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North American charcuterie producers


Kent Wang
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Salami from Columbus (San Francisco).

These three were all remarkably similar; the differences between each were very subtle. All are coarse ground with a dark, rich, red color.

From left to right:

Felino: Sweet, very little spice, mild salt. My favorite of the three.

Crespone: Some spice from black peppers with a mild bitter medicinal (not in a bad way) finish.

Cacciatore: Very little sweetness, spice or salt with same mild bitter medicinal finish as Crespone. The mildest of these three and my least favorite.

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I really enjoy the Columbus/Felino too. I love its chewiness and its pungent aroma. The finish is definitely more sweet than tangy.

I'm thrilled that my butcher now carries it. Over Memorial Day weekend my dozen guests went through about a pound and a half of it in no time. Very nice stuff.

=R=

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  • 1 month later...

I went to Salumi in Seattle on July 19. I sorely wish we had something like that here!

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Look at how coarse the grind is and how loosely packed it is. It really falls apart which, although is inconvenient for eating directly, is perfect for a sandwich. The flavors were bold and unlike any commercial charcuterie I've ever had.

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Molinari Meltdown! Five salami from P.F. Molinari & Sons (San Francisco).

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Clockwise from top left.

Finocchiona. Mild fennel flavor relative to other finocchionas I have had.

Toscano. Coarse grind, rich, complex flavor. The best Molinari salame.

Salametti. Small diameter, weak flavor. Worst of these five.

Milano (Hot). Similar to regular milano, yellow tint, substantial spice.

Milano. Both milanos have a not unpleasant mild, lingering, waxy, greasy mouthfeel. Minimal pepper, mild salt.

Compared with the Columbus salami, Molinari is decidedly inferior. Even the Toscano pales in comparison with the Columbus Felino.

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i like the toscana, but i have to admit that i've been converted to columbus. check out their "artisan collection". they make a crespone and a cacciatore that are really fabulous. the crespone is a basic medium-diameter porky dried sausage with good fat cubes. the cacciatore is thinner and has truffles in it (3rd ingredient listed after pork and salt!). these are really good products that should be available at high-end supermarkets.

i've also been enjoying some fra'mani and salumi stuff and i do have to admit that this is on another level.

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  • 3 weeks later...
i like the toscana, but i have to admit that i've been converted to columbus. check out their "artisan collection". they make a crespone and a cacciatore that are really fabulous. the crespone is a basic medium-diameter porky dried sausage with good fat cubes. the cacciatore is thinner and has truffles in it (3rd ingredient listed after pork and salt!). these are really good products that should be available at high-end supermarkets.

i've also been enjoying some fra'mani and salumi stuff and i do have to admit that this is on another level.

Hey Russ,

Great piece in today's L.A. Times!

Bertolli started selling Fra'Mani salumi this year after at least four years of intensive preparation. Of course, he was playing around with hanging his own prosciutto during his Chez Panisse days in the 1980s. Curing meat is a complex art, and it takes lots of practice to get it just right.

Curing requires a precise balance of fat, lean and salt. The coarseness of the grind is critical. And then there are the variables of the natural fermentation process, which preserves the meat and gives it many of its distinctive flavors. Size matters; in fact it is one of the most important factors.

A salame with a big diameter will be moister than one that is smaller — that is, if it is aged for the same amount of time. The aging and finishing of these meats is every bit as complex as that for fine cheese.

"Cured meats are going through a renaissance through producers like me who are going back to the old ways — finding good meat, preparing it simply and aging their salumi longer," Bertolli says.

The ABCs of salumi (free registration required)

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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  • 2 weeks later...

Piller's Sausages & Delicatessens

Piller's is a producer from Ontario making mostly German and Eastern-European salamis, i.e. non-Italian styles.

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As you can see, these four all look identical with the exception of the few seeds in the mustard (lower left). All are finely ground and tightly packed, very much an industrial product. Sadly, they all taste nearly the same as well.

Clockwise from top right.

Hungarian. The baseline sample. Tastes like... nothing. Medium salt, no sweet, semi-dry; more moist than most Italian salamis but much dryer than bolognas.

German. Similar to Hungarian but saltier with slightly more complex flavor.

Mustard salami. Similar to Hungarian with barely noticeable mustard taste. A few mustard seeds are visible.

Old Forest. Most distinctive and the best of the entire group, deep smokiness.

These were all quite disappointing. There are a few more Piller's salamis that I have not yet tasted, one of which is the Gypsy which I've had before but have not taken notes on. It is quite unique with a mild sweet flavor. Hopefully my next round of Piller's salamis will not be so dull.

Salami Rankings

My current rankings of the salamis that I have taken tasting notes on recently are below.

1. Columbus Felino

2. Columbus Crespone, Cacciatore

3. Vismara Genoa

4. Molinari Toscana

5. Molinari other salamis

6. Piller's Old Forest

7. Piller's other salamis

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[Salami Rankings

My current rankings of the salamis that I have taken tasting notes on recently are below.

1. Columbus Felino

2. Columbus Crespone, Cacciatore

hey kent, have you tried the cacciatore with truffles? pretty amazing. black truffles are the third ingredient listed. not overpowering still, but a really intriguing lingering perfume of them. i can't believe it's a supermarket salami (albeit, nice supermarkets).

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  • 1 month later...

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I'm writing these notes nearly a month after I tasted them. Both are pretty good, Zerto makes solid charcuterie. The calabrese (left) has a bit of spice. The cappicola (right) reminds me a lot of cooked ham in both texture and taste and is mild in taste much like ham.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Russ: I looked over the ingredients list for the Columbus cacciatore and I couldn't find truffles on there at all. I even checked the other Columbus products.

The Fermin Iberico products just arrived on American shores a few months ago. I reviewed them a month ago but I've been delaying posting here because I couldn't really figure out the labels. The labels printed out by Central Market are confusing and conflict with online catalogs.

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All three of these blew my mind. I have never had charcuterie this good. The flavor profile is so much deeper, more complex, more pungent and lingers longer than anything else. The difference is so apparent that I am sure that even a charcuterie novice will notice.

All three have amazing aroma. Opening up the package fills the room with its smell. I pan-fried the chorizo for a few minutes -- is it sacrilege to cook it? -- and the smell really came alive.

Left to right:

Chorizo: The softest of these three, less fat, mild spice, very easy to eat, with no lingering fatty mouthfeel as with the other two.

Salchichon: Mild in flavor but very rich texture. The fat slowly melts on your tongue, filling your mouth with a mild numbing sensation. Because of this, it can be fatiguing to eat many slices very quickly. Definitely take your time to savor it. I had difficulty identifying the mild spice used until I looked at the label and saw that it was nutmeg.

Bellota Chorizo: Similar to the regular chorizo in flavor and seasoning but more like the salchichon in texture, richness and moisture.

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hey kent, couple things: cooking Spanish chorizo isn't exactly sacrilege, but it sure isn't necessary (ahem ... there are semi-cured chorizos that do need to be cooked, but most of them don't). thanks for the report on the iberico products, though, i've got to check them out. as for the cacciatore ... Columbus makes two types, one with truffles.

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Ah, yes, you're right. http://www.luccadeli.com/grocery/ has both. I'll have to ask my charcuterier if he can get it.

Oh, I didn't mean that I cooked all the chorizo. I just pan-fried some up to make some scrambled eggs with it. Divine! Scrambled eggs and risotto are my two favorite uses for cooking charcuterie; both serve as blank canvasses to absorb all the flavors of the meats.

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Schaller & Weber lachschinken: Moist, moderate salt, significant smokiness but with slight unpleasant lingering chemical aftertaste.

Karl Ehmer headcheese: Great deal of pickle flavor, gives a nice snap. Meat bits are chopped too small for my tastes. I prefer other headcheeses that focus more on the meat.

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Two small specialty shops here in Waldoboro, Maine started carrying Palacios chorizo earlier this year. It's quite good and is apparently the only Spanish chorizo allowed in the country at this point - and this because they are using Danish pork.

You can find more info here. If you can't find it locally, I did a search and found that LaTienda and even Amazon carry it.

I use it in cooking rather than just slicing it off and eating it. When I first got some I thought it might go well with clams and so used it following, more or less, the recipe for Manhatten clam chowder in the Pro Chef. It was excellent. This chorizo also goes well with green beans, rice, and whatever thrown together with some imagination. Cut into small pieces, a little larger than a dice, and saute lightly in EVOO. The paprika gives a beautiful coloring to the oil and chorizo fat, so use some of the oil and fat in whatever you're cooking to add color and flavor.

Palacios also keeps exceptionally well in the fridge, probably because it's so dry. Good stuff.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The Fermin Iberico chorizo is definitely from Spain. The pigs are from there and the chorizo is made there, too.

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Mortadella with pistachio: Fratelli Beretta, Rovagnati

Fratelli Beretta: Very mild, nearly tasteless, faint preservative off-flavored aftertaste. A bit harder and denser than Rovagnati.

Rovagnati: Slightly more flavorful than Beretta, more smoke and meat flavor. No off flavors.

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Much better than Ehmer headcheese (see above). No vegetables, nice big chunks of pork. Meat is a little hammy, not soft like head meat should be. Nevertheless, a fine product as far as commercial charcuterie goes.

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  • 3 weeks later...

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Seltzer’s (Pennsylvania) Beef Lebanon Bologna, Sweet Lebanon Bologna.

I'm not sure why these are called bolognas as they are more like German-style sausages, not very finely ground like Italian bolognas are. They are wetter and softer than most German sausages but also not nearly as soft as Italian bolognas. Both are not unlike summer sausages and I prefer them to the Schaller & Weber summer sausage that I've had.

Beef Bologna: Very lean, mild spice, mild sour (like sauerkraut) note.

Sweet Bologna: Similar to the regular version but has a very unique sweet character. Not overwhelming, not cloying, really quite perfect. Sweet balances nicely with sour. Adding substantial amounts of sugar to a sausage sounds like a precarious and often catastrophic move; this is maybe why I have never seen any producer do it. Seltzer, though, does a fine job and offers a completely unique product.

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  • 1 month later...

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Clockwise from top-left.

Groezinger German bologna - Smooth texture, mild in all respects. My least favorite of these three though I'm not a fan of the archetypal bologna.

Schaller & Weber Krakaur - Typical bologna texture with larger chunks of meat mixed in, which I find preferable to standard bologna. Heavy garlic note. My favorite of these three bolognas.

Karl Ehmer bierwurst - Pork and beef content, not as finely ground as Groezinger bologna. Faintly sweet with mild vinegar-like acid.

Principe tartufotta truffle ham - Ingredient list does not list truffle, only "natural flavor". Substantial truffle taste, though lacks the full flavor profile of proper truffle.

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  • 4 weeks later...

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DeBecca (Texas?) uncured pastrami: Texture is like roasted beef, lean, heavy garlic note. Minimal outer crust.

DeSola (New York) navel-cut pastrami: Texture is more like cured or smoked beef. Very fatty as it is a belly cut. Thick crust of pepper on outside. No garlic presence. I obviously like this better, if only for the fatty cut.

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Are any of you still able to purchase Fermin products? Central Market ran out of stock several months ago and has yet to receive a new delivery, due to some government interference.

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Spanish charcuterie

La Espanola (Los Angeles) chorizo Soria: all pork, lean, semi-moist, paprika and garlic elements, mild capsicum-based heat.

Aurelia's chorizo: Produced in Texas, distribution may be limited elsewhere. Very dry, pork and beef blend, heavy paprika element, no heat. I prefer the La Espanola over this.

La Espanola lomo embuchado: lean, lightly seasoned with paprika and garlic, meat lacks the innate flavor of the Fermin Iberico lomo, but of course at a fraction of the price.

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another great post Kent! i have a particular affection for La Espanola since they are only about 20 minutes from me. they offer a really outstanding product at really reasonable prices. i almost always have some of their chorizo on hand, particularly the chorizo sarta, which includes smoked paprika.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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San Daniele prosciutto

On the left is the regular grade San Daniele prosciutto ($20/lb). On the right is the "secola blue label" from the same producer ($30/lb).

The blue label is less salty, and has an overall smoother, more buttery and complex flavor. It also noticeably lighter in color. The difference in quality is commensurate with the higher price.

According to the charcuterier at Central Market -- I couldn't find any information on the internet to corroborate it -- only 1800 legs are produced each year for the blue label grade. It is aged for 500 days or 18 months (540 days).

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I mentioned this on another topic, but for the record here: I think Bertolli's Fra'Mani products have raised the bar for American salume. I haven't tasted anything that is quite at that level.

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I mentioned this on another topic, but for the record here: I think Bertolli's Fra'Mani products have raised the bar for American salume. I haven't tasted anything that is quite at that level.

I had some more of this stuff last weekend (DiPaolo's is carrying it) and I have to agree - great stuff!!

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