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Heritage Turkey Premiere: An Interview with Frank Reese

Heritage Turkey Premiere: An Interview with Frank Reese

 

“I have baby turkeys everywhere!”

It’s that time of year, summer in Kansas, and the heat is rising. “Turkeys have to be hatched before June to be ready for Thanksgiving,” says Frank Reese. “But these birds do real well in the heat – they aren’t morbidly obese, so they can handle it. And unlike on an industrial farm, they have trees and shade and get plenty of fresh water… commercial turkeys suffer a lot in the heat. Those birds have been genetically selected to grow as fast as possible.”

“A turkey is no better than the farmer behind it. And the genetics, of course,” says Frank, whose turkeys are one of the only flocks in America to receive certification by the American Poultry Association as purebreds, standards that were set in 1873.

“The biggest thing this year is that we’ve added three new farms to meet a bigger demand. We never seem to have enough — hopefully this year if everything goes well we’ll have twice as many turkeys as last year. But it’s still a drop in the bucket — our four farmers together are going to raise what one big commercial plant will do in a week

“What people don’t realize that when you send turkeys to get processed, they don’t all come out as birds in a bag — some birds are bruised and you can’t sell it as a whole Grade A bird. Truthfully we lose very few turkeys to cosmetic things — but to the big guys, they don’t care as much about their animals because they don’t make money off of whole turkeys, they make money off of deli meat. For an industrial producer, that’s where the money is. For them a whole turkey at Thanksgiving is like a giveaway. But when that turkey you usually sell for 99 cents a pound is instead smoked and put in an eight ounce package that now costs five dollars, you’re now selling that same bird for ten bucks a pound. And that’s why they only sell hens as whole birds — their toms they get up to 40 lbs in 14 weeks and sell as deli meat.”

An industrial turkey farm can get a 20 lb. hen in 12 weeks, or a 40 lb tom in 14 weeks. My hens, in 12 weeks only weigh 7 or 8 lbs – and we won’t process them till 24 or 28 weeks when their live weight is 15-16 lbs. My toms —  in 24 weeks weigh 24 lbs— a commercial factory turkey in that much time would weigh 44 lbs, and they don’t quit growing. They’ll get to 50 – 60 lbs and weigh too much for their legs to carry. I don’t lose any turkeys because of obesity because I haven’t selected them to be so fat that they cant live.

“The industry has made their money off of uniformity… there can be no variance, no difference. My turkeys don’t all come out the same – it is a totally different system.

“All the industrial turkeys have salt water added – they call it flavor enhancers – but sometimes its more than just salt. They figure most people don’t know how to cook a bird properly, and they figure it will keep the turkey from turning into dry leather. The truth is that because they raise these birds so fast and kill them so young, they don’t develop a layer of fat. My birds are harvested at a normal age and maturity, and having that maturity brings taste, flavor, texture. The industry has removed that — what people are used to now, the taste of turkey they think they love, is mostly just added salt.

Long-time Heritage customers know that we got our start selling Frank’s turkeys, and our relationship with him truly is the cornerstone of our business. Frank can count among his fans Alice Waters, who says “These birds are without a doubt the tastiest birds you can possibly serve,” and Mario Batali, who proudly claims “I’ve served these birds for my Thanksgiving every year for the past 12 years and always will.”

Frank is a true hero of the heritage food movement — he is the first and one of the only sustainable commercial farmers to receive certification by the American Poultry Association, and the USDA, for his birds as purebreds— and he has been featured in publications ranging from The New York Times to National Geographic. His story is the Rosetta Stone of sustainable farming, and the reason why when it comes to meat, the word “heritage” is synonymous with “heirloom.” Good Shepherd turkeys are the oldest line of turkey in America, 100 percent antibiotic free, and pasture raised on the Kansas prairie.

Nancy Silverton, Chef Series and Featured Cuts

When Nancy Silverton was getting ready to open up Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, her partners, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, gave her very little direction. “Joe had an idea for an amaro focus at the bar, and of course we had Italian wine. As far as the food, Mario trusted us, but he wanted us to look into working with Patrick and Heritage Foods, which was still very new….

Casella’s Prosciutto Speciale!

We are so honored to be partners in the launch of Casella’s Prosciutto Speciale, a unique and delicious addition to the American food scene. Our heritage breed prosciutto is something special, or as The New York Times says “outstanding” — each one celebrates true American flavor.

Casella’s follows a time-honored Italian recipe — happy, healthy pigs, salt and time. Each leg of prosciutto is aged slowly, on the bone. At Casella’s there is no rush. Only a commitment to create a high quality, American-made prosciutto in line with the standards of the Italian prosciutto consortia. The results are consistently gorgeous — juicy, marbled meat with a delicate nutty flavor.

Cesare Casella grew up in a small town in the countryside of Tuscany, where his family ran a little trattoria. As a boy, he awaited the arrival of the norcini, the traveling butchers who came each year to make the salumi. Before he could barely see over the table, he was helping to prepare salumi and would care for it as it hung in the cellar. Since those early days in Lucca, Cesare has welcomed a successful career as a chef in New York City, opening several restaurants, becoming the Dean of Italian Cooking at the ICC, and of course, continuing to make salumi. With Casella’s Salumi Speciali, he hopes to transport you back to the flavors and experiences he knew when he was a boy.

Casella’s is made using only our pasture-raised, antibiotic-free, heritage breed pigs including Red Wattle, Berkshire, Tamworth, Gloucestershire Old Spot, Large Black and Duroc. Each breed of ham has a slightly different flavor.

Click on the links below to visit our storefront:
1. CASELLA’S PROSCIUTTO SPECIALE, Sliced Eight 4oz packs
2. CASELLA’S PROSCIUTTO SPECIALE, Sliced Four 4oz packs
3. CASELLA’S PROSCIUTTO SPECIALE, Whole One 9.5-10lb ham

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.

Cesare Casella

CESARE CASELLA – OLD WORLD MEETS NEW, PART 1

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….

The Ultimate Certification for Heritage Poultry

Certification by the American Poultry Association (APA) is the ultimate seal of approval for humane poultry production. The APA is America’s oldest agricultural association. Its certifications are endorsed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and it signifies that the animals are raised with balanced genetics, not genetics overbred for fast growth. Heritage chickens take 150 days to grow to market weight as opposed to 48 days on commodity farms. We applaud all producers including Frank Reese who have been endorsed by the APA.

Frank hold a certificate from the APA for each breed he raises. Here are the certificates for each of the 3 breeds we have available this week:

Whole Chickens
Two 3-4lb chicken $69
Two 3-4lb chicken $137
Barred Plymouth Rock or Cornish

Whole Chicken
Breed Tasting Kit $115
One 3-4lb chicken each from:
New Hampshire, Cornish and Barred Plymouth Rock

Ground Chicken
Three 1lb packs $55
Ten 1lb packs $175
Barred Plymouth Rock

On the Road with Cesare Casella —  #ProsciuttiForTutti Tour Goes to LaLaLand!!!

Following our perfectly insane foray into San Francisco armed with Cesare Casella’s new line of amazing prosciutti, we returned to the left coast to introduce these Italian-style cured hams to Los Angeles’ best chefs and culinary luminati.

These are truly the very best heritage hams, prepared naturally in a traditional style – cured in only salt, and (unlike American-style hams) never smoked. Casella’s hams are always cured on the bone for extra flavor.

So what do we do when a product is this good? We share it!

We visited our Los Angeles distributor Premier Meats where Patrick wowed the sales reps with Tales of Carnivorous Adventurous and rare-breed preservation (“you have to eat them to save them”) and we hosted a rare breed tasting of porterhouse pork chops, country ribs, and of course Cesare’s finest prosciutti and salami. Special shout outs to Harry, Udi, Omer, Martha and Stacey at Premier, truly an A-Team! Thanks guys!

We spent three days eating, visiting, tasting, and making friends.

Our first night kicked off with a special event at chi Spacca, Nancy Silverton’s meat mecca of the Mozza group — a celebration of all things Heritage Foods. Cesare sliced his prosciutto and cooked an entire course of braised ribs, and superstar Chef Ryan Denicola blew our minds with his presentations of our Silver Fox rabbit and Tunis and Dorset Horn lamb.

We met with old friends and new friends — Neal Fraser at Redbird, Mary Sue Milliken at Border Grill; the amazing Akasha Richmond at AR Cucina; Jon and Vinny of Animal; Chef Steve Samson of Sotto and the forthcoming RossoBlu. We had breakfast at Sqirl with Chef Jessica and Javier; snacks with Chef Javier at Lucques and later cured meats with Alex at Gwen’s gorgeous butcher shop. We can’t forget the famous Papi Chulo (Roy Choi) and Chef Diego at Commissary at The Line Hotel and then somehow we made it to Gjusta for pizza before dinner in Santa Monica at Cassia. And along the way we snuck in drive-bys at Here’s Looking at You, where Red Wattle bellies rule the roost, and the Tasting Kitchen, whose pork rillettes was one of the most memorable flavors of an astonishing, decadent trip.
Did you miss us in LA? Want to taste Cesare’s prosciutto for yourself? We are going to be in Las Vegas in April!

Come eat with us on Saturday, April 1st when Carnevino hosts its first guest chef dinner with Cesare Casella. A one-night only twist on signature dishes featuring three Heritage breeds of pig. Tickets are available at https://cesarecasella.splashthat.com/.

 

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