Sausage of the Month: Door County Cherry Bratwurst

As Wisconsin as cheese curds and beer, Door County cherry picking is a time-honored tradition. And Kettle Range is excited to incorporate these delectable gems of the peninsula in this month’s Kettle Club shares. Our butchers have prepared a seasonal bratwurst with tart cherries straight from Wisconsin’s cherry mecca.

Door County Cherries

The history of cherries in Door County runs deep. The first European settlers to the peninsula could rely on vegetable crops for sustenance farming but due to the rocky terrain of the landscape, found it challenging to yield anything more than what they needed to get by. The search began for a cash crop that would flourish in the rocky soils of Door County.

In the late 1860’s, a Swiss immigrant named Joseph Zettel arrived on the scene discovering that fruits like apple trees prospered in the area because the shallow soils left only a few feet from the roots to the bedrock. This provided adequate drainage for such fruits that are prone to root rot, a devastating plant disease.

The success of the apple trees attracted two University of Wisconsin horticulturists who began experimenting with other fruits such as plums, strawberries, raspberries and the most famous, cherries, which proved especially efficient at growing in Door County.

Door County cherry production continued to prosper and hit its peak in the 1950s with 700 cherry producers growing nearly 50 million pounds of cherries annually. Today, the Montmorency cherries that grow in Wisconsin account for 90% of all the tart cherries grown statewide.

Like Door County cherry picking season, these brats have a small window of availability. Don’t miss out on these seasonal Wisconsin delicacies in August!

Farmer Spotlight: The Schlimgen Family

We like to think of our Kettle Club members as family. Which is why we would like to introduce you to some of our extended family, the Midwestern producers who work tirelessly to ensure you have access to the healthiest, most sustainably raised meats. Meet the Schlimgen family!

Walk through the lush pastures of Dreamy 280 and you can see why Lisa and Dennis Schlimgen chose the name. The picturesque rolling hills speckled with content cattle roaming and ruminating on the nutrient rich forages are what makes Wisconsin farms so special.

“We feel that it is our responsibility to be good stewards of the land and implement sustainable beef raising practices,” Lisa explains. “The beef we produce is humanely raised without animal by-products and is hormone and antibiotic free.”

Raised on farms only miles away from where they currently reside, Lisa and Dennis shared a passion for agriculture and continued to make farming a family affair. They purchased Dreamy 280 near Blue Mounds in 1989, and began raising a few head of cattle along with a family.

Their three children, Julie, Patrick and Hope took an interest in showing off their superior cattle and have been stacking the family’s trophy room with ribbons and plaques for years. Though now grown, they are still actively involved in the family business. Patrick takes a special interest in genetics, sourcing the best cows for their herd which is comprised of angus and a few shorthorn.

The Schlimgens are the epitome of responsible husbandry and environmental stewardship. We thank them for not only what they do for Kettle Range and our customers, but for the sustainable agriculture community.

Heritage Breeds: What’s in a Name?

Our patrons often ask us about the breeds of swine we source for our delicious pork products. The simple answer, heritage breeds. But what are heritage breeds, and why are they important for genetic preservation of the swine species?

What is a Heritage Breed?

While there is currently no set definition for the phrase, heritage livestock breeds are the breeds that flourished in the agrarian societies of our ancestors. Long before the modernization of agriculture when pigs were raised primarily on pasture, it was important that these animals possessed the necessary skills needed to thrive in specific environmental conditions. Genetically speaking, we refer to these skills as traits, and keeping these traits intact ensured that our forefathers could produce a bountiful supply of meat to feed their communities.

Why are Heritage Breeds Important?

But modern agriculture has moved away from raising pigs on pasture, and hardiness, sturdiness and adaptability are no longer desirable attributes. Instead, commodity pork producers seek faster-growing animals that reach market weights in record time. The shift in genetic selection has led to an overall decrease in the swine breeds of the past. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization reports that 20% of the world’s cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry are currently at risk of extinction. A consequence of this potential extinction would be the loss of unique traits that could help these animals thrive in any future, harsh conditions.

What Kinds of Breeds Do We Source at Kettle Range Meat Company?

Here at Kettle Range Meats we work to source these important heritage breeds. We source these breeds not only because they’re great tasting when compared with commodity pork, but we also want to support the farmers who work hard to keep these breeds intact for the future success of our agriculture systems. Let’s look at just a few of the breeds we serve up:

Duroc

Originating in the United States, the Duroc is one of the fastest-growing heritage breeds. They tend to put on a lot of intramuscular fat making them knows for the tender shoulder roasts.

Red Wattle

Characterized by a fleshy wattle on either side of their neck, these breeds are best known for their rich textured and delicious hams.

Hereford

Developed in the United States, this breed was named for its shared coloring with Hereford cattle. Their pork is tenderly delicious due to a high proportion of intramuscular fat.

Berkshire

This breed is sometimes referred to as kurobuta, which is Japanese for black pork due to their hair color. They are known for their savory, umami flavor.

Kettle Club Sausage of the Month: Italian Beef

Joe the butcher has created a unique twist on a Chicago delicacy for our Kettle Club members this month. June’s Italian beef sausage has been prepared with mozzarella, fresh basil, oregano, and hot giardiniera. It makes a great sandwich right off the grill, or incorporate the flavor kick to your favorite pasta or pizza recipe.

What is Giardiniera?

Before you begin enjoying June’s distinctively delicious sausage, let’s talk a little about giardiniera. First off, let’s all say it together, “JAR-DIN-AIR-AH.” There, that’s better. Originating in Italy, the word giardiniera translates loosely to “female gardener” or “one who pickles vegetables.” And why not with all its fresh ingredients? Recipes differ, but most variations of the condiment include hot or mild peppers, celery, carrots, cauliflower and olives. Italians used the method of pickling to preserve vegetables for the winter. It is thought that giardiniera was introduced to the United States in Chicago during the late 19th century following a wave of Italian immigration. The fiery condiment quickly became synonymous with Chicago’s famous Italian beef sandwiches and made its way into the hearts and refrigerators of area residents. For years, Chicago chefs and foodies have been perfecting their recipes and pickling techniques to bring giardiniera lovers a more heated version of the Italian original.

So, let’s tip our hats to our neighbors to the south and enjoy some great sausages this month!

Recipe: Perfect Pulled Pork

Let’s all enjoy the heritage pork breeds featured at Kettle Range this month and cook up a summer favorite, pulled pork! Check out this recipe that includes our own Chef Jeff’s famous BBQ rub.

Perfect Pulled Pork

Ingredients:

1 pork shoulder

Chef Jeff’s BBQ Rub, or any other that you are fond of

Brine Solution

  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons dry rub mix

Directions:

FOR THE BRINE SOLUTION

  1. Add salt to cold water, and stir very well until all the salt is completely dissolved. Then add the brown sugar, dry rub, and bay leaves, and stir well to combine.

PORK SHOULDER PREPARATION

  1. Rinse the pork shoulder, and place in a large container. Pour in the brine solution until the shoulder is completely covered. Cover the container, and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
  2. Remove pork shoulder from brine solution, and pat dry with paper towels. Place the pork shoulder in a baking pan that is at least 3 inches deep and that is bigger than the shoulder by at least an inch in length and width. Sprinkle dry rub onto the surface of the shoulder and massage in such that it adheres to the surface. Coat all sides. Make sure the fat layer on the shoulder is facing up before cooking! Place baking pan uncovered in a 225° F oven on the middle rack. Insert a probe thermometer into the center or thickest part of the shoulder, but not touching the bone. Monitor the temperature throughout cooking (a digital thermometer with an alarm function is the easiest way to do this). Do not remove from the oven until the center of the shoulder reaches 200°.
  3. When the shoulder has reached 200°, shut off the oven and let the roast cool for a couple of hours before removing from the oven. If the bottom of the pan is dry (or crusted with dried spices) then cover the pan with foil to retain internal moisture of the meat during the cooling period. When the temperature drops to 170 degrees or slightly lower, remove from oven. Place on a large, clean work surface such as a cutting board, and remove the large sheet of crusted fat on the top. Pull apart with two forks, it will pull apart very easily. Serve for friends and family!

Meet your New Kettle Club Coordinator

Please welcome your new Kettle Club Coordinator, Nikki Barr. A Missouri native, Nikki grew up on a diversified farm where she took a special interest in raising and showing heritage swine breeds. By age ten, she had raised her first grand-prize-winning Hampshire!  She continued to foster her passion for agriculture by attending the University of Missouri where she earned a degree in animal science. Nikki joins us after holding several positions related to pork production, including reproductive specialist and producer communications coordinator in the veterinary medical field.

Please reach out to Nikki at any time with questions or inquiries regarding your Kettle Club subscriptions. You can also chat with Nikki at the Kenosha Harbor Market where she’ll be tending to the Kettle Range booth every Saturday morning.