A couple of weeks ago I was sent a press release announcing the opening of Milwaukee company that plans on doing artisanal charcuterie such as dry-cured meats like prosciutto, pancetta, and guanciale. Immediately I was intrigued so I contacted Scott Buer, the owner of Bolzano Artisan Meats and asked if if he would do an interview. I figured the readers of EatWisconsin, as well as authors of other great Wisconsin food blogs would be very interested to hear about Buer’s company, which is the first in Wisconsin to be doing these types of products.
Bolzano Artisan Meats started in April 2009 when they began remodeling the space recently occupied by Great Lakes Distillery, makers of Rehorst Gin & Vodka, Pumpkin Seasonal (made with Lakefront Pumpkin Lager), Artisan Series Brandies, and Absinthe. They began their first batch of cured meats in September of 2009. Since dry curing and aging takes a while, it won’t be until next month when consumers can start to purchase their meats. The first products, Berkshire Pancetta and Berkshire Guanciale, will be available October 19, 2009 and the Speck Prosciutto will be available in the spring of 2010. According to their website you will be able to find their products at Glorioso Brothers on Brady Street (which is moving to a new, larger location on Brady Street in 2010), The Wisconsin Cheese Mart on Old World 3rd Street, Fromagination & Steve’s Wine Market in Madison, and Nala’s Fromagerie in Green Bay.
EatWisconsin: First could you tell us a little about your company and what you are doing?
Photo by Michael Prokop
Scott Buer: Bolzano Artisan Meats is Wisconsin’s first and only company to make dry cured meats, items like prosciutto, pancetta and guanciale. It’s a very old European process that takes about 2 months for the smaller items and 9 months for the prosciutto, as compared to days for bacon or ham.
Doing a food like this – new to most of us, but old to Europe, makes us more like a microbrewery than a meat company. (And our tiny size and output too.)
We strongly feel that dry curing is the best way to showcase what is great about small farms with heritage breeds of hog that live great, healthy lives. Dry curing means never heating the meat, and every nuance the way an animal is raised becomes part of the meat. It says as much about the land as wine does about the grape, vineyard, and vintage.
EW: How did you get started with charcuterie and what inspired you to start this business?
SB: I grew up with foodie parents and grandparents way before that has cool again, watching sauerkraut being made, stuff like that. I got into home brewing in my twenties, and then into charcuterie in early 30’s. To me they are very similar, both preserving foods in mysterious ways. Both pull together food, science, and history.
EW: How long have you been in business?
SB: We started building our facility in April 2009, and first batch of food started this September. Our space was the previous home of Great Lakes Distillery, Wisconsin’s first craft distillery, they outgrew the space, so it seems like a place with good mojo.
The summer was a brutal workathon of getting equipment imported from Italy for the first time, getting equipment custom made, and making things ourselves. No real road map for this, since we’re the first. But it’s been really fun too.
EW: What kind of products are you offering now and what can customers look for in the future?
SB: Our first batch is pancetta, guanciale (pork cheek) and speck prosciutto. Pancetta is a pork belly, which is also where bacon comes from. Guanciale is a pork cheek with interesting marbling and buttery fat, more highly seasoned. Our prosciutto is from way northern Italy, where it is lightly smoked and seasoned, and it’s called Speck.
Our pancetta and guanciale is for sale now, but first batch will be ready to go out about Oct. 17.
Our speck prosciutto is not for sale yet, because it won’t be ready until April 2010. But we will be starting a program where big foodies can reserve a whole prosciutto early, get a personal tour, and some other nice extras we are working on.
We are working on bringing a few more products, like a loin and a pork shoulder, as well as making more than one kind of our present products, making something really suited to Wisconsin history, agriculture, etc. Bringing more heirloom breeds to market will be exciting too.
EW: How has the reception been to your products?
It’s been very encouraging and rewarding to tell people we are making prosciutto right here in Milwaukee and watch their faces light up. People who get microbreweries and the craft cheese movement really get what we’re about, even if they don’t buy a lot of these types of products now.
EW: I saw on your website that you will be at some farmers’ markets. Which ones can people find you at? Are there plans to expand the availability of your products either in more stores, farmers’ markets or possibly in local restaurants?
SB: We are still finalizing dates for the farmers markets, but were 99% sure we will be at:
Sat. Oct 24, 8am-12pm East Town farmers market, Milwaukee
Sun. Oct 25, 11am-4pm Riverwest farmers market, Milwaukee
Sat. Oct 31, 8am-12pm East Town farmer market, Milwaukee
Sat. Nov. 7 thru April 24 8am-12pm Milwaukee County Winter Farmers Market as State Fair Park (a new event!)
EW: I know that meat quality is extremely important for good quality charcuterie, where do you source your meat from? Do you use local farmers?
SB: We use local and regional farmers. Our first batch for sale is all Berkshire hogs from Iowa, but Mulefoot and Hereford hogs from WI are on the way. I wanted to kick of with WI hogs right away but that would have meant our partner farms growing a heard for us, not knowing when or even if we were ever going to open.
What’s neat is that like good coffee tells if it’s Indonesian, or Kenyan, etc, each of our products will we saying what breed of hog they are from, and then the website will give more info on what farm those hogs came from. It’s important to us to get people to understand food does not come from a grocery store, and it does not even come from us … it comes from farms!
EW: Do you offer any tours?
SB: We can’t have standing tour dates and times like a brewery, because of regulations, but we will be having tours and tastings for sure for small groups. We are very interested in opening up to and telling about what we do. Most companies are afraid to have the public see their meats being made or where the animals come from, we’re trying to change that.
EW: Anything else you’d like to let people know or add?
SB: Be sure to check out our website and email me at info(at)bolzanomeats.com to sign up for our email newsletter. We’ll keep you updated on where to find us and our products, tours and more. Not to mention when the Speck Prosciutto is ready, everyone is eager for that. We’re looking for recipes and feedback from everyone out there who loves great food, too.
I’d like to thank Scott for taking the time to respond to my questions via e-mai.