Butcher Chad Nelan has been working to perfect his sausage and cured meat recipes for the past two years, making it his sole focus over the past few months after leaving his job at Tony's Market. His goal is to open his own company, Elevation Charcuterie and Artisan Meats, by March next year to supply several varieties of salami, pancetta, lonza, coppa, culatello and other cured meats to restaurants, grocery stores and specialty markets in Denver and across the country. To help fund the program, Nelan and partner Alex Windes launched a Kickstarter campaign this week to help build a USDA-approved production facility.
While Nelan has not yet secured a location, he and Windes have narrowed it down to several spots in North Denver. Nelan estimates that he'll need about 3,500 square feet to provide room for butchering and curing about 1,600 to 1,800 pounds of pork a week.
Nelan worked for Tony's for five years behind both the fish and meat counters and took an interest in old-world cured meats during that time. Since then, he's taught himself how to break down whole pigs and has worked with the Rocky Mountain Institute of Meat and butcher and salumi expert Mark DeNittis to develop his understanding of techniques and USDA requirements. Nelan says he considers DeNittis a mentor and adviser to his project.
"We don't use any nitrates or nitrites," explains Nelan. "We use celery juice, but only for color retention." Since bacterial fermentation is the primary method of converting pork to salumi, Nelan adds, "We us a mild fermentation process -- the lowest level accepted by the USDA -- with added bacterial culture. It's not super-tangy like commercial salami."
Elevation will source its meat from humanely raised, heritage breeds -- mainly Duroc and Berkshire -- but Nelan is also looking at Mangalitsa and American Guinea Hog breeds for lardo. "You have to use the really fat breeds to get that thick fatback," he notes. All other spices and ingredients used in recipes will be organic and GMO-free.
In addition to traditional Italian cured sausage and whole-muscle products, Nelan has been working on a few of his own recipes; he plans on selling twelve different varieties of salami, including mole salami and a whiskey-maple version that he says tastes similar to a country-style breakfast sausage.
Elevation's Kickstarter campaign still has 29 days to go; Nelan hopes to raise $40,000 to provide funds for the new warehouse and the first few months of operation. Nelan feels that a void was created since DeNittis's Il Mondo Vecchio closed in 2012, and he thinks Denver is ready for what he and Windes call "perfect American charcuterie products."
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