wasn’t going to be easy to make a living curing hams…. so I wrote to everyone I could think of, anyone who could help, university professors, cooks, I wanted to hear everyone’s ideas, and I studied everything I could, but I could never improve on the recipe from the old smoke house behind the house I was born in — people really seemed to like it. At the beginning I was thinking about curing quickly, maybe one hour for a twelve-lb. ham – I thought if I was going to make it in this business I had to work very fast and quick-cure, which is what the business was. But my daddy told me ‘If you play the other guy’s game, you are always going to lose. Make it the best you can. Quality is what is going to sustain you….
Category: Heritage Pork
It was teeming rain on the way from Nashville to Madisonville, Tennessee, the kind of rain that obscures the green, Smoky Mountains of Tennessee behind sheets of steam and fog and sounds like war drums on the roof of a rented car. It didn’t take much imagination to think we were driving through Skull Island, home of King Kong, or had somehow made a detour into the Heart of Darkness, a scene from Apocalypse Now. The truth, however, was far more comforting: We were on a mission to see a King and Queen of country ham, Al Benton and Nancy Newsom….
News of the Heritage Foods partnership with master curemaster, chef, educator, and guru Cesare Casella has spread like wildfire — Cesare is a leader in the new movement for Heritage American charcuterie, and no one is more excited than, well, Cesare!
“The lardo, the rosemary, the juniper berries, the curing salts, those smells are inside my head,” says Cesare. “They are part of me. It’s like being an alchemist. The norcino salumiere transforms the butchers’ meat into something traditional and beautiful. That is what I want to do. And for me, it’s family. Tending the salumi as they age is like caring for my pets as they grow up and mature. They become my best friends!”
The tradition of the norcini started in the town of Norcia in Umbria, high in the Apennines, a place famous for its cured meats. Farming conditions were poor in the mountains, so Norcians ate what they had plenty of, which was the cinghiale, or wild boar, that roamed the forests. They also raised their own pigs, then cured the meats so it would keep for long periods, an art that evolved over the centuries. In time, the norcini became so expert, their art was recognized both by the state and by the Catholic Church. After the trade group, the Confraternita Norcina was founded in 1615, it received the blessing of Pope Paul V. The norcini were considered so skilled, they were allowed to practice surgery, dentistry and bone setting.
The original norcini typically traveled in pairs. There was the butcher who cut up the meat and broke it down, and the salumiere, who turned that meat into salumi. Together, the norcini made the salumi for every season, from fresh sausage for the next day, to prosciutto for the following year. Each duo had its own routes and loyal farmers that it serviced year again and again, and as the men crisscrossed Italy, they carried with them the secret recipes and processes for creating prosciutto and salumi. There were generations of norcini who passed along their secrets to their apprentices who in turn cared for the same family farms decade after decade.
After World War II, as pig farming became industrialized, the norcini began to fade from the Italian countryside, and the visits made to the Casella family and Vipore grew more and more rare. Eventually Cesare took on some of the butchering and salumi-making and also worked with local butchers to get the flavors he wanted for Vipore. His platters of cacciatorini, finocchiona and sopressata became one of the restaurant’s trademarks.
The tradition of the norcini and the flavors and smells of salumi-making in the Italian countryside are what Cesare is drawing on with Casalla’s Salumi Speciali. He is working with farmers dedicated to raising pork as the Norcians did for centuries. Their pigs, he likes to say, are happy pigs. They roam pastures freely. They run around and they roll in the mud. They loll. They’re not dosed with antibiotics. When Cesare makes prosciutto, he cures it on the bone, just as the Norcians did, for that deep, authentic nutty flavor. Just like the norcini, Cesare has his own special recipe for the spices to make his salami and prosciutti.
One of the most exciting things happening here at Heritage in the New Year is our newly-forged relationship with Cesare Casella, master Michelin-starred chef, the Dean of Italian Studies at the International Culinary Center and celebrated restaurateur….
Edwards Prosciutto-Style Ham
This is a dry-cured ham that boasts the signature flavors of Surry, VA, where hams have been produced for 90 years by the Edwards family. Sam Edwards painstakingly salts, smokes and ages Berkshire hams for 400-600 days. As our hams pass through the Spring, Summer and Fall rooms of the Edwards facility, they acquire a depth of flavor that is second to none.
One 3.5-4lb piece $135
Broadbent Prosciutto-Style Ham
New-World and Old-World collide in this fresh example of Heritage cured ham. After over 100 years, Broadbent boasts a pasture-raised heritage product line and the results are a lighter, sweet and salty American prosciutto. Perfect with summer melon or on home made pizza! One 2.5-3lb piece $99
One 2.5-3lb piece $99
Fourth-generation ’nduja artisan Antonio Fiasche crafts his specialty in Chicago, where his family has run Ristorante Agostino for 32 years. Antonio was introduced to us at the 2016 Good Food Awards, honoring America’s great artisans. His ’nduja is sweet up front, followed by a subtle but uninhibited heat. We guarantee you’ll find this traditional Calabrian spread an unexpected and unforgettable, bold delicacy.
Three 6oz packs $36
This Salame di Felino is made in the Emilia-Romagna-style from the western part of the Province of Parma, most notably known for their prosciutto and Parmigiano Reggiano. It has a mild taste and buttery finish with distinct marbling throughout. This no frills porky salami is soft with creamy sweet fat. Nello’s Specialty Meats, one of Pennsylvania’s great curemasters, is a community fixture that processes and cures for dozens of farms locally.
Three 8oz packs $39
Easy Entertaining Package
Receive all 4 of the heritage cured meats plus a well-rounded Soppressata Salami with notes of black pepper from Underground Meats in Madison, WI.
Easy Entertaining package $175
The filet mignon of pork! Silky, tender and easy to roast to perfection. Each pig only produces two pounds of delicate tenderloin. Prepared simply, marinated, or wrapped in bacon, every bite is a masterpiece!
Our breeds include Berkshire, Red Wattle, Duroc, Gloucestershire Old Spot, Large Black, and Tamworth. Each heritage breed boasts its own flavor profile, and we encourage you to try them all.
All our pork is from pasture raised, hormone and antibiotic free animals. They are raised with care using traditional methods guaranteed to produce the very best tasting meat and processed at a Certified Humane facility.
Thank you, Gwen LA for this amazing recipe!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Plus 30 minutes for resting pork
Cook time: 4 hours
It’s always fun and interesting for us to see what the chefs in our network are cooking up for their off-the-menu Family Meals. Our chefs from Untitled in NYC have provided the first recipe for our new Family Meal series. Although brining before cooking is not absolutely necessary, we have added their optional instructions on how to brine the shanks for incredible flavor and texture!
Check out Executive Chef Tarasco, a great supporter of heritage breeds, as he talks meat marbling and cooks a beautiful thick-cut heritage pork chop on the wood-fired grill at Marta!
Fatted Calf bacon is a bacon milestone. This is old-fashioned bacon at its finest, beginning with superior Heritage pigs, and then dry cured with brown sugar, sea salt, and a bit of cayenne – but it’s not too spicy, just well-balanced, and it is smoked over four kinds of wood, two fruit woods and two hardwoods — cherry, apple, mesquite and alderwood — to further balance the smoky flavor….