Category: Lifestyle


CESARE CASELLA – OLD WORLD MEETS NEW, PART 2: THE LEGEND OF THE NORCINI

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.

porkshanks

Braised Pork Shanks for Family Meal at Untitled in NYC

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!

In the Kitchen with Executive Chef of Marta Restaurant, NYC, Joe Tarasco

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!

Saving the World, One Ham at a Time

Twenty years ago, the bulk of American charcuterie was cheap, commodity product. You could get a domestic prosciutto in a supermarket for half the price of Prosciutto di Parma. More recently, charcuterie in the United States is following the same trend we have seen with wine, beer, cheese, and bread. The talent chain is expanding and quality ingredients are becoming more accessible.

Says Martins, “Two decades ago, if you wanted to buy an imported beer, you paid a premium. American beer was cheap. Now the most expensive and sought-after beer is domestic, handcrafted beer, made in smaller quantities, with the best ingredients.

“The same thing is happening with high-quality charcuterie. Largely because of a new dedication to responsibly-sourced ingredients — heritage breeds, raised on pasture, humanely. The domestic version will be the sought after product. Imports will dwindle. We’ll still love our Italian and Spanish hams, but they won’t be nearly as prevalent, they’ll be nostalgia. The market is changing right before our eyes.”

This new wave is more sophisticated because of the quality of the farming. We are determined to change the taste through better ingredients — and you can’t make a great ham without starting with a great pig.”

There are two approaches to making a great ham — the Old-World style, best-known as Prosciutto di Parma or Jamón Serrano, and the American traditional style that comes out of the deep South, with the added step of smoking — and Heritage Foods is working with outstanding proponents of both:

Broadbent Hams, under the direction of Ronny and Beth Drennan, in Kuttawa, Kentucky, have won championships from the National Country Ham Association. They have recently added a new line of heritage breed, pasture-raised hams to their existing line of Southern Style hams, which goes back 100 years. They represent a new American style of prosciutto — lighter, with a uniquely sweet and salty flavor. The first wave will be available beginning this fall.

Cesare Casella was trained by the Norcini, the great Tuscan traveling butchers. He is a famed New York restaurateur, and Dean of Italian Studies at the International Culinary Center. His Casella’s pasture-raised salami is an astonishingly nuanced example of the artform. His line of Old World-style heritage prosciutto will be available beginning in March and are sure to be a formidable presence, bringing three-hundred years of Italian tradition to the vanguard.

Antonio Fiasche from ’Nduja Artisans continues a great tradition of Italian charcuterie. His family has run Ristorante Agostino in Chicago for over thirty years, and Antonio has led the charge towards expanding a curing business anchored by a wide variety of salamis and their family specialty, ’nduja, a spreadable, spicy, Calabrian pâté, which they have been making for five generations.

Al Benton cures his hams in an ancient smokehouse in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with little consideration for the modern world. Even though Benton is a household name in the South, he is still hands-on and present in all steps of the curing process. He is another famed traditionalist who is forwarding the cause of the American charcuterie renaissance. His strong, salty, smoky hams have always enjoyed a huge following.

In addition, the Heritage Foods roster of great curemasters includes Nancy Newsom, whose grandfather started a curing tradition in his old Kentucky home that allowed seasonal change to flavor the ham naturally; Armondino Batali in Seattle, who creates bold, charismatic salumi from pasture-raised meat; Johnny Hunter, from Underground Meats in Wisconsin; Sam Suchoff and Rufus Brown, from Lady Edison in North Carolina; and Paradise Locker Meats whose injection curing process produces delectable maple sugar hams.

Long-aged hams, salami, and other heritage breed, pasture-raised charcuterie is available directly from Heritage Foods USA.

RECAP: Our Annual Good Food Awards Trip + Introducing #ProscuittiForTutti

In the spirit of #ThrowBackThursday, we thought we would rewind back to a few weeks ago when Team Heritage brought the #ProsciuttiForTutti tour to the San Francisco Bay Area. It was a whirl wind four days visiting restaurant and chef partners both old and new, attending the Good Food Awards – the Oscar’s of the food world – and of course the Winter Fancy Food Show. Armed with prosciutti and salami for all, we kicked off #ProsciuttiForTutti with Thursday morning visits to both Bi Rite Markets. We caught up with our friends Sam, Chili, and Maria at 18 th Street and Faun, Daniel and Chris at Divisadero over the VERY first bites of Cesare Casella’s Prosciutti Speciale made with our heritage hams. This is THE first prosciutto of its kind – ready for the marketplace in Spring 2017! Imagine Prosciutto di Parma meets Prosciutto Toscano, but American made with heritage rare breed pigs!

Next up – over to Hayes Valley to see Taylor and his team at Fatted Calf. We cannot forget our tastes of their house made roast beef and kale salad with BACON. Mmmm. That Thursday night was an incredible celebration of all things HERITAGE! We co-hosted a party at Angelo Garro’s Renaissance Forge featuring… you guessed it… heritage PORK! No commodity pigs were allowed! Surrounded by the sweet smells of smoke and meat from Angelo Garro’s wood fired grill an incredible group of chefs, butchers and crafters came together for the evening. Angelo, Veronica and Beth of OMNIVORE of course! Renato and Dario of Baia Pasta, Taylor from Fatted Calf brought some of his cured meats, Bala and Pinky from Preferred Meats and Chris Howell from Cain Winery & Vineyard brought some of his incredible wines. Our longtime friend and Slow Food supporter, Julie Shaffer flew out from Atlanta to join us for a few days and Chef Ryan Denicola drove up from chi SPACCA in Los Angeles. Emilio Miti brought over his gorgeous green slicer for the prosciutto. Chef Josh Perez from Americano at Hotel Vitale was there along with Chef Miles Kline from The Cooperage Lafayette. Thomas and Mike from Roli Roti. Even the Good Food Awards team was in the house.

And Thursday was only the start of a truly FULL-filling trip. We went on to see Chef Nicolette at A16, Chef Rocky and Isaiah at A16 Rockridge, Chef Cal at Chez Panisse, Chef Alfredo at Rose’s Café, Chef Michael, Chris, Nick and Jillian at Cotogna, Chef Leslie at Universal Café, Chef Jonah at Oliveto, Chef Stephen and Kipp from Farmstead, Chef Joyce at Tosca Café and Chef Athman at Boxing Room. Antonio Fiasche of Chicago’s ‘Nduja Artisans was also in town as were Chef Zach and Nicole from CarneVino in Las Vegas. Did we mention Patrick’s beautiful introduction of Sarah Weiner, the Director of the Good Food Awards and the incredible call to action from Winona LaDuke? Plus powerhouse women Alice Waters and Nell Newman. Read more here!

Did we eat well? OF COURSE! Who fed us? EVERYONE! Did we make new friends? YES! And we learned from Cesare that prosciutto is more complex than we ever realized. The depth of flavor and texture change as you slice further into the leg… we can’t wait for more!

Ready for Los Angeles!

Wild Rice

Supporting Native Foods at The Good Food Awards!

Under the call to action Come to the Table. All are Welcome Here, 1000 guests came together this past weekend in San Francisco to award 200 American artisans in 14 categories at the Good Food Awards.

Pork Tenderloin

Dreamy Pork Tenderloin: Put the Skillet in the Oven

There aren’t a lot of tricks for making a great roast. But we wanted to share with you one of our favorite methods of cooking a pork tenderloin, not only a house favorite here at Heritage but a never-fail crowd pleaser. When done right it is as elegant as filet mignon, the perfect foundation for dinner parties or just a date for two….

Heritage Bone-In Pork Loin

How to Cook: Your Heritage Bone-In Pork Loin

One of our favorite products and a true crowd pleaser is the 3-4lb. bone-in pork loin, also known as the 5-rib rack.  Delicious roasted whole or cooked as separate chops, this versatile cut can be enjoyed with varieties of vegetables, sauces, and chutneys! Here’s a simple guide on how to cook this no-fuss roast to flavor perfection…

"Chick-etta" Rolatina Recipe

“Chick-etta” Rolatina Recipe

Pasture-raised chicken breasts deboned and stuffed with award-winning cheese, our “Chick-etta” is the perfect storm of taste and earthy sophistication. Cordon Bleu-meets-porchetta in master butcher Thomas Odermatt’s newest creation.

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