At the end of 2014, we talked with two hopeful butchers, Chad Nelan and Alex Windes, who had just launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the opening of Elevation Charcuterie, their wholesale sausage and cured-meats company. While the fundraiser wasn't successful, Nelan and Windes kept at it, raising money through interested investors instead. And today they finally kicked off Elevation's first production run — a batch of Calabrese salumi — after a year and a half of planning, building and permitting.
Windes explains that the most difficult part of opening was working with the USDA to ensure safety and quality control at every step of the sausage-making process. Because Elevation makes wholesale dry-cured meats, a USDA inspector must be on site at every stage — so no inspector, no sausage-making. (The inspector even has his own designated parking spot in the front of the building). With dry-cured sausage like the nine varieties of salumi Elevation will eventually produce, the meat is never cooked, but is instead preserved with salt, beneficial microbes and time. The food-safety requirements are much more rigorous than for fresh-ground sausage meant to be cooked before being eaten.
Elevation will also make fresh-ground sausage, but the focus will be on traditional and New World salami recipes made with local ingredients and high-quality pork. "It starts and ends with the pork," Windes explains. "Everything that goes into each sausage is the best — not just good, not just great." To that end, he and Nelan are already sourcing pork from Tender Belly through its network of small farms, and they're also planning to source smaller amounts from top Colorado hog farmers, including Corner Post Meats just outside of Colorado Springs.
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Along with traditional salumi like Spanish-style chorizo, Italian-style Calabrese and salami studded with Tellicherry black pepper, Nelan and Windes will also be turning out Mexican mole salami, dry-cured sausage flavored with Trinity Brewing Company's Seven-Day Sour ale, and another salami made with barleywine and mustard seed. Once production schedules for sausage have been established, whole-muscle products like coppa, pancetta, guanciale and lardo will be added.
Since dry-cured salumi takes weeks to properly age, and since Nelan and Windes could not begin production in their new facility at 4350 Broadway until the final USDA inspection was passed (which happened on June 23), the two will be relying on fresh sausage — like breakfast sausage, beer bratwurst made with Chain Reaction rye beer, and Mexican-style fresh chorizo — for initial sales. They're targeting restaurants to carry the bulk of their products but will soon also have online sales for individual customers in the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe.