Tag: Heritage


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.”

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!”

Stephen Barber – Director of Culinary Operations and Executive Chef of Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch

California is the Promised Land where dreams really do come true — Hollywood, Disneyland, and Farmstead at the Long Meadow Ranch in Napa Valley.

“Farmstead is the culmination of many things that came together,” says Farmstead’s executive chef Stephen Barber, “this is where the rubber hits the road. It’s a lot to explain, it’s a complex operation. We raise our own beef, we grow our own vegetables. We make wine. We have the apple orchard in Napa, and an olive farm. We have 500 chickens, fruit orchards… there are so many different elements. And our restaurant, Farmstead, is where it all comes together. For lack of a better term, it is pure “farm to table,” — it’s been overused, but best describes what we are doing. This is the best case scenario — total control of our food supply from start to finish. The vegetables are from our farm, it is our wine you are drinking, our olive oil finishing your plate.

“We have Scotch Highlands cows — Ted Hall and the Hall family (who took over Long Meadow in the 1980s, after a storied past that drifted through the Civil War and Prohibition) — fell in love with this breed. They are gorgeous animals, very long hair, very lean, tasty, rich flavorful beef that does well in the hills here. We have some angus, too, and we use a rotating paddock system that we graze our animals on.

“But we can’t raise every bit of protein at the restaurant, so the next thing is to find responsible people we can work with. Heritage is as much a part of our story as raising our own beef. We use all the Heritage rare breeds, Red Wattle, Berkshire, Duroc. We actually took a shot at raising pork — Patrick helped us with some Red Wattle pigs, but gosh, we couldn’t get them to mate. I think he sent us some unsocialized pigs!”

Let’s Talk… Goatober Meatballs for Your Housewarming Party!

Getting ready for housewarming parties can be stressful!  Let me take a small load off of your shoulders by introducing our favorite recipe for a simple and delicious appetizer. Goatober (October) is my favorite month, so in celebration I’ve prepared a quick and no-fuss recipe for you.

For the Goat Meat Balls
3 lbs. ground goat
1 medium white onion, diced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 whole eggs
1/2 bunch parsley, picked and chopped
1/2 bunch marjoram, picked and chopped
2 tbsp. salt, add more if you’d like
2 tbsp. curry powder (our mix is equal parts ground coriander, turmeric, mustard, cumin, fenugreek, cayenne, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon)
1 tbsp. black pepper
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, optional for an extra kick

For the Labne Sauce
1/2 lb. labne (we picked Arz Labne for this recipe)
1/2 bunch dill, finely chopped
1/2 bunch mint, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced
Salt to taste

To make the labne sauce, thoroughly mix all of the ingredients in a bowl. So that all of the flavors meld together, mix the sauce together ahead of time – we made ours the day before the event.

Preheat the oven to 450°F
Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl – we did this with our hands and latex gloves. You can also use a mixer with the paddle attachment. Try to work quickly and efficiently – you want to make sure all of the ingredients are evenly mixed without over-working the meat. Once all of the ingredients are fully incorporated into the ground goat, form walnut-sized balls – don’t worry, the goat meat is so lean that there won’t be much shrinking when baked! Lay the balls out evenly on a baking tray lined with a lightly oiled sheet of parchment paper. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. We cooked our goat meatballs under a high broiler for about 12 minutes.
Serve each ball with a dollop of labne sauce!

Braised Goatober Curry

5lb. goat shanks
2 tbsp. cooking oil
1 red onion, sliced
1 small kabocha squash, diced
1 – 40z jar green curry paste
1 bottle Chicken Bone Broth or Beef Bone Broth (we mixed half and half), boiled
1- 13.5 oz can coconut milk

Heat the oil in a small rondeau and brown the goat shanks over medium-high heat. Once the shanks are browned on all sides, remove them and set aside.  In the same rondeau, sweat out the onions until they are cooked through.  Add the kabocha squash dice and brown them on all sides (the dice do not need to be thoroughly cooked just yet). Then, toast the green curry paste in the pot, evenly coating the vegetables.

Re-add the goat shanks to the curry mix and carefully add the boiled bone broth.  If the shanks are not completely covered, add hot water. Bring the braise to a boil and then reduce it down to a simmer.  Allow the braise to simmer for about 90 minutes. At this point, the meat from the shanks should fall off of the bone.  If not, don’t worry, just add more water!  Continue to add water and simmer until the meat is tender enough to shred and fall off of the bone.  Reduce the liquid until it is just looser than your desired consistency – the coconut milk will thicken the curry! Just before removing the braise from the heat, mix in the coconut water.

Serve with coconut rice!

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!

GOATOBER: Fun Facts

Click through the gallery to see some fun facts!

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

Let’s talk…SOUP! (by Ben Tansel)

It’s interesting to see that soup can have so many variations and carry so much meaning with different people and different cultures. From matzo ball soup that can cure almost anything to a hearty potato and ham hock soup that warms to the core and energizes a working man. Even the tomato soup served in school cafeterias can hold some sort of importance – a memory, a feeling. Thick, thin, spicy, sweet, meaty the list goes on and on. Some are meant to nourish and some are just meant to scratch that itch that only a hot bowl of soup can scratch. Much has been written on soup from cookbooks to peer reviewed articles pontificating its history. One may see it referenced in every vain of pop culture from movies to sitcoms, even song lyrics. It’s staggering how often soup is referenced when attention is paid. Seinfeld is one such show that made reference in many episodes. Everyone remembers the Soup Nazi! Personally, soup has always been a desired meal and I wonder sometimes if there are any people out that that down right dislike it.

Early in my culinary career I worked for a Bulgarian man in a Bulgarian Bistro. Every day this chef wanted no less than six soups on the menu. It was crazy to me that such a small restaurant was running that many different kinds of soup. Not only were there six at one time, but the repertoire he drew from was so diverse. He explained to me that soup in his country was common at every meal of the day and had to change from season to season. I think it was here, working for this man, that my real love for soup bloomed.

I am fairly confident that in this melange of soups, most of the herbs we used were illegal. Not because it was pot or mind altering in any way. Rather, they were illegal because his spice shelf was full of hand picked herbs and spices brought to the states by friends and family. Tasting each of the different spices on his shelf was exciting and unfamiliar to me then and honestly, I don’t think I have seen them since.
His soup and cooking drew Bulgarian natives from all over the region. There was always someone visiting that came through his doors to say hello. They would get into drunken food laden conversations for hours and hours on end. On their arrival they always brought two things: Rakija, which is essentially brandy, and some dried plant materials in unmarked bags. His eyes would light up when he saw the new spice or herb. Immediately he asked “do you know what we can do with this?” No, was my usual response, I couldn’t possibly know where to start, but I knew it was going to be a soup!

These soups we never a quick process. Some were quick and easy to prep, but the simmering and extracting of flavor took hours and hours. Others were laborious and time consuming. Making sure each component was added at just the right moment. Making hundreds and hundreds of tiny meatballs to be added gently into the stock so they wouldn’t stick together and lose their perfectly round shape. It was the process, the development, the struggle that made me really fond making soups. It was also this struggle that made me fall in love and allowed me to understand why.

– Ben Tansel

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.

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