When Avalanche owner Wendy Mitchell made the business decision to stop producing her handcrafted cheese and cured meat products two years ago, consumers cried. But the good news is that Wendy Mitchell is still open in Aspen with her Meat & Cheese restaurant and farm shop, and she sought out another producer of handcrafted products, Bill Miner, to supply her cured meats and take over her producing operations in Basalt.
Miner was a chef and catering company owner in Denver for 20 years before opening a retail deli in the fall of 2015. Amazing accolades from food critics and aficionados quickly followed and Miner garnered citywide praise for his salamis, hams, pastrami, bacon and sandwiches.
“Avalanche was amazing, and it is sad that they stopped making their products,” says Miner. “Wendy reached out to me to see if I wanted to take over their Basalt operations. I had never met her, and she made me this offer. Patrick Kennedy used to work for her, and he became our first product manager. Now we have Phil House, a long-time Aspen chef, who has taken it to new levels. We’re just really proud.”
Given their products, their reputation and their growth, they should be.
In less than two years, il porcellino salumi has grown both their retail operations in Denver and their wholesale operations in Basalt.
From the very beginning, Miner formulated his business plan and raised money to open his retail deli with a vision of working only with farmers who raise their animals on pasture, feed them a non-GMO and vegetarian diet and never give the animals any kind of growth hormone or antibiotics.
In Basalt, they use the highest quality Berkshire pork from producers in Colorado and Nebraska.
“We receive our pork, trim it, remove all the unwanted skin and parts we are not going to use, then we grind it, mix it and season it,” explains Miner. “Then it gets stuffed into all-natural casings and is hand tied. It’s all very hands on, artisanal and handcrafted.”
Miner continues: “The product gets fermented for two days where we add cultures and lactobacillus bacteria. Lactose fermentation lowers the Ph of the meat and kills any potential bacteria that would be in the raw meat. The salamis dry in climate-controlled rooms at about 50 degrees with 75 percent humidity for 5 weeks or so. It has to reach a certain water activity by the USDA so that it can be safely sold and consumed. Then it’s hand packaged, and we release it.”
At the Basalt Sunday Market or at Meat & Cheese in Aspen, you can find a range of il porcellino salumi products like finocchiona — a traditional Italian salami seasoned with garlic, black pepper, toasted fennel seeds and fennel pollen; orange pistachio — a unique salami seasoned with garlic, fresh orange zest and garnished with Sicilian pistachios; or spiced juniper — a non-traditional salami seasoned with juniper berries, coriander and fennel seed with plenty of Calabrian chilies for heat.
Miner, his teams and their partners are excited about their plans for the future. According to Miner, current plans have them purchasing the Basalt building this fall and expanding operations as demand for their products continues to grow. While they currently produce about 800 pounds a week of cured meat products, in the fall they will be able to expand to 2,500 pounds per week.
The Basalt operations create both small, retail 6-ounce size salamis and large format, four-pound sizes of salamis for restaurants, hotels and catering operations. They create 12 different retails flavors of salami and seven large-format flavors. They are now expanding into whole muscle products like their award-winning coppa, Wagyu beef bresaola, lonza, lomo, speck and culatello (all unique Italian salami products).
They will continue creating cooked products like summer sausage, mortadella, Berkeley ham and their signature maple-cured bacon, and they are planning for a provisions division of the company that will include products like pickled mustard seeds, spicy jicama, juniper cauliflower and sweet ‘n’ sour kohlrabi.
Does Miner have a favorite product that they create?
“My particular favorite is the rosette de lyon,” says Miner. “It’s a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, pink peppercorns and apple brandy. It's one of our newer offerings and we can't keep it in stock.”
In addition to distributing the il porcellino salumi products in about half the states in the country, their products are distributed to restaurants, hotels and stores in Colorado and New Mexico by Italco Foods.
Beginning this fall, you will be able to find Miner’s handcrafted salamis in Whole Foods retail operations. Currently, Miner is creating two signature salami products for Whole Foods. Two ideas that are high on his list are salami made with Woody Creek Distillers whiskey and Palisade peaches and one made with Colorado green chiles.
Miner continues to get wide praise for the company’s handcrafted artisanal products, and he feels very humble for that praise. He is also excited to keep expanding and to keep creating new custom flavors with sustainably sourced products.
Locally you find il porcellino salumi at the Basalt Sunday Market and at Meat & Cheese in Aspen.