Lindsey (Nolechek) Fox Talks: Favorite Products to Craft
Someone recently asked me what my favorite Nolechek’s product, to make, is. This one throws me every time and I usually end up starting with one thing and then think of another that means just as much and the indecision begins. Because in all honesty, each of Nolechek’s products hold a lot of meaning and are special to me. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorite Nolechek’s products to make:
Pork & Chicken Loaf
This product is special because every time we make it, I’m reminded of how we use the same steam-jacketed cook kettles and loaf pans; standing at the table, boning whole chickens by hand, catching up on current events, immersed in the aroma of toasted onion and black pepper. Inevitably, Kelly will say, "Chicken today, feathers tomorrow", just like my grandfather Bumpa always did, and we’ll all have a good chuckle. Today, each batch is approximately 450 pounds, but back in the early 1960s, when the recipe was developed by Joe Decker, it was made in even smaller batches by Joe, Pearl Kinas, and Celia Parks. The next generation included members of the Nolechek family: Mary, Tracey, and Bill. And who can forget the story of the loaf pans? Bumpa purchased them at the Peter’s Meats (Eau Claire, WI) auction and, on the ride home, several fell out of the back of the truck and he made Kelly and Mary get out and scurry to pick them up. To learn about all things Pork & Chicken Loaf, check out the blog post here, on The Bacon Beat.
Hickory Smoked Honey Cured Bacon
Bumpa was an innovator in a lot of areas surrounding meat processing and our Hickory Smoked Honey Cured Bacon is an example of his dedication to producing the highest quality product. He was one of the first in the state to move away from curing product using arterial injection, dry-, or vat-curing. He recognized that using a needle injector, combined with tumbling product under vacuum, led to a more consistent final product. Bill, Jr. carried on that tradition throughout his entire career, passing along the knowledge of curing bacon to Chad and myself.
In the early 1970s, when Peter’s Meats (Eau Claire, WI) was closing, Bumpa purchased the bacon cure recipe at auction. He added a touch of honey, and the rest is history. Our Hickory Smoked Honey Cured Bacon is the perfect balance of natural hickory smoke, salt, and sweetness from the locally-sourced Wisconsin honey that combines with the richness of the pork and creates a robust, deep flavor. It’s quite memorable. There is something special about opening the smokehouse door and being hit in the face with the warmth and aroma from bacon that has yet to cool down.
To learn more about our amazing bacon, visit The Bacon Beat post here.
I returned to Nolechek’s in April 2014 and after about a year, I transitioned into production to learn the processes behind making our award-winning ham, bacon, and sausage products. My task became to learn the bowl chopper. Until I went to a meat processing short course at the University of Madison, I was under the assumption that all small processors used a bowl chopper to mix spices, water, and chop the product to the correct consistency. To my surprise, I learned this was the exception and that most processors utilize a grinder, especially in large scale processing.
Chopping sausage in a bowl chopper is an art to me. One must observe how the product being chopped looks and feels, keeping in mind how tempered or cold the raw materials are and the desired texture of the final product. Learning how long to chop the lean versus the fat, on what speed, when to add the spices, cheese, or other ingredients - and in what order to add them - means that one must develop a rhythm and be aware of what product is being chopped. It takes time, awareness, and patience. For example, fully cooked product is chopped at different speeds for different amounts of time than fresh product. Some of our products, like Hickory Smoked Coarse Ground Polish Sausage, have significant particle definition, while others, like Hickory Smoked Skinless Wieners or Liver Sausage, are an emulsion-type or meat batter sausage, where there is no distinguishable particle definition. To understand our process is to understand why our products are so unique. I enjoy explaining to people what makes our product different or why our summer sausage may have a different mouthfeel or texture than another brand.
I truly enjoy making all our products because of the stories that are told when we’re making them, the memories of growing up working in the business, and knowing how, each step of the way, from start to finish, who was involved in the process of bringing said product to fruition. It’s all special to me because the tradition behind crafting our ham, bacon, and sausage products are a part of Nolechek’s legacy, spanning four generations and almost 70 years. I am fortunate and humbled to work with the best people. They are serious about what we do and allow Nolechek’s Meats the opportunity to carry on our core values of attention to detail, quality, consistency, and dedication to making our customers happy.