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Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012

Bolzano's Artisanal, Dry-Cured Salami

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Scott Buer considers himself a brewer of sorts, but instead of crafting beer, he makes dry-cured meats. The process behind the two is surprisingly similar, he explains. In both cases, you're fermenting a product to create unique, natural flavors. Brewers use hops, of course, and he uses pork.

But where there were dozens of craft breweries throughout Wisconsin, there weren't any dry-cured charcuterie producers in the state when Buer launched Bolzano Artisan Meats in 2009. Working with his wife in a converted Riverwest dairy that was the first home of Great Lakes Distillery, Buer began producing meats like prosciutto, guanciale and pancetta, using some of the Old World cooking methods he learned from his family.

Last spring Bolzano began several varieties of salami, which, like all of the company's meats, are made from heirloom pork raised without antibiotics or hormones. The resulting product tastes much stronger and more complex than the typical store-bought salami.

“It's very hard to make an authentic salami using cheap pork, because the antibodies in the meat stop the fermenting process, which is where all the flavor comes from,” Buer explains. “In a very cheap salami the producer usually will just dump acid into it to make it ferment, so all you really taste is the spices; the meat itself doesn't have a flavor. We take the opposite approach with our salamis. We let the farmers do most of the work; we just help it taste better.”

Buer takes that approach to its logical extreme with Bolzano's Pig Red salami. Aside from the salt used to cure it, it's completely unseasoned, drawing all of its aromatic flavors from the intrinsic qualities of the pork, a rare heirloom breed called Red Wattle. The company's Old School salami is more traditionally seasoned with black pepper and garlic, while Bolzano's Pamplona Runner chorizo takes on the savory tones of smoked paprika.

Buer isn't a complete traditionalist, though. “We take a lot of pride in the tradition behind what we're doing, but every now and then it's fun to just throw up your arms and say, 'I don't care,'” he says. Bolzano's most eccentric creation is only available around the holidays: It's figgy-pudding salami with dried figs and cocoa.

Bolzano salamis are on sale at dozens of grocers around southeastern Wisconsin, including 10 Sendik's locations, and are served at restaurants including The Knick, Pastiche Bistro, Centro Café and Stack'd. They can also be ordered at Bolzanomeats.com.