Bill Miner has put quite a few miles on his car lately. The chef/owner of Il Porcellino Salumi at 4334 West 41st Street has been driving to Basalt every week for the past three months to get his wholesale business off the ground. In January, he signed on to take over the commercial sausage kitchen formerly operated by Avalanche Cheese Company in Basalt, and since then he's been working with his team to turn primal cuts of pork into a line of fermented, dry-cured salami that will be sold in shops and restaurants all over Colorado.
The mountain-town facility is a USDA-inspected kitchen that is currently only licensed for this style of sausage, but Miner hopes to soon receive approval to begin making other Italian-style cured meats so that Il Porcellino's line of wholesale products will more closely resemble the current lineup at the Berkeley deli. For now, the team is cranking out about 1,200 pounds of salami a week in 200-pound batches. That's about eight times the volume produced at the original shop, Miner notes.
The difference between making cured meats for sale in a butcher shop/restaurant like Il Porcellino and making the leap to wholesale production is that the federal government gets involved; a USDA inspector is on site five days a week and is often at the Basalt facility all day, depending on the production schedule. But Miner says he has a great relationship with his inspector and that there's good communication and exchange of information, which helps Il Porcellino put out a better, more consistent product.
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"We're making sure we're making a safe product under the watchful eye of the USDA," the chef adds. "Some days we trim meat all day; other days we grind or make sausage — it all depends on our inspector's schedule."
Miner says he has eleven recipes that will be rotated regularly to keep variety on store shelves and restaurant plates. The opening lineup includes six different salamis, all of which will be familiar to Il Porcellino's regular customers: Cacciatore, Diablo (made with fennel seeds and Calabrian chiles), Finocchiona, Saucisson Sec, Spanish Chorizo and Spiced Juniper (the least traditional of the lot).
Sales and distribution of the wholesale salami is being handled by Denver's Italco Food Products, which just debuted Il Porcellino at its biennial food show on Sunday, June 3. So far they've received commitments from SoDo Village Market, Ultreia, Mercantile Dining & Provision and the Cheese Shop of Breckenridge, and Miner adds that Cured in Boulder should also soon have the salami in stock. But that's just the beginning — and Il Porcellino is also targeting specialty shops in Los Angeles, New York City and Portland, Oregon.
Il Porcellino has already gained national recognition for its meats, including a 2017 Good Food Award and a Grand Champion award at this year's Charcuterie Grand Masters competition in New York. In addition to the wholesale product launch, Miner is planning to build a 20,000-square-foot facility in Denver. He has taken on a new business partner, Nate Taylor; the two went to culinary school together twenty years ago. He's also added chef Johnny Formento (previously of Old Major and Hop Alley) at the Berkeley shop in addition to other recent new team members.