Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sam's Butcher Shop

322 N. Main Street
Moscow, PA 18444
(570) 842-7392

Back in the cold and lonely days of March 2014, I received a warm and fuzzy email from a fellow by the name of "Sam The Butcher". His message was riddled with words like "smoked sausages, kielbasa, andouille, two types of bacon, pork shoulder, porchetta, pulled pork, and old fashioned smoked hams," and I knew my winter gloom was about to seriously improve.

Sam is an 'artisan meat processor specializing in smoked and cured meats,' and his shop is located north of the city, closer to the Poconos, but he does not have a storefront. In other words, all of his sales are done via the internet at, and like magic, the delicious meat products are then shipped to your front door. Sam offered to let me try a sampling of his artisan meats on a Wednesday (of course I couldn't say no) and then Thursday morning I was greeted with a compact Styrofoam cooler packed full of beautifully wrapped butcher paper presents.

All of his items come already cooked/smoked/cured, so everything is ready to go on arrival. My care package was a selection of those mouthwatering items Sam had mentioned a week before, which was A LOT, so I figured that a meat-tasting party was in order. I called over my closest, most meat-appreciative friends and got to work on the spread. First things first, I decided to put out the ready-to-eat finger foods for some light snacking.

These are the smoked kielbasa sticks, AKA gourmet slim jims. Who doesn't love a good snap in every bite of the old meat stick? I know I sure do. They were a mild variety, with a decidedly kielbasa flavor. Firm and salty, these boys are smoked for four (4) hours with cherry wood, which adds to their reddish color.

Next sampler was the smoked andouille: a Cajun sausage loaded with spices and ingredients including ancho chile powder, garlic, red pepper and gumbo filé; they are also smoked for 4 hours using cherry.

These dark and luscious little coins hit you with a powerful heat, a low and smoky ancho flavor that sneaks up on you moments after chewing through the savory meat.

Definitely a good one for a cracker, mustard and cheddar platter. Think of it as a fancier, more flavorful version of ring bologna - a refined version with a grown up heat. I'd serve these at every party on my appetizer plate, and will surely be stocking up for Memorial Day. Did someone say Father's Day presents?

After the first course of room temperature light bites, it was time to fire up the flat top for some more serious meat prep. I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I can't speak highly enough of the Blackstone 36" griddle station. I'm talking game changer. I purchased one back in the summer of '13 and my life will never be the same again. Seriously.

It's a free standing, propane-fired griddle, so you can do your manly things outside, make a mess, and your wife will be none the wiser. But she WILL swoon when you decide to have hibachi night for her friends. But back to the matter at hand. First up, I threw on some of the smoked kielbasa grillers: a skinless (no casing) version of kielbasa that is more finely ground than the original and ideal for sandwiches.

In addition to the meats in casings, Sam also offers his version of porchetta: an Italian version of pulled pork seasoned with garlic, dill, and pepper. Traditionally the pork is rolled with herbs and seasonings inside, roasted and then sliced to serve. (I know it looks strange in a Ziploc bag, but see below and watch this stuff transform.)

The only way to cook the grillers is split down the middle and face down on a greased skillet. You could 'grill' them over open fire, but I much prefer a buttery browning via the Maillard reaction, giving the meat a richly caramelized surface. Delicious.

It turns out I have a lot of meat-centric friends, so I had to maximize the meat-to-person ratio by cutting the grillers into pieces for all to enjoy. Multiple times.

And boy, did we! All it takes is a little hot and sweet mustard and a simple saltine vessel to serve these up. Smoky with a mild spice to it, these kielbasas are a winner. Of course, if I had more of them (or fewer friends), we'd be eating them whole on a Liscio's roll with spicy mustard and maybe some cheddar or kraut.

The porchetta also browns nicely on a lightly greased skillet - just look at how beautiful it is.

The dill and garlic melt into the tender pork, and again, getting some of the caramelization on the pulled bits is key to making the flavors pop. Rich with the flavor of fresh herbs, I would serve this porchetta time and time again to my closest friends and family - they don't need to know that it came in a box through the mail, nor will they ever find out...

Porchetta is frequently served on a roll with fixin's, as you would find a traditional roast pork style sandwich, but sometimes just tasting the meat on its own is all you need.

Next item to hit the griddle is the BBQ pork: pork shoulder that is coated with a barbecue rub, smoked over cherry wood for twelve hours and then pulled. This came the same way as the porchetta, tightly packed into an air tight bag, and as soon as it hit the flat top, I could tell it was going to be another success.

You could hit it with some of your favorite barbecue sauce, but it doesn't even need it. The meat is tender, moist and full of BBQ flavor on its own. It had a mild spice, but was mostly smoky and sweet – we were literally grabbing it by the handful off the communal tasting plate.

That was all I could handle for the 'tasting' party (it was getting dark and I was ready for some drinking), so I put the remaining two products away for another day's meal. Fast forward 2 days, I decided on some BLTs for dinner to make the most of the 2 packages marked "buckboard bacon" and "keilbasa bacon."

Much to my surprise, they weren't what I had in mind when thinking "bacon." It turns out that Sam (to quote the butcher himself) 'uses the pork shoulder to make bacon rather than the pork belly, which is used to make slab bacon. His pork shoulder bacons have less than a third of the fat of slab bacon but with the same crispiness and flavor. They are also not as dry as Canadian Bacon.'

I still chose to go the BLT route and pulled out my cast iron skillet to fry up some ham. Above is the buckboard bacon: shoulder that's marinaded in molasses which imparts a dark brown color and sweet flavor. And below is the smoked kielbasa bacon: made with the pork shoulder and flavored with kielbasa seasoning. It pretty much speaks for itself.

These are also ready to eat right out of the package. The buckboard reminded me of a honey baked ham, sweet and crispy outer rim with a smooth and salty interior with fat that just melted on my tongue. Delicious. The kielbasa 'bacon' was more like a smoked bologna that definitely tasted like kielbasa.

What's not to love about fried bologna?

Throw it on some white bread with mayo, lettuce, tomato and a little bit of mustard hitting the meat and voilá! You have yourself a healthy fried ham sandwich!

Many thanks to Sam for opening my eyes to the joys of mail-order cured and smoked meats. His prices are completely affordable for such a high quality product and this dude is legit. If only mail-order brides could be as reliable...

Check back Friday for Sam's MEATSRAVAGANZA GIVEAWAY!

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