Meet the Owner • Charles Ventre, Chestnut Valley Charcuterie
Charles Ventre, the mastermind behind Chestnut Valley Charcuterie, will be in the house on January 9th sampling the delicious product that has brought him culinary fame! Here's some more information about him and his amazing Charcuterie line...
THE PORK GUYS
If it takes a village to create an award-winning line of dried sausage, Charles Ventre certainly found one. He started at a young age, pitching in with the butchering, blending, spicing, and curing that was the mainstay of his Brooklyn neighborhood. Here were the pork stores that brought us sopressata, fennel salami and pancetta. The product was slow-cured and dried with original, unchanged recipes that remain the standard-bearers today.
“The guys” – Landi’s, Faicco’s, Fretta Bros., and the like - fed Charles' passion for the charcuterie craft. “There was no fooling around with recipes,” he says. Long or short, skinny or fat, dimpled or smooth, the sausage came off a human assembly line, with each day of the week devoted to one style. Charles' mentors showed him which meat cuts to use, how and why to develop white mold, when to cure, how long to hang. Natural casings and selective spices were and still are integral to Charles' recipes.
PERCUSSION OR PEPPERONI?
Charles' breakthrough moment hit around the same time as the American food revolution. Not one to uni-task, Charles jump-started his passion for the drums at a young age. His love and enthusiasm for music has led Charles to play drums with some outstanding musicians of our time. A personal quest – how to honor and give back to his pork store mentors and old friends – won out.
NEW WORLD, NEW SPICES
A flood of new ingredients and an influx of international cuisines provided Charles with unlimited possibilities. A yearning for new aromatics guided his sausage-making. Why settle on fennel when star anise will provide a deep, pervasive, licoricey flavor? Why shouldn't pancetta get an unexpected jolt of bay leaf? His relentless experimentation with flavors like juniper berry, tarragon, and citron transformed dried meats from Old World into GottaHaveItNow.
THE NEW SALUMERIA/CHARCUTERIE MODEL
Charles updated the Old Guys' stores, pushing the envelope with robust marketing and sales efforts, dusting off the hanging salami and plastic garlic braids and using the real thing. He thrust cured meats into modern distribution channels, upgraded the image of one-story storefronts, and made daily deliveries throughout the boroughs of New York.
SLOW FOOD, GOOD FOOD
Like his Brooklyn “family”, Charles uses the style, technique, and processes that require time and discipline. Artisanal sausage requires longer aging, making them shelf stable and reducing shrinkage. Hogs are treated humanely, without the use of antibiotics or hormones. No nitrates or artificial additives are ever present in his products. Pork bellies are hand-selected. Fat to lean ratios are crucial, and “anyone who thinks boutique breeds are superior is being led by the nose.” He should know – he raises pigs for his family's personal consumption, and is a diehard snout-to-tail cook.
“Every sausage I make,” he says, “is a tribute to the guys who gave me love, passion, and a sense of what is right.”