Food Finds: Celebrating the year of the pig with Pioneer Valley Charcuterie Team

  • Products from Pioneer Valley Charcuterie Team include maple-pepper pork jowl bacon. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Meghan and JD Fairman of Deerfield run Pioneer Valley Charcuterie Team. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Meghan and JD Fairman of Deerfield run Pioneer Valley Charcuterie Team. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Chris Stoddard, right, browses products from Meghan Fairman of Pioneer Valley Charcuterie Team at Bernardston’s Kringle Candle. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Chris Stoddard, right, browses products from Meghan Fairman of Pioneer Valley Charcuterie Team at Bernardston’s Kringle Candle. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Use Pioneer Valley Charcuterie Team’s maple-pepper pork jowl bacon, baguette slices, and fresh lettuce and tomatoes to make a flavorful BLT. Contributed photo

For the Recorder
Published: 4/9/2019 2:08:24 PM

I last interviewed JD Fairman in 2017 when he was working as executive chef at Taylor’s Tavern. But when I ran into him recently at a farmers market, I discovered he has embarked on a whole new venture — he and his wife, Meghan Fairman, recently launched the Pioneer Valley Charcuterie Team.

Charcuterie, JD Fairman said, is “more or less the art or technique of smoking and curing meat.” The couple’s new company offers a maple-pepper pork jowl bacon and several varieties of sausage.

Fairman seemed almost as surprised as I was at his new business.

“I had gotten to the point at Taylor’s Tavern where I think I’d done all I could do there,” he said. “I enjoyed my time there, and I’m grateful for it. I think they taught me more than I taught them.”

He explained that the charcuterie business emerged almost by accident. Before coming to Taylor’s, he ran a high-end restaurant in North Carolina. He stayed in touch with a number of enthusiastic customers from that eatery. He posted a photo of one of his cured meats on Facebook.

“One of my patrons asked me, ‘Do you ship?’” he recalled. “A little order turned into a couple of thousand here and a couple of thousand there. ... We started putting the bacon out there, and people went absolutely crazy.”

The Fairmans developed a relationship with Red Apple Farm, a farm market in Phillipston. Sampling products there gave them a chance to see whether they could sell their cured creations. It turned out that they could.

“We would have people come up to us and say, ‘Your bacon changed my life,’” Fairman said.

When he decided to leave Taylor’s at the beginning of this year, he moved into the charcuterie line full-time. Meghan Fairman still works at a restaurant, as executive chef at Duo in Brattleboro, Vt. She puts a lot of effort into the charcuterie team, too, though.

“JD pretty much takes care of all of the culinary end of things. I take care of everything that he doesn’t want to do — website, social media, paperwork, business cards, and so forth,” she explained. “I’m the finance department, the marketing department, the psychology department ...”

The two currently work out of a rented space a couple of hours away in Vermont, although they plan to move their operations to a location in the northern part of that state soon.

Unfortunately, at the moment they can’t find any space in Franklin County that offers USDA inspections, which are critical in the meat business.

In the future, they hope to establish a plant closer to their home in Deerfield, where their daughters, Bryson, 10, and Shea, 15, are big fans of the meat the team produces.

“We love it here. It is home to us,” Meghan Fairman said. “Depending on properties available, we’ve had a few conversations about having a small bistro where we can still have our creative outlet from a culinary standpoint. I don’t think we ever really want to hang up our chef coats. It’s in our blood.”

JD Fairman said what sets Pioneer Valley Charcuterie Team’s products apart is “the brine, and how long (the meat) smokes for.” The couple seem particularly proud of two products: the bacon, which is exceptionally rich, flavorful and sweet, and their new “olde world sausage.”

“We both were going crazy over it,” JD Fairman said of the sausage. “When I made it, I said, ‘I’ve had sausage like this; I’m trying to remember where.’ I realized it was when I was in Germany.”

Meghan Fairman chimed in, “We really try to do things that are old world in style, the methods of great-grandparents and generations before that who smoked and cured out of necessity. ... We want to honor the culinary greats of the past who were never recognized because they were simply doing what they had to in order to survive.”

Pioneer Valley Charcuterie Team products are available at farmers markets (locations are announced on the company’s Facebook page) or via the website at pioneervalleycharcuterieteam.com, where contact information is also available.

Bacon-Onion Jam

This sweet-and-savory jam works well in sandwiches but also with cheese as an appetizer.

Ingredients:

1 lb. bacon, diced

2 large red onions, julienned

1 T minced garlic

1 T freshly ground pepper

¼ cup maple syrup

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

Slowly cook down the bacon pieces over low heat until most of the fat is rendered. Add the onions, and cook until they are translucent, stirring from time to time. Stir in the remaining ingredients, and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Pulse the mixture in a food processor until a “chunky jam texture” is achieved. Makes about three cups of jam.

Maple-Pepper Bacon (for BLTs or anything else)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the Pioneer Valley Charcuterie Team’s maple-pepper pork jowl bacon on a sheet tray with rimmed edges. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes.

Use a baguette for your BLTs, slicing it to make it flat, buttering it on both sides, and toasting it up on a griddle. Don’t forget to use the best, freshest lettuce and tomatoes you can find.

Tinky Weisblat is the award-winning author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.


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