Although cured sausage has been available for more than 6,000 years, here in the Hudson Valley we’ve been slow to come around. Although some local chefs are now serving products that they’ve cured, made from local sustainably raised meats, the first company to make and sell them commercially is now on the scene. The Ancramdale-based Jacüterie offers a full line of cured dried sausages, fresh sausages and bacons. Some are based on traditional recipes like a delightfully porky, authentic saucisson sec; one more innovative example is a curried fresh banger created by Jacüterie owner Jack Peele himself.
Charcuterie, like pickling and preserving, is just another way of keeping the harvest going. Recipes date from before the heyday of ancient Greece. One way is to salt and cure it: a practice developed in France and subsequently spread to nearby Spain, France, Germany and eventually to America.
There is a huge variety of recipes and techniques, and Peele has been secretly working on his five different delicious varieties of cured sausage based on traditional versions from France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. They are made with sea salt and spices sourced from New York City, but meat from closer to home: heritage-breed, pasture-raised meats from his family’s ten-year-old Herondale Farm. The salami’s flavors develop as the sausages age and dry out in cool temps for four to five weeks. “Dried sausage is my main thing,” he says.
Until not too long ago, Peele was working as a post-production photographer in New York, going to the French Culinary Institute at night. His enthusiasm for cooking led to a blog and YouTube channel, https://jackiscooking.com, and eventually, he says, “I turned in this direction.” Less than a year ago he moved up from the City, in May obtained the official paper to start the business and in August launched the Jacüterie. The “long process” of obtaining federal inspection will soon culminate and allow him to expand his wholesale operation; for now the products are available at the farm, some farmers’ markets and via a CSA-connected Salami Club.
I’ve been lucky to enjoy many a dried sausage over the years, from the Italian ones in the Brooklyn neighborhood in which I once lived to some that a brother-in-law crafts from European fuets and soppressatas at the source to American knockoffs of many stripes. But I don’t think that I’ve ever tasted any better than Jack Peele’s. He has clearly got it down.
“People are very excited about it,” he says.
Luckily, I’ve had the opportunity to taste three of his five stars. The chorizo is dusky-red with imported Spanish smoked paprika, as well as garlic and a bit of ancho chili powder for a uniquely delicious flavor. This sausage is slightly soft, smoky, a bit zippy, with a fine assertive porky flavor: killer.
But I liked his Tuscan finocchiona even more. Legend has it that the original finocchiona was discovered by a thief who stashed his stolen sausage in a grove of wild fennel and was thrilled with the subsequent subtle fennel flavor that it developed. Peele’s is perfectly peppery with freshly ground peppercorns, along with hints of garlic and red wine. The finocchiona was the first one that he made, and it is justifiably very popular. “It has a very subtle fennel flavor,” its creator says. “Even people who don’t think they like fennel love it.”
As perfect as the finocchiona is, if I had to pick my favorite of the three that I tried, it would be the saucisson sec. It’s very simple, flavored only with sea salt and no spices or other flavorings, which lets the flavor from the heritage pork shine. Anyone who has traveled to France will be transported at first taste.
I’m longing to try his other two, one being a Calabrian-style soppressata with garlic, white wine and a bit of crushed red pepper. “It’s not super-spicy,” Peele says, “just has a little kick.” He also makes an alpine cervelat with mustard seeds, nutmeg, ginger and coriander. The original Swiss version is fresh, not dried, but Peele has created a relatively soft dried version.
Once you own one of these fine products, you may be tempted to just grab the stick and bite off a big chunk, but the key to best enjoyment is let them come to room temperature, or close to it, and then slice them very thinly. Perfect accompaniments are the best baguette that you can find, perhaps some good olives and fine cheeses, along with civilized beverages (although I’ve been known to have slices plain and unadorned for breakfast).
Peele does fresh sausages, too: a creative playground for a clearly expert meat-spicer. “I like to play around with the fresh sausage,” he says. “For fall I made an apple/leek with pork.” His favorite is his not-too-spicy Bombay Banger, a creation based on the classic English banger, but with an Indian-inspired riff. His banger is spiced with sage, nutmeg, mace and ginger, but the Bombay version has curry powder. “People are wary at first,” he says, “but as soon as they try it they go insane.” Neither banger contains the traditional breadcrumbs, Peele says, in honor of his gluten-free mother and sister.
Peele also mixes meats other than pork into his Boerewors, a South African sausage with beef and pork, spiced with garlic, coriander, cloves, nutmeg and tarragon, and his Moroccan Merguez, a lamb sausage flavored with garlic, paprika, cumin and mint.
He also cures four varieties of bacon: a classic smoked one, cured only with brown sugar and sea salt; an applewood-smoked maple version (using local grade B syrup); another with garlic and local honey; and finally his lightly smoked Italian bacon of belly, cured in nutmeg, juniper, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, garlic, brown sugar and sea salt.
Maybe Peele’s skills will have imitators and the Hudson Valley will one day become known for fine charcuterie. But as of now, we welcome this creative pioneer, who is off to an impressive start.
Find more information on Jacüterie at www.jacuterie.com. All items are available at the Herondale Farm Store at 90 Wiltsie Bridge Road in Ancramdale. Winter hours run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, expanding in the spring to Friday and Sunday as well; but calling ahead is recommended at (518) 329-3769. Also find Jacüterie products at Millerton’s Winter Farmers’ Market at the North East Community Center (NECC) at 51 South Center Street, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on second and fourth Saturdays from January through April. More farmers’ markets will have Jacüterie products in the spring, Peele reports, as will the new Clinton Cheese and Provisions at 2411 Salt Point Turnpike in Clinton Corners (www.clintonprovisions.com). Also, City customers can join the Salami Club and get two, four or six salamis a month at discounted prices, with pickup points in Brooklyn and Staten Island, through the Herondale Farm’s CSA program.
Find more information on Jacüterie at www.jacuterie.com. Read more about local cuisine and learn about new restaurants on Ulster Publishing’s www.DineHudsonValley.com or www.HudsonValleyAlmanacWeekly.com.