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Farmers Market Success: Artisan Sausage-crafter Makes “The Wine of Pork”

It’s a farmers market success story.

Rey Knight’s humanely-raised, hand-crafted salumi operation serves the local community of Ocean Beach, California, (including the “freaks, uppity women and politicos” of the OB Rag) through farmers markets, some internet sales, and direct to restaurants with only himself and a couple of employees toiling away in a fully USDA-inspected facility. Over the past six months, the operation has grown to the point where they’re producing a thousand pounds of sausages a week, and are on track to hit a ton a week in just one year’s time.

He uses a combination of fermentation and salt-curing (no nitrates/nitrites) to create his unique delicacies, like “Finacchionia (salami with fennel), Genoa (salami with red wine, garlic & white pepper) and Cacciatori (salami with garlic, Chianti and black pepper).”

If it wasn’t 3,000 miles away, I’d be tempted to take a stroll down to the OB to try some myself! Fresh chorizo? Yes, please!

From the OB Rag:

The controlled chaos that is the Ocean Beach Farmers Market makes it easy to overlook the minor economic miracles that take place there each week. In a world where big box retailers and mega corporations have corrupted the concept of customer service and reduced quality to a mere slogan, the thousands of authentic connections that happen weekly at the market are a very good thing.

For Rey Knight’s Salumi Company, the concept of selling direct via farmers markets has proven to be a winner. In just over a year, Rey’s gone from working after hours in a restaurant kitchen (Urban Solace) making a few sausages to having a fully USDA inspected facility where more than a dozen varieties are made. In the early days, it was just Rey, schlepping out to a handful of markets after staying up all night. Now he’s got a couple of employees and is selling at ten or so markets each week.

Rey makes sausages—both dried and fresh—and cures meats. It’s a craft that’s as old as civilization, one that—until recent years—was all but forgotten in the onslaught of corporate homogenization of our food supply. Different cultures around the world developed a variety of techniques that were intended prevent spoilage in meats back in the days before refrigeration was commonplace. It was common for butchers to make sausages as means of using the whole animal after slaughter. In France, the craft’s creations came to be known as charcuterie. In Italy, it’s salumi. (Salami is but one type of salumi) In Germany, it’s wurst.

Curing and preserving meats has a lot in common with other food preservationist crafts. As food critic Jeffrey Stiengarten enthused, “[Salumi] is fermented food! It is the cheese of meat, the wine of pork, the sourdough of flesh! It is alive!”

I met Rey when he was first getting started many months ago at the North Park Farmer’s Market. I tried his early creations, riffs on a salami theme, including Finacchionia (salami with fennel), Genoa (salami with red wine, garlic & white pepper) and Cacciatori (salami with garlic, Chianti and black pepper), and marveled at the quality of the craft involved alongside the bold flavors that announced themselves on my palate.

Rey Knight started out cooking in the family’s restaurant and headed off to learn the trade at the Culinary Institute of America. From there it was off to France, Boston, New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Los Angeles. When his wanderlust abated, he found himself in San Diego, settling in to raise a family and pursue a life of what enjoyed doing most—making salumi.

Read the whole article here.


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