Tag: prosciutto


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

Heritage Magical Meat Tour Heads South: In Search of the Great Country Hams Part 3

Nancy Newsom, The Ham Maid’s Tale

Rolling into Princeton, Kentucky, is like being thrown back in time.

Newsom’s Old Mill Store was opened in 1917, and although it burned down and was rebuilt next door to the original locale, it doesn’t feel like much has changed. The poplar floor creeks like an ancient symphony, even the door whistles like a bluegrass concerto when it swings shut. Outside on the sidewalk, there are a dozen varieties of tomato plants for sale, and pretty much everything you might want for your garden. Inside, are every manner of beans and corn, and jars of country condiments, from Hot Chow Chow to Appalachian Piccallili. In the back corner, past the buckets of penny candy, is where they slice the ham.

But perhaps nothing more important to the topic at hand —  the raison d’être for a Heritage Pilgrimage that has flown all the way from New York and driven across two states in a torrential downpour —is Princeton’s fortuitous location on top of a watershed, where springs often pop up like wild weeds. Out behind the store, just behind the Newsom curing facility, is a running creek, which comes down from Big Spring as part of the Eddy Creek system, and eventually runs into Lake Barclay.

If the mold is the fairy dust that makes for the world’s best hams, the water and the moisture in the air plays as big a part in curing these hams as any human hand.

Unlike Benton’s, Nancy uses no climate control – her process is driven by the weather and the water in the air. She describes her hams as “ambient cured” — it is a seasonal experience, managed by God as much by man, and not an exact science.  How long will the hams cure? How long will they smoke for? The answer is always changing.

“Well,” says Nancy, “It depends on the weather, and Kentucky weather can change every day.” More than that, the global climate has become unpredictable at best. “I have to rethink what I do every year.”

Heritage Magical Meat Tour Heads South: In Search of the Great Country Hams Part 2

Benton’s began in 1947, when dairy farmer Al Hicks cured hams for local farmers. “Ham was sustenance food for hillbillies,” Al Benton says of the very thing that has become a culinary legend.

In 1973, Al was a High School guidance counselor struggling to make ends meet when he decided he was going to give a go to what he knew best.  “I quit my job and then it really sunk in – it wasn’t going to be easy to make a living curing hams…. so I wrote to everyone I could think of, anyone who could help, university professors, cooks, I wanted to hear everyone’s ideas, and I studied everything I could, but I could never improve on the recipe from the old smoke house behind the house I was born in — people really seemed to like it. At the beginning I was thinking about curing quickly, maybe one hour for a twelve-lb. ham – I thought if I was going to make it in this business I had to work very fast and quick-cure, which is what the business was. But my daddy told me ‘If you play the other guy’s game, you are always going to lose. Make it the best you can. Quality is what is going to sustain you.

“Blackberry Farms changed things, this was in about 1991. We had just two employees then. John Fleer was the chef at Blackberry and he was already something of a star – he had been Mary Tyler Moore’s personal chef! John is such a good man, I never even heard him raise his voice, which is very rare among chefs… and he cared so much about sourcing. He called on day, he had bought some stuff from us, and I thought he was going to complain, but he wanted to see if it was okay to put our name on his menu at Blackberry. I thought there had to be a reason why not, but I couldn’t think of one. And then the phone started ringing, he had so many great chefs coming to visit him — Tom Colicchio, Thomas Keller — I guess that’s when I saw the Promised Land. There was a market for fine dining with the aged country hams and bacon.”

Later that night, dinner talk turned to moonshine, music, and professional wrestling — Tennessee, and Memphis, especially, being mecca’s of the great sport, led by it’s own King, Jerry Lawler, who’s greatest rivalry was a Jewish comedian from New York named Andy Kaufman. But mostly we talked about food, and mostly about ham. Al spoke with great admiration for his colleagues Sam Edwards and Nancy Newsom, to whom he gives great credit for bringing traditional Southern ham north.

“People are really starting to care where their food comes from — Look, when McDonald’s is talking about cage-free eggs, they’re reading the tea leaves. It gives me pride that small folks have been able to make such a ripple in food culture.”

Heritage Magical Meat Tour Heads South: In Search of the Great Country Hams Part 1

Heritage Magical Meat Tour Heads South: In Search of the Great Country Hams Part 1

Is southern charm one of the ingredients necessary to make a great country ham? You might think so if you ever met the Don and Doyenne of great country hams, the legendary Al Benton, and the unsinkable Nancy Newsom. 

Al Benton, An Audience with A Godfather of Southern Cured Ham

It was teeming rain on the way from Nashville to Madisonville, Tennessee, the kind of rain that obscures the green, Smoky Mountains of Tennessee behind sheets of steam and fog and sounds like war drums on the roof of a rented car. It didn’t take much imagination to think we were driving through Skull Island, home of King Kong, or had somehow made a detour into the Heart of Darkness, a scene from Apocalypse Now.  The truth, however, was far more comforting: We were on a mission to see a King and Queen of country ham, Al Benton and Nancy Newsom.

Making personal visits to farms, chefs, and providers has always been one of the hallmarks of Heritage Foods USA, and as anyone who has ever been on one of these trips with ringleader Patrick Martins knows, they are magical meat tours indeed, whirlwinds of gastronomic bliss and historical culinary discovery, epicurean epics writ large in regional cuisine. And, a hell of a lot of fun.

Benton’s Country Hams was the first stop on this pilgrimage to the cathedrals of southern ham, and we were greeted by the man himself in his small, roadside storefront.

“Don’t call me Mr. Benton,” he chided with a smile, “I’m Al.”

Al Benton speaks with an unerring southern twang that is like catnip to New Yawkers. And even though he teases at himself for being a hillbilly, he can’t hide his business acumen or old-school good looks — his smile is half Robert Redford and half Jimmy Carter, equal parts star power and earnest American. Speaking to him about his business is a powerful lesson in pride, good taste, modesty, respect for history, and the providence of good timing — both Al and his Kentucky counterpart, Nancy Newsom were lucky enough to catch the rising tide of foodies and enlightened chefs who recognized the soaring quality of their country hams just as cosmopolitan foodie culture was exploding.

While we spoke with Al, a steady stream of customers came in to buy bacon, ham parts, sliced country hams, and more bacon — young men wearing camo pants and trucker hats, soccer moms with their kids, a middle-aged man wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt… ham does not discriminate. “The Southern Food Alliance,” Al mentions matter-of-factly, “is built on the idea that if you sat down at the table we are all the same. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what your ethnic background is.” Indeed, ham is the great equalizer.

Tommy — Al’s plant manager and right hand man (“Sometimes he’s up to his elbows in bacon grease, sometimes he is solving problems on the phone.”) — accompanies us with Al on a tour through his facility, which from the road looks no bigger than the storefront, but turns out to be a warren of rooms filled with hams hung to dry or curing in salt, a veritable bunker of porky goodness. The smell of hickory smoke kisses you on the face at every turn.

Al tells us about running into a burning smokehouse to literally save his bacon, screaming at the firemen “DO NOT USE YOUR HOSES, THERE IS BACON IN THERE!” and ruminates on his favorite places to eat: “I love Charleston, and New Orleans, but New York City, that’s the place, you can get everything… if I had one place to go there, though, it would be one of David Chang’s restaurants.” And why not? Chang’s Momofuku empire has been one of Benton’s great champions, and in fact, our pilgrimage follows the one made by Momofuku executive chef and prime mover Matt Rudofker just a week before.

There is no secret to the Benton formula for ham, it could not be simpler: “Just salt, sage, black and red pepper… we don’t use anything you can’t pronounce. You look at some of these industrially made hams – you can’t even read the ingredients, they have so many and things you never even heard of.”

They use a wood stove in the smoke room, burning local hickory — “The wood comes in when it does. When people are running out of beer and milk and want to sell some wood, they come see me. That’s always the way it’s been.”  The hams spend three days in the smoke room to get that intense flavor. Bacon takes about five weeks to make, moving from curing (brown sugar and salt) into cooler rooms and then a heated room; hams can age up to two years. “You have to age the hams – it’s like cheese, it starts mild and when you age it the flavor becomes sharper.”

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 – 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….

Meet our Prosciutto Style Hams

Edwards Prosciutto-Style Ham
This is a dry-cured ham that boasts the signature flavors of Surry, VA, where hams have been produced for 90 years by the Edwards family. Sam Edwards painstakingly salts, smokes and ages Berkshire hams for 400-600 days. As our hams pass through the Spring, Summer and Fall rooms of the Edwards facility, they acquire a depth of flavor that is second to none.
One 3.5-4lb piece $135 

Broadbent Prosciutto-Style Ham
New-World and Old-World collide in this fresh example of Heritage cured ham. After over 100 years, Broadbent boasts a pasture-raised heritage product line and the results are a lighter, sweet and salty American prosciutto. Perfect with summer melon or on home made pizza! One 2.5-3lb piece $99
One 2.5-3lb piece $99

Nduja
Fourth-generation ’nduja artisan Antonio Fiasche crafts his specialty in Chicago, where his family has run Ristorante Agostino for 32 years. Antonio was introduced to us at the 2016 Good Food Awards, honoring America’s great artisans. His ’nduja is sweet up front, followed by a subtle but uninhibited heat. We guarantee you’ll find this traditional Calabrian spread an unexpected and unforgettable, bold delicacy.
Three 6oz packs $36

Felino
This Salame di Felino is made in the Emilia-Romagna-style from the western part of the Province of Parma, most notably known for their prosciutto and Parmigiano Reggiano. It has a mild taste and buttery finish with distinct marbling throughout. This no frills porky salami is soft with creamy sweet fat. Nello’s Specialty Meats, one of Pennsylvania’s great curemasters, is a community fixture that processes and cures for dozens of farms locally.
Three 8oz packs $39

Easy Entertaining Package
Receive all 4 of the heritage cured meats plus a well-rounded Soppressata Salami with notes of black pepper from Underground Meats in Madison, WI.
Easy Entertaining package $175

 

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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