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Bolzano Artisan Meats

Bolzano Artisan Meats
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  • Bolzano Artisan Meats

    Post #1 - January 13th, 2010, 10:26 am
    Post #1 - January 13th, 2010, 10:26 am Post #1 - January 13th, 2010, 10:26 am
    Recently, I was offered some meat by mail— Italian-style cured meats, from a guy in Milwaukee who has started an artisanal meat business, like La Quercia. La Quercia isn't big— Herb Eckhouse said their prosciuttificio is about a third the size of a small one in Italy— but Bolzano Artisan Meats is smaller yet, an employee and a half, says owner Scott Buer. All the same, they're doing what you'd hope they'd be doing— buying quality pork (he started with Jude Becker's Berkshire hogs, but plans to transition to mostly Wisconsin naturally-raised meat, including what must be Valerie Weihman-Rock's mulefoot pigs, as seen in Sky Full of Bacon 5 and 6), and curing it by the old school simple means, salt and herbs and time. (Thyme and time, really.)

    Buer sent me two meats, guanciale (cured hog jowl) and pancetta (cured belly, same meat as bacon, but without the sweetness and smoke of American bacon). Here's how the pancetta looked, the ruby red color and thick fat striping of the Berkshire hog:

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    I would have guessed Berkshire by the look of it and I would have guessed the simple cure by the fact that it smelled exactly like the things I've cured following traditional cures, like guanciale and lardo— a musty salt smell leavened by a pine-forest note of the dried herbs.

    I was making pizzas the day it came, so I decided to use the pancetta on a tarte flambee:

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    Looks like peppermint candy, tastes like pork. What could be prettier? The base is creme fraiche, liberally sprinkled with pepper and dotted with partly caramelized onions. Here's how it looked when it came out:

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    I often find commercial pancetta bland next to bacon, but this had a full pork flavor sharpened and transmuted by the curing process, denser with flavor (and certainly chewier) than the often limp product you buy. Unfortunately I've never had the La Quercia pancetta, so I don't have a really stellar comparison, but it seemed to have all the virtues of its origins using superior pork, and of its handling with no modern shortcuts.

    For the guanciale, well, there's one classic dish, talked about quite recently here, that this cured meat figures in, bucatini all'Amatriciana. Hog jowl is an incredibly lush fatty meat— sadly, it's a cut that's often ruined during the inspection process (they slice through the jaw to inspect the glands) and discarded or sent for rendering. But barbecue places in the south will put it in beans, resulting in incredibly silky, fatty beans, and just handling it, it was like pork meat made with the best hand cream you ever owned.

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    The last time I saw a pattern like that, little pink archipelagoes of meat in a sea of fat, was on a kobe beef brisket.

    Interestingly, the recipe I use for reference, from Saveur Cooks Authentic Italian (copyright 2001), says that guanciale is almost impossible to find in the U.S., and suggest various substitutes. How quickly things change: I've had access to no fewer than four different American guanciales lately. Admittedly, two of them were homemade (my own and Chuck Sudo's). One key thing about the recipe is that, even though it still says guanciale, they clearly adjusted the quantity of meat upwards to produce the desired amount of cooking fat, because when I used 6 oz. of actual guanciale, I had a swimming pool of fat in my pan. 3 oz. will do you just fine.

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    It's a wonderful comforting dish and Bolzano's guanciale brought it lots of lushness (in the sauce) and crunchy porkiness on top.

    So I liked both of the meats they sent me a lot— though it has to be admitted, these are fairly easy as cured meats go, hard to screw up at least once you've made the crucial decisions to spend the money on the best pork you can get and to cure it with no funny business. The real test, which I'm looking forward to immensely, is the speck prosciutto, which will be ready in April. Speck prosciutto is a particular style, smoked with rosemary and juniper— here are some photos of a speck plant high in the hills of Italy— and while it won't be directly comparable to the La Quercia prosciutto (or their speck, for that matter), because it is a different style, it should have many of the same virtues of the longer curing time breaking down more of the proteins and making it all just that much more complex and umami-riffic. It will be a wonderful thing if these first meats from Bolzano prove to be the beginning of a serious artisanal cured meats movement in Wisconsin, comparable to the improvements in Wisconsin cheeses in recent years.

    In the meantime, you can get Bolzano guanciale and pancetta at several places in Milwaukee, including the Wisconsin Cheese Mart and Glorioso Brothers, as well as at farmer's markets in several Wisconsin cities. (At this point, it's only Wisconsin-inspected, so he can sell it via the internet to individuals, but not to retailers or restaurants who will resell it. Corrected from previous statement.)
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  • Post #2 - January 13th, 2010, 4:25 pm
    Post #2 - January 13th, 2010, 4:25 pm Post #2 - January 13th, 2010, 4:25 pm
    We happened to be in Milwaukee last Saturday and ran across Bolzano like 5 times including at the Public Market, Glorioso's and the nice, new winter market (see link in sig for info on Milwaukee winter market). It's great that something like this has come along, and seems already to have entered a nice circulation.
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  • Post #3 - April 22nd, 2010, 10:19 am
    Post #3 - April 22nd, 2010, 10:19 am Post #3 - April 22nd, 2010, 10:19 am
    I posted about a behind-the-scenes visit to Bolzano here.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #4 - May 8th, 2010, 7:32 am
    Post #4 - May 8th, 2010, 7:32 am Post #4 - May 8th, 2010, 7:32 am
    On the way back from a trip to NE Wisconsin a few weeks ago, I stopped at the Public Market in Milwaukee. What a great place. In the butcher shop, they were selling Bolzano products, so I picked up a package of the guanciale and pancetta.

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    I thought that both were really great examples of pancetta and guanciale, but I preferred the guanciale of the two.

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  • Post #5 - May 7th, 2014, 1:11 pm
    Post #5 - May 7th, 2014, 1:11 pm Post #5 - May 7th, 2014, 1:11 pm
    Bolzano's has closed.

    Milwaukee-based salami company says state agency forced business to close: Bolzano Artisan Meats recalled nearly 5,000 pounds of salami April 17 because salami packages had the wrong inspection label.

    The salami that was recalled, however, was incorrectly labeled with the Cooperative Interstate Shipment program version of the USDA Mark of Inspection, which requires federal acceptance into the program.
    Bolzano Artisan Meats LLC is not part of the CIS program, meaning the company cannot sell meat labeled with the CIS program version of the USDA Mark of Inspection.
    The labeling mix-up meant nearly 5,000 pounds of otherwise safe to eat meat had to be removed from store shelves and destroyed.
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #6 - May 7th, 2014, 3:02 pm
    Post #6 - May 7th, 2014, 3:02 pm Post #6 - May 7th, 2014, 3:02 pm
    Wait - why would the company even have that label available if they aren't part of that program?
    Leek

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  • Post #7 - May 9th, 2014, 2:12 pm
    Post #7 - May 9th, 2014, 2:12 pm Post #7 - May 9th, 2014, 2:12 pm
    Riverwest's Bolzano Artisan Meats cries foul as state suspends license from Journal Sentinel

    The state Agriculture Department has suspended the food-processing license of Bolzano Artisan Meats, a small producer of specialty salami in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood.

    The department acted because Bolzano, which is popular with local food devotees, changed the way it processes its meat but didn't provide enough verification to show that the new process was still safe, agency spokesman Jim Dick said.

    But Bolzano says the department is being unfair, and that the state action "is leading to the destruction of about $50,000 worth of salami that the USDA, the highest food safety authority in the nation, declared to be safe and wholesome."
    ...
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast

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