North Denver Sausage Company, Sausage the Old-fashioned Way

This is a slice of dry-cured hot Italian sausage, dripping in a marshmallow cream sauce. Sweet, spicy, salty, chewy, sticky…a surprisingly delicious experience.  Made by North Denver Sausage Company.

How much do you know about REAL dry-cured sausage?  For one, it’s famously difficult to make, one salumiere called it “the pinnacle of the art of meat”  And it’s increasingly hard to find. A field trip this past weekend to North Denver Sausage left me “encased” in new knowledge about an old fashioned process. Let’s take a look.

 

 

A group of us were invited to a sausage and wine tasting. Our host was Katherine Laurienti, owner and President of Paisano Sausage and North Denver Sausage companies. This is a photo of Katherine addressing our group.

 

Katherine has been in the sausage making business since 1973, but after watching her client base of small independent restaurants decline over the years, she realized she would have to take her company in a new direction in order to maintain levels of profitability and survive.

She made the decision to produce a new artisan product, an old fashioned dry-cured Italian Sausage, and to do so under USDA regulations.

The art of making dry cured sausages is a complex affair, more so than making wine or cheese.  Natural aging takes time, the degree of care and dedication to each step greatly influences the end product.  The meat requires a gentle fermentation and a precise temperature for a perfectly matured sausage. Meeting the USDA requirements, while still maintaining the old-fashioned process, has proven to be a challenge.

USDA inspectors inspect Katherine’s plant every day. In order to justify her all natural, no heat process, she had to formulate a new Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan. This curing process was as new to the USDA inspectors as it was to Katherine.  Many things (temperature, humidity, etc) must be carefully watched during the three weeks that it takes to finish the product. Hers is only the second company in Colorado to attempt this process.

With a new product comes a new product name.  Katherine chose the name North Denver Sausage for her dry-cured product because that’s where her process was originated.

So what makes dry cured sausage different from the wet, heat cured, cooked pepperoni or salami that we more commonly find on our market shelves? FLAVOR! Using minimal spices, gently matured and fermented, you can taste history and tradition in each bite.

Katherine also told us that some sausage makers try to hide the marbled pieces of  fat in the sausage.  She doesn’t, “That’s sausage, that’s traditional”.

Even though the facility was not in production at the time, we were given a tour so we could see how the sausage is made.  This is a shot of the drying room.

 The production area revealed a lot of shiny stainless steel equipment.  The one at the lower right is a huge mixing paddle  for the processor on the left.

Couldn’t resist taking a photo of some of the yummy Italian products sitting on shelves.

 After the tour came the fun part.  Tasting the products. That’s a selection of regular, hot and pepperoni sausage. Dipping sauces were the marshmallow, caramel and not pictured a sour cream and jalapeno dip.  All delicious pairings for sausage.

 A steaming tray of sliced Paisano Italian Sausage, cubed potatoes and green bell peppers.  A simple and delicious Italian offering compliments of Bova’s Italian Restaurant.

We were also treated to a wine tasting compliments of Colorado winery, Balistreri. Syrah, Sangiovese and Merlot were offered as we sampled the sausage.

As we left,  Katherine gave each of us a very generous gift basket which included packages of the mild and hot North Denver Sausage. For dinner that night, I sliced up some of the mild and alongside some cheese, mustard for dipping, bread and butter, and some olives, It was a great treat…we could not stop eating it.

How can you find old-fashioned dry-cured sausage?  Look for sausages with short ingredients lists, natural casings and a firm, dry texture.

Thank you Katherine for the education, the tour and the samples of your products.

 North Denver Sausage Company…The Old Fashioned Way.

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Comments

  1. says

    What a great place to be invited to. I don’t know that I’ve had dry cured sausage, but I’m getting out my sausage book as soon as I hit the post button. And as a woman, I’m sure you didn’t feel the same way, but from the dirty ole man in me – I believe the owner could sell be a car load.

    • Lea Ann says

      It was a wonderful trip. I’m so glad I was invited to be an attendee and part of the group. And LOL, yes, Katherine is a beautiful woman.

  2. says

    I learned something from your post and I was there! Great write up Lea Ann. Such a fun time. I am still hiding some of my sausage so my husband doesn’t eat it all while I am gone. It will give me something to look forward to when I get back. I was serious about going back sometime when the production is going on. I would love to see the process in action.

    • Lea Ann says

      Thanks Karen. And good tip, I need to hide that unopened package at our house also. :) Have a great trip, and I’m serious too, I want to go make sausage.

  3. says

    What a great opportunity you had! And I love dry cured sausage.. it’s wonderful! Now I’ll definitely have to get some and dip it into the marshmallow cream!!! Oh my that sounds good.

    • Lea Ann says

      We had the best time Jenn. It was a great field trip. That marshmallow cream dip was such a surprise. I have to re-create the experience.

  4. says

    What a fun tour! I adore dry cured sausage – just love it. I get the variety from Costco for special occaisions, but have never tasted hand crafted like that. How cool! Your description of that dip made my mouth water. I’m envious of that gift basket and your dinner of olives, cheese, wine & sausage sounds perfect. I love the photo of that HollyMatic logo. Nice post!

    • Lea Ann says

      It was an incredibly fun afternoon. I don’t think I’ve ever had dry-cured and will have to look for it at Costco. I was completly surprised by that dip. And it went so well with the sausage. I was so excited to walk in that door and see all those beautiful baskets. And was just hoping hoping hoping they were for us. Funny story, I was exclaiming to Katherine how beautiful they were, she told us that her mom spent all day the day before putting them together. I said “bless her heart”. Katherine replied, “don’t….she bitched the whole time she was doing it”. Obviously a big LOL. I had to sneak in that photo of the Hollymatic. Loved that shot.

  5. says

    Oh my! What a lovely experience – charcuterie is my favorite – not to mention wine tasting! That sausage made me drool! You are one lucky duck! I know I don’t need to mention that you should enjoy that gift basket – I am sure you are!

    • Lea Ann says

      I most certainly am enjoying that basket. It was a wonderful treat to end the trip. Thanks for stopping by and the comment. I’m heading over to your blog to check it out right now.

  6. says

    Katherine with those spiked heals can give a sausage presentation that I would pay attention to. (Ms. Goofy, I am just making an observation.) You would lose me with marshmellow sause. Yuck!

  7. says

    At this second, I am watching Alton Brown talking about cured sausages on Cooking Channel, what a coincidence! And I have two hunks of pork shoulder in the fridge (and a full butt on the smoker right now), maybe it’s time to make some of my own sausage again. I’m not going to dare attempt her curing though, I’ll leave that to the pros!

    • Lea Ann says

      When things happen like that I always tell myself it’s a “sign”. I think you need to make sausage. And I agree, I would not try the dry-cured thing. Not a project for a hobbyist. :)

  8. says

    Lea Ann,

    I can’t thank you enough for the kind words. I really enjoyed meeting all of you. My website will be up tomorrow (finally). I hope we can do it again with a different group of Food Bloggers.

    • Lea Ann says

      You are so welcome Katherine. What a generous, tasty and fun afternoon. Thanks for having us. I look forward to your website.

  9. Dave says

    Any ideas where the dry sausage is available at retail in metro Denver (preferably south suburbs), besides their manufacturing location on Washington Street in Adams County?

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