Meat men

The new issue of The Art of Eating is out. And inside is my article on cooked charcuterie in America, for which I have Gabe Ross to thank. Also Paul Bertolli, Leah Mojer over at Formaggio Kitchen, and the Fabrique Délices guys, of course.

But Gabe was really the genesis of the piece, and — along with Mike Betit, of Tamarack Hollow, my pig farmer, who introduced me to him — the source for so many others. Gabe and I started talking about curing meat a year ago, and sometimes it feels like we haven’t really stopped since. Or every time I see him, he seems to be elbow-deep in pork and pink salt.

[An aside: Gabe has a pretty amazing freezer. Not only is it packed to the gills with various meat products or meat destined for curing (the pink cylinders you see just under his forearm, for instance, are pounds and pounds of caul fat), but it’s organized with a maniacal sense of order and efficiency as only a former cook would have.]

Last night, I got to hang out with Gabe and Jake Dickson, of Dickson’s Farmstand, one of my favorite meat purveyors, while they did some sausage recipe testing for Jake’s forthcoming butcher shop.

They make it look easy. And it is, apparently, though it takes a little practice. For their hot Italian sausage experiment, they made a fairly unadorned control, a variation with more herbs and seasoning, and a third that was inoculated and left to ferment for a short while.

The key to achieving a juicy sausage, Gabe told me, is some paddling with the mixer. This creates a network of myosin proteins that traps water and gives the sausage internal structure so it doesn’t become crumbly and dry. Incidentally, Francis had just told me a couple of months ago about using a similar technique for making dumpling filling. (I still prefer a loose filling for my dumplings; the napa cabbage and ginger give those things all the juice they need, in my opinion.)

I can attest to the juiciness of the sausages. These fermented links were from the previous trials they ran, and they tasted as good as they look. I can’t wait for the Dickson butcher shop. But in the meantime, I’m glad that Gabe lives in the neighborhood and Jake does drop-offs.

P.S. You should subscribe to The Art of Eating.

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