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North American charcuterie producers


Kent Wang
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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.

You just need to try some of the salami (what we call it in MN) from the Schmidt's Meat market in Nicollet, MN. Although, better bacon is to be had at other MN meat markets.

I'm lucky that within a 100 mile radius of my house, I can counnt on more than 40 digits the number of places that are doing their own charcuterie. And, I think I'm underestimating.

Every little town here has a meat market, and they are doing remarkable smoked and cured products.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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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.

Do you think they're producing at a large enough level where I should bother bugging Central Market to carry them? Central Market is probably similar to Whole Foods in accommodating small but not tiny producers. CM already carries DeSola (see notes above) which I gather is a smaller operation out of NY.

BTW, what do you New Yorkers think about the DeSola pastrami? Are there a lot of other pastrami producers in New York? Do most (good) delis there make their own pastrami and other charcuterie or buy it locally, or do they just buy from the same national producers?

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A word on Volpi products... They are absolutely top notch. Living in St Louis I visit at least twice a month and nearly everything is well above average. But don't take my word for it Michael Chiarello has just joined with them to custom make the salumi he offers on his web site. They are different than the usual offerimgs at Volpi but still quite good. His rosemary and garlic salami is very nice. But doesn't hold a candle to Volpi's classic genova or dried salami.

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Are the Volpi products refrigerated or not? All the ones that Central Market carries sit unrefrigerated on shelves with a bunch of inferior brands. Is the requirement of refrigeration an indication of quality, supposedly with the idea that these products use less preservatives?

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Tried Fra' Mani last weekend from a local shop here in Atlanta, and i agree, it is about as close to an Italian salame as i've ever tried here in the US. I tried the salametto and the gentile. Prefer the denser, harder texture of the salametto.

The prices are astronomical though, to the point that they are laughable. it is $22/lb here.

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Tried Fra' Mani last weekend from a local shop here in Atlanta, and i agree, it is about as close to an Italian salame as i've ever tried here in the US. I tried the salametto and the gentile. Prefer the denser, harder texture of the salametto.

The prices are astronomical though, to the point that they are laughable. it is $22/lb here.

I too, really loved the salametto but I received samples of it and had no idea about the price. My guess is that it's up to the various retailer to set their own prices but that's just a guess. In either case, the product was simply outstanding.

=R=

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I picked up some Bresaola from Porcella Urban Market (Seattle area) last night that just absolutely blew my mind.

You could see through it (they kindly sliced it for me, as I am running with limited use of one arm right now), the flavor was clean and nuanced and absolutely incredible.

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I finally got hold of a Fra’Mani Salametto, and took a few photos.

This is the way it’s wrapped:

gallery_1_295_28192.jpg

I purchased this particular specimen at Fairway in New York City. It costs just under $20 a pound. The individual pieces tend to run about three quarters of a pound. It’s a luxury, but I’ll eat this a few slices at a time for well over a week.

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Here’s the unwrapped piece:

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Finally, here’s what it looks like sliced:

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The flavor of this product is incredible. The white bloom on the outside contributes almost a bleu-cheese-like quality to the overall taste, the texture of the meat is soft, creamy and gelatinous, and while there are distinct large chunks of fat it’s also the case that there are smaller bits of fat running throughout, giving a very even texture and taste. Most of all, the taste is pure and clean -- there are no off flavors of any kind that I could detect, a problem that, to some degree or another, affects most other salume I've had.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Check out the delicious organic prosciutto, pancetta, culaccia and speck made by Herb and Kathy Eckhouse in Iowa at La Quercia

Whole Foods here is carrying their prosciutto. Have you had a chance to compare it to San Daniele and the other imported Italian producers? Either way, I'll give it a try soon.

I purchased this particular specimen at Fairway in New York City. It costs just under $20 a pound. The individual pieces tend to run about three quarters of a pound. It’s a luxury, but I’ll eat this a few slices at a time for well over a week.

The flavor of this product is incredible. The white bloom on the outside contributes almost a bleu-cheese-like quality to the overall taste, the texture of the meat is soft, creamy and gelatinous, and while there are distinct large chunks of fat it’s also the case that there are smaller bits of fat running throughout, giving a very even texture and taste. Most of all, the taste is pure and clean -- there are no off flavors of any kind that I could detect, a problem that, to some degree or another, affects most other salume I've had.

This looks most similar to the Columbus products I've posted above about. How would you compare those two? I know you previously described Fra'mani as having "raised the bar for American salume" but I would say the same of Columbus. My favorite of theirs is the Felino. From your description it sounds like the Fra'mani is quite soft and wet compared to the Columbus.

Re: the white bloom. I believe most people simply discard it but I enjoy eating it as well. It tastes much better than most cheese rinds and has a nice chewy texture.

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not wishing to speak for fg, but i've had the opportunity several times to taste those side-by-side. i do like the columbus products, at least the artisanal line. and they are quite affordable for their quality level. but the fra'mani is on another level. it's like hearing the same song sung by a really good bar band and, say, hank williams. there is something outside the normal parameters of analysis that makes it truly compelling.

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Re: the white bloom. I believe most people simply discard it but I enjoy eating it as well. It tastes much better than most cheese rinds and has a nice chewy texture.

In many cases, I do discard it, for a few reasons: First, it's often unhygienic, like when the salume are just hanging around unwrapped and being handled by lots of people. It's not like fruit where you can wash it off under running water (at least I don't think you should). I'll only eat the casing if it has been wrapped or if it comes directly from the aging room and I trust the handling. Second, it often tastes bad -- lots of off and weird flavors. Fra'Mani salume casings, however, have a terrific, clean, pure flavor. They just have superior control over their production process. Third, the texture of most casings is too tough and chewy. I don't want to be eating the equivalent of plastic wrap. The Fra'Mani casings, however, don't get caught in your teeth -- they're barely noticeable except as a vehicle for the bloom.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Let me add a note about my local producer, Parma Sausage:

Parma Sausage

Local to the 'burgh, they cure their own Prosciutto, pancetta, etc.

Lately they have added some others "rustico" (with garlic) and others.

I find their prosciutto not as salty as most american producers. Of course, it does have exponential decay, but fresh off the knife... (ah).

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I have order most of the products discussed on this link and one is extremely noteworthy:La Quercia Rossa--Heirloom Breed Culaccia. By far and away one of the best prosciutto I have ever had (domestic and imported).

However, I must say that my favorite is the Newsom free range ham http://www.newsomscountryham.com/exornewagham.html (yes, country hams can be eaten uncooked). There is a complexity to the flavor that rivals the best Spanish producers. We have one in our ham stand right now and are happily slicing off snacks thoughout the evening.

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  • 2 weeks later...

After reading your reviews I very much want to try Fra'Mani, but the minimum order from their website is $60! I think I'll wait until I go to Berkeley or NY and buy a smaller package.

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I bought this Boar's Head ham. What is this iridescent stuff on it? Central Market says it's typical of Boar's Head products and is totally safe. I ate it and it didn't taste like anything, but I'm still curious what causes it.

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Piller's salami.

Szegedi: A Hungarian salami usually produced during Christmas. Neil at Central Market says it tastes like bacon, which I can only agree with in that it's rather salty, and has a bit of smoke, but is not rich and fatty like bacon is.

Paprika: Very little paprika flavor or color.

I don't think I will ever buy Piller's again. They're all lean, too finely ground, too mild in flavor and all the varieties taste the same.

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I have order most of the products discussed on this link and one is extremely noteworthy:La Quercia Rossa--Heirloom Breed Culaccia.  By far and away one of the best prosciutto I have ever had (domestic and imported).

I just noticed this as a recent addition at my local meat/cheese shop and picked some up. In fact, I'm eating it right now- it's *really* good. The texture and melt factor of the fat is just fantastic. I may have eaten better tasting ham, but this is the best texture I've come across. I wish I had my camera here to show off some shots of the marbling.

-Dan

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  • 2 weeks later...

A chef friend smuggled a few charcuterie items back from Europe and I was able to try them tonight. This wasn't a structured blind tasting or anything like that, and I have no idea exactly where the European samples came from (I got some general information but not enough to track producers) but it did give me the opportunity to do a casual comparison.

North America is still behind. The European (French, Italian) products had depth of flavor that we just haven't captured yet in our charcuterie. The best North American stuff, like Fra'Mani, is in the ballpark, but as much as I think Fra'Mani makes a terrific product I wouldn't pick it over a lot of the European stuff.

I wonder why that is. I immediately suspected regulations, such as allowed temperatures.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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gallery_36558_2964_24463.jpg

Prosciutto

San Daniele (left): Saltier, butterier "aged" taste.

La Quercia: Looks more marbled but this had negligible effect on taste. A bit sweeter.

Overall, the differences were slight but I give the advantage to San Daniele. My guess is that the flavor difference is due to it being aged longer.

gallery_36558_2964_95573.jpg

Chorizo

Wellshire Farms (left) hot chorizo: Drier, quite spicy, fattier.

La Espanola: I had reviewed this before, but in comparison to the Wellshire I find it inferior. Moist with large chunks of meat, making it a bit too chewy. Biting off a piece is not as easy as it is with the Wellshire.

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  • 1 month later...

Pleasantly surprised with the Wellshire chorizo I tried their sopressata. Awful, very mushy. Their "salami with herbs" was nothing special, about as good as Molinari, inferior to Columbus.

gallery_36558_2964_125245.jpg

Fabrique Delices duck sausage

Some of the most expensive sausage I've ever seen at $34/lb. Texture is very similar to a typical sausage, not at all like poultry. If I hadn't known, I would have guessed this was a pork-beef blend. Flavor is intense, lots of garlic with big chunks of black pepper. Strong meaty taste, like aged duck confit. Natural pork casing. I like it a lot, but it's rather pricey.

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Kent, i believe the iridescence is caused by the phosphates in the product.

Fra' mani makes a very good product, as FG said, it doesn't quite rival good european products though. The price for Fra' Mani is obscene though. I'm sorry, I don't understand how a pork salame can cost $22/lb.

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Fra' mani makes a very good product, as FG said, it doesn't quite rival good european products though.

Not sure if this is off-topic, but I've been recently put-off by apparent quality changes in Fra' Mani's products. After tasting their amazing sopressata from local dealer (er, purveyor) The Wine Source earlier this winter, it was finally back in stock last week. I'd specifically found other brands to be in a smaller-diameter casing, with inferior textures and flavors - the Fra' Mani was delicate and sweet.

Last weekend, however, the product did not meet expectations. It was noticeably tougher and tasted overwhelmingly of nitrites/preservatives - competing with porky goodness on the flavors, and overpowering them in the aftertaste. This is especially perplexing given their website's indication that there are no added nitrites.

So, what gives? Any idea? I'll be chatting with the store's expert when I'm back Saturday, but wondered if others had noticed or had any ideas.

David aka "DCP"

Amateur protein denaturer, Maillard reaction experimenter, & gourmand-at-large

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I believe fra mani recently lost their head of production. This might have something to do with it. Or, given that it is an artisanal product, there's bound to be variation.

I have to say that I've been extremely happy with everything I've had there, including the recent Berkeley event.

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I recently had my first-ever Fra'Mani disappointment, however I'm pretty sure it was a shipping issue. It seemed that the salume had been exposed to water or something, because the normally white, almost powdery exterior was brown and mushy. I returned it to the store where I bought it. I'll try to pick up another one soon, for a reality check.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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