal of the tasting was not to pick a winner– we were not ranking hams. Instead we were developing a vocabulary or lexicon to better describe the subtle nuances of American dry cured, long aged hams. A tradition with a long, rich history, but one that has been eschewed in favor of European hams.

The 1st Great Artisanal Ham Tasting took place under a veil of discretion in our private Brooklyn warehouse. The evening was MCed by outspoken ham evangelist Dave Arnold and food science expert Harold McGee. Chefs from the finest restaurants in New York, top curemasters, and passionate ham enthusiast joined us to taste almost 30 hams side by side.

The event was a huge success and we immediately began planning a tasting for the West Coast.

The Great Artisanal Ham Tasting 2015 was divided into two events. The first was held in San Francisco at artist Angelo Garro’s legendary art studio, The Renaissance Forge. The second was hosted by Chef Stephen Barber of Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, an idyllic vineyard and farm in the heart of the Napa Valley. Once again we invited top chefs, this time from the Bay Area and Napa Valley, along with expert curemasters, butchers and local gastronomes to assist us in defining and identifying the subtle flavors which result from differences in cure method, breed, diet, terroir, and aging conditions.

The long history of American Country Ham is one rich in tradition. We look forward to continuing to celebrate the expert craft of the American curemaster.

Check out the gallery bellow to see the results from all 3 tastings side by side along with photographs from the events.

Interested in hosting your own tasting? Let us know in the comments and we’ll help you arrange your own personal tasting!

 

Cattle Share from the Kitchen of B&B Ristorante, Las Vegas

Participating in our 1/8 cattle share program challenges you to eat like a true chef. Cattle shares are the most direct way to support sustainable farmers and are a great way to access exceptional beef produced outside of commercial scale.

Our partnering chefs and loyal customers have come to love our yearly cattle shares. This marks Chef Jason Neve’s second year bringing in a 1/2 cattle to B&B Ristorante, Las Vegas. He wrote a wonderful thank you note to farmers Craig and Amy Good, which we are delighted to share with you along with photos from the restaurant.

“I think we are the ones that are privileged to be working with such a great product.  I have been in the kitchen since 8:30 this morning like a kid in a candy store cooking up this part and that part.  I LOVE IT.

 Just finished the Neck Ragu that we will serve as a pasta tonight.  It took 24 hours to cook, and you can taste every minute of care from the time that you put into raising a great animal, the Fantasmas’ care in slaughtering and our time cooking it.”

For more information about purchasing a cattle share of your own click HERE.

Jason Neve

Chef Jason Neve

Born and raised in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Jason grew up around the water and all of its fresh seafood. An early interest in cooking for family and friends evolved into an education at the Culinary Institute of America where he graduated in 2003. Jason moved to New York City to train at AIX Restaurant under Chef Didier Virot. In 2005, Jason was part of the opening team at Del Posto. Jason’s aptitude in the kitchen and his passion for cured meats lead him out west to Las Vegas in 2007. After five years at the helm of the kitchen at B&B Ristorante, Jason was appointed Culinary Director of B&B Hospitality Group’s Las Vegas operations.

Heritage Foods USA at the United Nations

We are most at home with our boots on while visiting farms, but we’ll clean up our act when the occasion calls. This past weekend we shined our shoes and donned our best for one of the most exciting invitations we’ve received. We were off to visit the United Nations!

 

UN Group LgUN Photo/Yubi Hoffmann

 Heritage Foods USA was invited to attend the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, an annual conference addressing issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights within indigenous communities. While the contribution to our worldwide food system by indigenous cultures may not be immediately obvious, they are responsible for fostering and preserving critical agricultural biodiversity. Indigenous cultures have spent millennia developing crops that thrive in their native regions. Did you know there are over 4000 varieties of potatoes? I bet you wouldn’t guess where most of them originated: The Quecha community in Peru farms high in the Andes Mountains and are nicknamed the ‘Guardians of the Potato’ for their agricultural work preserving the areas abundance of biodiversity.

Unfortunately many of these indigenous communities are struggling to preserve their agricultural traditions among growing pressure from rural development and climate change. Worldwide there are 300-400 million indigenous people making up a total of 5% of the global population yet they account for 15% of the world’s most impoverished. One delegate, Anneli Jonsson from the Sami people in northern Sweden spoke of the high rates of depression and suicide amongst the Sami youth. She explained “All of the outside threats on their traditional lifestyle make it difficult for the youth to feel hopeful for the future.”

UN Speaking 2UN Photo/Yubi Hoffmann

Indigenous peoples face unique challenges and these meetings give them the opportunity to consider solutions for their communities. Many of these indigenous groups are taking action to protect their agricultural traditions by creating community seed banks and passing their cultivation techniques to the next generation. While the attendees varied greatly in location – hailing from just north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, the Sonoran Desert in Mexico and Taiwan – they all shared the similar struggle to feed their communities.

We collaborated with Slow Food USA to provide lunch for the indigenous representatives while they discussed Food Sovereignty – the right UN Foodof peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods. It was truly humbling to provide a meal for the very people who created the rare varieties of food we love and are striving to save at Heritage Foods USA. We have also had the pleasure of working with several indigenous groups over the years including the Anishinaabeg of Minnesota who make the delicious Native Harvest wild rice and the Iroquois White Corn Project of the Haudenosaunee in New York State. We are delighted to help bring these products back to the market for these groups that have collectively contributed so much to our food system and look forward to partnering with other indigenous groups in the future.

 

 

UN SpeakingUN Photo/Yubi Hoffmann

 

Sourwood Honey

 

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”

― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Sourwood Honey

 

Taste Notes: Balanced, Smokey, Flower, Smooth, Light, Airy, Spiced finish
Wine is the expression of the geographygeology and the climate of a region as much as it represents a particular varietal of grape. In the same way honey represents more than the work of a hive. It is a unique and beautiful reflection of the environment, the season and the blooms pollinated in the pursuit of its creation.

A skillful beekeeper knows how to arrange their hives just so to ensure the bees pollinate a specifically selected flower. They select flowers and time the collection to produce exquisite and unique honeys that exemplify their provenance. Sourwood Honey is a celebrated but rare variety of single flower origin produced in the Southeastern United States.

Sourwood Trees, (Oxydendrum arboreum) are native to the United States and bloom from mid-June to late July, thriving on the rocky soils of Sourwood_flowers_closeup (1)the Allegany, Blue Ridge, and Smoky Mountains. Because they bloom later in the year, after most of the wildflowers, maple and tulip blooms, there is a narrow 3-4 week window where beekeepers can harvest this rare nectar.

Sourwood honey is prized by connoisseurs having won best honey in the world twice at the prestigious Apimondia World Honey Show. It is distinguished by a light amber color, slow crystallization and a spicy, gingerbread twang on the finish. Sourwood Honey is often in short supply as the nectar produced by the trees is very dependent on the climatic conditions. Sourwood trees are also declining in number because of habitat loss from development.

Mike Childers is a local beekeeper in Raleigh, North Carolina who brings his bees deep into the Great Smoky Mountains right beside National Park Service Property to pollinate on Sourwood trees well away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Lightly filtered, pristine, and straight from the bees to your table.

To learn more about Sourwood Honey and listen to an interview with Mike check out this piece on Heritage Radio Network.

 

For more information about purchasing Sourwood Honey click here

The Carnivore’s Manifesto at SVF Foundation

SVFoundationOn the beautiful Swiss Valley Farm (SVF), in front of a room full of local Newport foodies, farmers and chefs Patrick Martins boldly declared, “Local is a measurement of distance, not taste.”

Immediately the row of chefs in the back row nodded in agreement and the farmers sitting in the middle moved to the edge of their seats. Ever the instigator, Patrick went on to have a rousing conversation with the attendees about his book, The Carnivore’s Manifesto and the importance of preserving rare breeds of livestock.

Preserving rare breeds of livestock is at the very core of the SVF Foundation, who preserves germplasm (semen and embryos) from rare and endangered breeds. SVF freezes these rare genetics in tubes and stores them in liquid nitrogen. The collection will eventually be moved to the Smithsonian where the material will remain viable for at least 1,000 years. SVF has a network of farmers who bring their rare breeds to Newport, RI to spend a year enjoying the ocean air and contributing their genetic material to the foundation’s collection. By collecting 200 embryos and 3,000 straws of semen per breed, SVF is able to reawaken a breed with its full genetic diversity within one generation. SVF provides an important and necessary safety net to the mission Heritage Foods USA has been working towards for over the last 12 years, which is to preserve genetic diversity in our food system.

The talk at SVF was intensified by the learned audience who, already passionate about heritage breeds, was quickly asking the tough questions. “How do we determine which breeds are truly heritage? How can chefs best support small farmers when they are often working at different economies of scale? How can we develop a better processing infrastructure?” It was a powerful event and while there are no easy answers, it is only through these conversations and books like The Carnivore’s Manifesto that we can begin to address those issues.

A huge thank you to the SVF Foundation for hosting us and filling the room with passionate carnivores. Heritage Foods USA applauds the great work of SVF and their efforts to ensure the future for heritage breeds of livestock.

 

BBQ Brisket

BBQ Brisket from Mark in NY

Mark from New York gave our Piedmontese brisket a try. The Pied is a very unique breed originally from the mountainous Piedmont region of Italy. Even though this beef is known for being very lean, because Piedmontese cattle carry the myostatin gene, or double-muscle gene, their lean meat is incredibly tender and flavorful.

Blenheim Apricot

A Rare Fruit for All Seasons – Hand Picked and Dried Blenheim Apricots

We are always looking for new, unique and rare foods from farmer who’s practices celebrate the land and foods they produce. We came across an amazing dried apricot that was unlike any we had before. The skin was thin and delicate leaving the fruit juicy, sticky and tender.  The Blenheim apricot, named after England’s Blenheim Place where it is thought to have originated, has been grown in the Santa Clara Valley region of California since the early 1900’s.  At the height of its popularity it was one of the most widely planted apricot varieties for good reason. The Blenheim ripens from the inside out and later in the season, making it more delicate than most. The Blenheim is both sweet and tart with an intensely aromatic aroma of honeysuckle.

By the 1960s the Blenheim began a slow decline, losing out in sales to tougher apricots that stood up to cross-country shipping. Once at risk of losing this truly remarkable fruit, the Blenheim has seen a slow but steady recover in numbers. More producers are begin to recognize the value of this rare treat thanks in part to its inclusion on Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste catalog— a living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. We are excited to share these rare treats with you!

Blenheim ApricotHand Picked and Dried Blenheim Apricots 8oz

 

Taste Notes: Bright, Sweet, Tangy, Juicy, Sunkissed, Honeysuckle

We think the bright flavor of the Blenheim shines brightest straight out of the bag as a snack or appetizer. 

B&R Farms, a 4th generation family operation in San Benito County, has been growing Blenheims since 1929. They have 100 acres of established Blenheims and in 2013, they planted another  25 acres.  B&R hopes to continue to expand their unique orchard as the land becomes available. The farmers at B&R handpick their apricots and dry them in the California sun.
Dried apricots will keep many weeks left out in a jar for snacking but they will start to lose moisture & darken after a few weeks.

 

We recommend storing the apricots in a cool, dark location where they will last for at least a year.

Lamb Origin Map

Development of Modern Sheep

Lamb Origin Map

The development of modern sheep traces back to ancient Mesopotamia where the wild muflon, the ancestor of modern sheep, were first believed to be domesticated between 11000 and 9000 BC. These sheep were primarily raised for meat, milk, and skins. Woolly sheep began to be developed around 6000 BC in Iran, and cultures such as the Persians became dependent on sheep’s wool for trading. Domesticated woolly sheep were imported to Africa and Europe via ancient trading routes where breed distinction and differentiation began to take shape.

Through breed improvement efforts, selective breeding and migration via trade, modern breeds began to emerge across Europe and Africa. These breeds were further developed and crossed before being brought to the Americas on the ships of explores and merchants.

Navajo-Churro

Origin : Spain
Population : 2,000 and 5,000 Worldwide
Status : Threatened
Temperament : Active but Docile
Known for : Sweet, lean meat
Facts : The first breed brought to North America.

Flavor Profile : Rich, Earthy, Tangy, Sweet, Mustard Seed, Spicy, Herbaceous, Silky.
Navajo-Churro : The Spanish Churro sheep was first brought to the Americas in the 1500s by the Spanish explores. One of the earliest domesticated animals in the New World, it quickly became integrated in native culture and cuisine. The Navajo-Churro produces excellent wool and meat. It was Navajo women who owned the sheep, the grazing rights and the wool, which was an important source of income. The Navajo-Churro existed in great numbers until the 1860’s when the United States government targeted their populations while at war with the Navajo.

The Navajo-Churro produces meat is lean with a distinctive, sweet flavor. It is rich, hearty and earthy with tangy and spicy notes of mustard seeds.

Tunis

Origin : Tunisia
Population : 5,000 USA
Status : Rare
Temperament : Docile
Known for : Exceptionally flavored meat
Facts : A favorite breed among our founding fathers.

Flavor Profile : Earthy, Minerally, Buttermilk, Not Lamby, Silky.

Tunis : The Tunis breed originated in Tunisia and is reputed to be more then 3000 years old. Referred to as fat-tailed sheep in the bible, the tail is now smaller but mature ewes still carry the distinctive tail fat the breed is known for. The color ranges from tan to red with the occasional white spot on the head and tail.

A favorite breed among our founding fathers, John Adams mentioned the breed in his diary in 1782 noting its exceptional taste. Thomas Jefferson ordered that a herd be imported from Tunisia because he loved them so much he thought they should be more readily available. George Washington bred them—one of his early legacies was the proliferation of his particular Tunis crossbreed on farms and dinner tables along the east coast. The Tunis is an excellent ambassador breed for the grass-fed movement yet still remains on the Livestock Breed Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List.

 

Dorset Horn

Origin : England
Population : Less than 2,000 Worldwide
Status : Watch
Temperament : Docile
Known for : Exceptional flavor

Flavor Profile :Olive, Lavendar, Sweet, Round, Lamby, Fresh.
Dorset Horn : The Dorset Horn is a breed of sheep that spread over Dorset, Somerset, Devon, and most of Wales during the 1700’s. Once popular with English aristocracy, the Dorset Horn has seen a steady decrease in population since the inception of industrialized agriculture. Today it is listed as Critically Threatened by the Livestock Conservancy. Dorsets tolerate heat well—heat tolerance contributes to the rams’ ability to breed earlier in the season than rams of other breeds. The Dorset Horn is able to give birth three times a year, which contributes to the Dorsets profitability and appeal for farmers who are familiar with heritage breeds.

Dorset Horn sheep are prized for their lean meat and tenderness.

Katahdin

Origin : America
Population : Between 2,000 and 5,000 Worldwide
Status : Watch
Temperament : Docile
Known for : Balanced, mild flavor
Facts : A haired sheep

Flavor Profile : Savory, Mushroom, Clover, Peppery, Creamy, Woody.

Katahdin : The Katahdin is unique in that it is a hair sheep and lacks the traditional coat of wool that lamb are associated with. Wool production takes time and energy from both the animals and the farmers while only providing 10 percent of the farmer’s income. In addition wool production can create a more pungent and muttony taste in the meat. Katahdins are favored by many farmers for their low maintenance and prized by chefs for their bright and clean taste. The Katahdin breed was first developed by Michael Piel of Abbott, Maine. It is an ideal breed for grass-fed systems and serves land conservation projects well.

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