During a trip back to Wisconsin a few weeks ago, we stopped at the Milwaukee Public Market on our way back to Chicago. This market kicks the pants off of anything that Chicago has. Even though the new French Market at the Metra station downtown has promise, the Public Market in Milwaukee has a fish market, a few cheese markets, a butcher, a coffee shop, a spice merchant and a bunch of other specialty shops. It is awesome and when I saw a rack of Bolzano Artisan Meats in the butcher shop, I was even more impressed.
Bolzano uses Hereford hogs raised in Lake Geneva, WI and dry cures them in Milwaukee. They have gotten very little notice around Chicago, mostly since they are not available for sale by retailers in Illinois, but I learned of them first at a Farmer’s Market in Milwaukee while visiting family and, then, through a story on meat gifted from Bolzano to Mike Gebert.
Since I have no online status worthy of free meat gifts, I did not want to wait around to get a meat surprise in my mailbox. I picked up two of the varieties — pancetta and guanciale (skipped two types of paletilla) — that I knew enough about to at least appreciate.
The packaging can be deceiving as you appear to get six to seven relatively thick slices per package, but in reality, you get about a ton of very thin slices. To me, that is a huge plus as the trouble that I have with my own cured meats is getting it cut thin enough.
The pieces are, in fact, so thin that cooking time is really short and you are best served in keeping this stuff over really, really low heat. When I cooked the pancetta in the picture above, I heated a cast iron skillet, took it off of the heat and cooked the pancetta entirely off of the heat. Within seconds, the fat was transluscent and the streaky pork was beginning to take color, ninety seconds later it was done. I would guess that the guanciale above cooked for about two minutes using the same method since it was primarily cured fat.
For the guanciale, I rendered the fat from about one ounce of the guanciale and used it to saute a bunch of ramp tops. Then I added two eggs. As the eggs finished, I added to guanciale back to the mix. With just one ounce of the guanciale, the pork funk dominated a dish that was already filled with some major flavors. Bolzano is serious about their guanciale. It was excellent.
I felt like the Pancetta was excellent as well. However, it was a touch salty to eat by itself for my tastes. With the asparagus, shallots, and potatoes in the hash, however, it was tremendous. There was a really strong pepper aspect to it as well that served, with the saltiness, to eliminate the need to further season the hash. The pork was less prominent in the flavor of the pancetta as compared to the guanciale, but still pushed the richness of the hash into some really good territory.
I am really impressed by both meats from Bolzano. If I end up travelling though Milwaukee this summer (which is likely), I’ll probably end up swinging through the Public Market again to pick up some of the other varieties.