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. Taylor tells us that “using just the hardwood, the smoke profile is too strong. Using the apple and cherry soften it. It is nicely aromatic, and the brown sugar gives it a really good depth. The cayenne keeps the sweet and salty at bay, gives it a nice note, and you can really taste the meat itself, you can tasted the high quality of the belly…there is nothing like a Heritage pig.”
Fatted Calf was one of Heritage Foods’ first customers on the West Coast — we met them back in 2004 when Patrick Martins was traveling, and they talked about responsible, traditional, humane farming, and reaching out to the like-minded.
“It was an East Bay connection,” recalls Taylor. “Alice Waters may have introduced us, and we immediately knew the pigs were better than anything we could find. At the time we were still doing just one farmer’s market every week, and then we were doing a few, and it just blew up…”
The Fatted Calf bacon is cured with the old-world salt-box method. “It’s a bombardment of cure – it gets massaged into the belly and sits in the box for a few days and gets brushed off. It isn’t scientific ‑ you put some cure down, put in the bellies, and repeat. It couldn’t get any simpler, it is super old-world, how bacon has been made for hundreds of years, but it takes a lot of time. A big company does thousands of pounds in an hour, with liquid injection… ours is more labor intensive, but you wind up with the superior product. There is no added water. When you fry it, it doesn’t disappear.”
These days the butcher’s case in the Fatted Calf has FIFTY different versions of artisanal charcuterie — salumi, sausages, pate, ham, roast beef. “We make everything in small batches and sell it out fast,” says Taylor. “Up until now our business has been a mile wide but an inch deep.”