I heard a story recently on Vermont Public Radio about a charcuterie maker named Pete Colman, and being a student of the art myself, and impulsive, I looked up his website and called him to ask if I could come visit him and see a bit about his process and working environment. We had a great conversation and discovered that he would be going to Cochon 555 in New York City the next Sunday, and that I’d be participating at the Boston Cochon 555 event a couple of weeks later. I also learned that Pete has made many long visits to Italy, where he has family, and I grew up in Italy, so I had a chance to dredge up some of what I remember of the language, and we shared a lot of enthusiasm for the tasty cured meats of Italy.
In recent years, Pete’s visits to Italy have been focused on learning the art of making salumi and other delicious cured meat foods, and he has apprenticed and worked at both smaller and larger facilities over there. We made a date to have lunch and compare notes, and when the day rolled around, it was accompanied by one of our many snow storms this winter. I called Pete to make sure we were still on, and assured him I was still totally game. If you live in Vermont, expect snow in the wintertime!
It was a beautiful drive from Windsor up to Plainfield, particularly the last few miles on the little twisty road where Cate Farm is located.
I saw the farm off in the distance, softened by the snow fall:
The building on the right is the barn which houses Pete’s beautiful state-of-the-art salumi making kitchen as well as Pete himself. Then I spotted the sign:
Seeing his workshop made me particularly happy as I’ve been intensely curious about how charcuterie makers, bacon curers, sausage makers and the like design their work spaces. I hope to design my own butchery and charcuterie kitchen and I’m soaking up everything I can now –some of the details I’ve seen would likely only occur to someone who has been doing the work for a while.
When I arrived (only a little late due to the roads) Pete gave me a tour of the place, showed me his salumi kitchen, introduced me to his dog (Tucker) and his friend (Parker) who was breaking down a side of beef, and then we sat down for a lunch consisting of bits from each of our kitchens. Pete has been experimenting for several years, and I was delighted to taste some of the results. The prosciutto was delicious –perfectly salty and sweet and with a beautifully mature flavor. It made me determined, despite my current curing environment challenges, to start a prosciutto curing as soon as possible. The lonza, a dry-cured pig loin, was also tasty, and I really enjoyed the unctuous capicollo with it’s tender and sweet fatty bits.
Pete, though not a lover of the liver, said my leverpostej was good! We tasted three of my mustards, and Pete treated me with a shot glass of some amazing local apple cider vinegar brewed by his neighbor Terry. It was so good that I’ve decided I need to drive back up just to buy some of this vinegar!
We compared our experiences at the two Cochon 555 events, and discussed the finer points of farm butchery and charcuterie making. Pete has exciting plans to introduce new types of cured meats in addition to the fresh sausages which he offers currently. I took home a package of bangers and some Roma-style fresh sausage, and I’m looking forward to a dinner of bangers, mash, and mushy peas any day now!
I’m also looking real forward to watching (and of course tasting) as Pete grows his business. I reckon he’s an honest-to-goodness pioneer in introducing the rich ancient art & craft of meat curing to Vermont, and he brings to the table a set of sensibilities which I share: using Vermont-grown pasture raised, heritage breed pork and local ingredients.
After several hours of good company, good food, and good meaty conversation, I bundled up and trundled off home. I drove up and over route 232, through Groton State Park, and didn’t meet a single car during those 18 miles, and as dusk fell the mood in the wintery forest was pretty magical. Altogether one of this year’s highlights!