Tag: Heritage Pork


Paul Wetzel, Sous Chef and Visionary Charcutier of Gramercy Tavern

Paul Wetzel, visionary charcutier of Gramercy Tavern — Danny Meyer’s pioneering, Michelin-starred seasonal restaurant in Manhattan — is like a troubadour of cured meat, traveling from town to town to share the ancient art, listening and learning as he goes.

“I’ve gotten to the point at Gramercy that I have a strong team that supports me – so when I take time off, I plan trips to go to Italy to see salumi being made, or I visit butcher shops and processing plants… I grew up on a farm in North Ohio, and that was the foundation for what I’m doing now… it’s great not to just come from just the chef aspect, — a lot of chefs don’t understand what its like to be on the farm 365 days a year, getting up at 5 am, everyday, what it takes to raise an animal… , you can’t just say, Oh I want the fat this way, when you don’t really see how it happens.”

There is a charcuterie renaissance happening in America, and Paul is at its very foundation. Like his mentor, Swiss-born charcutier Francois Vecchio, Paul takes a “holistic approach” to his art — his respect for the animal goes back to the farm. “In just the past 6 or 7 years there’s been a shift in whole-animal butchers shops and artisanal charcuterie. There are more small producers doing fine product and it puts pressure on big scale producers who are basically cut off from the earth. This is where a lot of our problems have come from. They don’t understand that animals need to be grazing and healthy.

“And we try to buy nose to tail for a lot of reasons —we try to use as much of the animal as possible , from confit to sausages to curing meats, maximizing utilization. It’s less money than buying parts, of course, and it drives menu development — If you are just buying bellies and chops, you’re more likely to stay in a rut.”

Larry and Madonna - Lazy S. Farms – La Plata, Missouri

Larry Sorrell, Red Wattle Pig Farmer

When you see Red Wattle pork on a menu, what you are seeing is a five-state, fifteen farm network dedicated to raising a storied breed that was once upon a time nearly extinct.

Larry Sorrell is one of the heroes of this story, an avatar of the heritage food movement, a salt of the earth farmer, a true believer who was destined to become the Guardian of the Red Wattle. He is proof positive of the ethos that when it comes to endangered livestock, “you have to eat them to save them.”

In the beginning, back in 2004 when Patrick Martins began Heritage Foods, a market for the Red Wattle was built on handshake agreement with Mark Ladner, then the chef at Mario Batali’s Lupa, who recognized the high-quality and undiminished taste that came from a Red Wattle pig raised on-pasture, chemical free, humanely, using traditional farming methods. The deal with Ladner, and the partnership with Larry and his Lazy S farms, were truly the origins of Heritage Foods.

“We traveled 18,000 miles to get started,” Larry says matter-of-factly about a Heritage Foods Odyssey whose mission was to search out rare Red Wattle sows and collect a viable genetic lineage of this incredible pig whose American legacy goes back to 17th century New Orleans. “When we began, we had two Red Wattle gilts and a boar, and we had to travel all over the United States to start a herd.

“The Red Wattle was on their way to being extinct, we had to rasise ‘em to eat ‘em or they were going to disappear, that’s where it was at. When I started delivering hogs for Patrick, he had just started Heritage. He’s the one that really got the breed going – he got the meat to the chefs. They loved it and it grew from there….

“Now I’ve kinda retired from raising animals, but we have fifteen Amish growers working with us, and I pick up the hogs and pay for them, and then bring them to the processor, Paradise Locker. I drive a tractor trailer and go around picking up three-hundered pounders, fifty head a week. We have farms in Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa… that’s a lot of traveling, We may have four or five pick-ups every week. You wear out a truck pretty fast.”

Larry, now “pushing eighty,” still does all the driving. “I’ll have to quit sometime but right now it’s going pretty good. The driving is easy. The hard job is you gotta keep fifteen Amish families happy, picking up their hogs, coordinating farmers on the phone, monitoring the size of the animals and making sure we have the right amount— each week we round up fifty pigs. And we’ve been doing it for fourteen years now.”

“When we began,” Patrick says, “farmers were willing to sell their Red Wattle pigs since there was no market for them. Larry went out and helped us begin spreading the word on existing farms, and also got new farmers interested. What Larry has done to promote the Red Wattle breed has literally saved it. Red Wattle is still considered a rare breed by the American Livestock Conservatory, but has been upgraded off their ‘critical list’ to ‘threatened.’

“This is our most powerful statement. People associate Heritage Foods and Red Wattle – no one else sells this breed. We work with fifteen farms and each bite is an epiphany. The New York Times food critic Frank Bruni, in his final article for the paper, wrote that the Heritage Red Wattle country rib at the Brooklyn restaurant Vinegar Hill was one of the best bites of food in his entire career.”

It’s been a long strange trip for the Red Wattle — Legend has it that French colonialists brought the pigs to Louisiana all the way from New Caldonia, so favored were they for their flavor, bold enough to stand up to any local cuisine. Now they are the toast of the town in New York City and gaining popularity across the United States, served in some of the most discerning restaurants, and becoming the go-to pork chop for demanding home cooks.

All talk of animals aside, there are dozens of people involved in bringing thousands of Heritage Red Wattle pigs to market each year, a remarkable consortium of like-minded folks from diverse American cultures, from Larry and his wife Madonna (their nine kids left the roost years ago), to the fifteen Amish family farms who raise these beautiful beasts; the team at Paradise Locker in Trimble, MO, the exalted processor of all this meat; and Patrick Martins, the Pig Man of Brooklyn, who somehow holds it all together. So how does Larry get along with everyone? “Well,” he says, with the coyness of an old-school Kansas farmer, “You can’t work for somebody for fourteen years and not like them at least a little bit.”

Chili Montes of Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco

We talk a lot about restaurants, probably too much! 

As much as we love the luminaires who put Heritage Foods front and center on their menus, we want to sing the praises of something just a little bit closer to street level: the supermarket!

And not just any supermarket – the Bi-Rite family of markets in San Francisco is at the heart of their communities. Almost Sesame Street-like in its neighborhood friendliness, Bi-Rite remains an idyllic outpost of what an old-fashioned market should be. Customers talk to each other while waiting on line. Across the street is their legendary ice cream shop, the Bi-Rite Creamery.

Chili Montes is Meat and Seafood Buyer for the Bi-Rite family, and head of the Bi-Rite butcher program where for over twenty years he has distinguished himself not only as an educator and advocate, but as an ally, and one of our favorite guys ever to wear a white apron.

“Every month of the year in San Francisco there is some sort of food-centric holiday — except for August,” says Chili, “so for the last two years, we’ve worked with Heritage Foods on “Hog-ust,” and bring in as many breeds as we can during that month. It gives customers a chance to try them all and celebrate the differences between animals that may have been at the brink of extinction. It has been a huge conversation starter. People really get into it.

“Heritage Foods, as much as they are a business partner, they are also a facilitator in education — I have visited their famers, they’ve helped me learn what it takes to produce meat, and the difficulties and rewards of agriculture, especially on a smaller scale with farmers committed to doing things the right way — a focus on quality rather than quantity. I buy a lot of pork from Heritage, but we’ve bought turkeys, goat, steer. We also have local farmers and ranchers we support, and I spend time with them as well.

“There is a very specific consciousness in the way we converse with our guests at Bi-Rite — early on there needed to be a justification for why our product wasn’t the same price as in a chain supermarket, but once they purchase our meat and produce, the taste and the flavor speak for themselves, They just needed a connection to understand why things are a few dollars more.

“I’ve got the best job in the world. At Bi-Rite our customers reward us for the work that we put in with their support for us and what we do, and their willingness to engage in conversation, to have a dialogue with the people who produce their food – It’s amazing, especially in an age when people don’t like to talk to other people!”

Split Pea Soup featuring Heritage Cured Ham Shanks

Split Pea Soup featuring Heritage Cured Ham Shanks

Our Cured Ham Shanks are a life-saver for any and all multi-tasking home chefs. My favorite application for this cut is SOUP.  These flavorful shanks are the perfect low-maintenance cut – delicious and easy!

Enjoy this hearty soup with crusty sourdough bread – for our fellow Brooklynites, we are hooked on Roberta’s batard!

10 Soup Facts That I Find Interesting (by Patrick Martins)

Soup is a tough subject matter for a meat distributor. So I have accumulated 10 soup facts that I find interesting.

1. Carlo Petrini, the founder of SlowFood, told me the best way to judge a restaurant is to try the soup – there is almost no margin of error when it comes to soup. One can’t dupe on the soup.

2. Soup is the best backdrop for our cured shanks, the best cured cut Heritage sells. We only ever sell the cured fore shank as it’s the perfect size for the cure recipe — hind shanks are so large and don’t take in the cure perfectly.

3. Pea Soup is my favorite and the only soup that can be a meal in and of itself for me. (Plus lentil soup in an emergency).

4. Soup ranks last as a desirable dish on the menu to share with acquaintances.

5. Soup is the last stop of the nose-to-tail gastronomic train — bones from heritage breeds make the best stock in the business. Try our Roli Roti beef broth – it takes days to craft!

6. When soup is served the spoon receives top billing at the dinner table finally overcoming the fork and knife for importance.

7. In the movie Ratatouille, the eponymous mouse got his big break making soup at Gusteau’s, the best restaurant in Paris.

8. Soup satisfies the soul, it’s easy, homey, comforting, flexible and nourishing.

9. Soup can change a life – its curative and inspirational… “The dish that changed my life was tom yum kum. You start with a pot of water, add lemongrass, lime leaves, lime juice, coriander, mushrooms, and shrimp; ten minutes later, you have the most incredible, intense soup.” Jean-Georges Vongerichten

10. Soup is where I learned the alphabet.

-Patrick Martins
Founder & President of Heritage Foods

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

Secreto for Lunch

Secreto is a term used for a butcher’s secret cut. Crafted by master artisan Thomas Odermatt, our Secreto, cut from the short loin, brings 200 years of butchering tradition to your table.

When you’re on the run and need some quick ideas for lunch, our Secreto can come in handy.  Use some slices in a sandwich, beef up a healthy salad, or use it as your main ingredient in a pasta.  Here is a quick and delicious tomato based pasta recipe:

Ingredients
1 box Baia pasta, Casarecce
2 14.5oz. can of whole tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup water
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, grated on a microplane
2 basil springs
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Procedure
1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or heavy-bottomed pot. Bloom the grated garlic and tomato paste in the olive oil. When the tomato paste turns into a dark brick red, add the canned tomatoes, breaking them up as they cook. Once all of the tomatoes are crushed to the desired amount, add 1 cup of water and continue to cook. Add the bay leaf, basil sprigs, salt and pepper and allow the tomato sauce to simmer.
2. As the sauce is simmering, fill a 6 quart pot halfway up with hot water and bring it to a boil. When the water is at a rolling boil, add two handfuls of kosher salt and allow it to dissolve. Add 1 box of dry pasta to the boiling water and cook for about twelve minutes (or longer, depending on the desired doneness), stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.
3. For the Secreto: Bring the Secreto to room temperature before you begin. Drizzle cooking oil into a hot pan. Once the pan is smoking hot, sear the fattier side of the Secreto for about four minutes. Carefully flip the Secreto and sear it on the other side for another four minutes. Remove it from the pan and allow it to rest for about five minutes. Although the USDA recommends pork be cooked to an internal temperature of 145ºF, our chefs suggest cooking until a thermometer reads 135ºF as the temp will continue to rise while resting. Slice thin.
4. Strain the pasta when it is cooked to the desired doneness, reserving two cups of the starchy pasta water. Add the strained pasta and Secreto to the tomato sauce, adding pasta water as needed to loosen up the final product.

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