One of the main charcuterie producers I was hoping to meet with along the trip was Boccalone. That was made possible largely through a friendship on Twitter. When I first mentioned that I was coming Stateside for a road trip, Jules from De-lish, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk put me in touch with William Teasley (thank you both!). William currently lives in Brighton but he was previously part of the Boccalone/Incanto empire. I’m so glad that most people that I’ve encountered in the charcuterie world are so happy to help one another!It was with some excitement that I went for my second visit to Boccalone – I’d actually been to their stall in the Ferry Building in San Francisco a couple of years ago while on a roadtrip with a friend. I met with Mark Pastore, one of the owners, who was manning the stall along with an army of other workers. I’d picked the very worst day to call, a busy Saturday morning. The Ferry Building is an incredible setting, packed with a variety of food businesses and eateries. Saturday is particularly busy as an extensive Farmers Market surrounding the building draws in a larger crowd. It’s by far the busiest place I’ve been to on the trip and there’s a good balance of tourists, day trippers and natives all meandering amongst the aisles.Before even getting to the building I’d already seen some of Boccalone’s produce – they sell a small salumi cone which contains various cooked and air dried meats – it’s a great way for people to have a taste of the products on offer and it’s an excellent marketing tool to draw people to the stall. That’s what Boccalone do very well – their branding, marketing and operation was faultless. Of all the stalls, shops and eateries I’ve visited they’re probably the best engaging with the customer. Charcuterie isn’t understood by everyone, and without a depth of knowledge, approaching that glass case and asking for a few slices of something can be a bit daunting. I’m still learning, and I keep on finding new salami’s and new products from different countries that I’m not aware of.
Mark was a fountain of knowledge and like everyone on the trip was very open with his advice. Charcuterie is a difficult business, cuts can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years to cure and dry, so if a big order comes in, there’s nothing you can do. As such, it’s these time demands that are making my life a misery at the moment in trying to get my first batch of products out to the market. I’d hoped to be selling by October, but in reality it’ll probably be closer to Christmas or the New Year before I get something out on the shelves. I learnt a lot from the retail operation at Boccalone, they offer their customers a variety of ways to buy their product – from the salumi cone, to sliced meats, pre-packed guanciale, pancetta and sausage, as well as ready to eat sandwiches and platters. Their big red hand slicing machine is a real draw too, there were countless people snapping away as package after package of coppa was being sliced. They also stock other producers products too – including charcuterie. They had an American Prosciutto as their ‘guest ham’. It was made from a Ossabaw X Berkshire cross – the Ossabaw is a breed of pig found on the Island of Ossabaw, Georgia. It’s believed to have descended from 16th Century pigs released by early Spanish explorers. The pigs were largely feral but are now being bred on commercial farms on the mainland. From the photographs I’ve seen online the pigs are very similar to undeveloped lard-producing pigs like the Mangalitsa, their meat has also been described as resembling the colour and texture of the Iberian black pigs. It seems that based on genetic research their closest cousins would have been pigs from the Canary Islands which had at some point been crossed with Asian pigs. It’s fascinating that a distinct breed has survived the past 500 years, and is now being safeguarded as a modern breed for food production. As for the product itself, there were some wonderfully meaty flavours, but the ham had been too highly salted for my liking.