Earlier this spring I was contacted by Erika Kerekes with Deluxe Corporation, based in Shoreview MN, wanting to know if I could help put together an event for one of their clients, a local Denver sausage maker. Kathy Laurienti, the owner wanted to introduce their newest product, a dry Italian sausage that they sell along with fresh Italian sausage under the Paisano Sausage Company label. Luckily for everyone involved, I coordinate a local group of bloggers who meet once a month; I knew I could find a willing crew to participate.
Kathy’s late husband started the company over thirty years ago and she has been a part of this family owned business for many years. Upon his death last year, it fell on her to take over the reins of the operation. Not content to just do business as usual, Kathy decided to start producing a dry Italian sausage in addition to the fresh Italian sausage she produces daily.
On the day of our visit, 20 of us were invited into the heart of their operations and I think I speak for everyone that the cleanliness of their production facility was impressive. I was also a bit surprised but I can’t deny equally impressed that a health inspector inspects her facility every weekday before they start production. If we had visited during a production day we would all have been required to ‘suit up’ and wear a coat and hair net. I am glad we went on a Saturday. 🙂
I made a second trip to see the sausage being made and pick up the packages promised to the members of our group. That’s Kathy on the left and I wish I had a more glamorous shot of her; I took more but she’s constantly moving and she was a blur in every photo; still the eyelashes tell the story enough, right? I’ve actually thought of making sausage myself and certainly followed a number of people who did for the Charcutepalooza event last year; looked easy enough but then their equipment might be a far cry above my KitchenAid attachment!
The process for making both the fresh and dry sausage is similar but once completed, the dry version is salted and hung in their drying facility for at least 19 days. Once that time has elapsed and the moisture is removed, this sausage needs no refrigeration and is perfect not just for use at home as a snack or appetizer, but a great addition to trips away from home. If I were prone to hike I know it would be perfect. Since I’m not, I went the appetizer route and served it with these savory crackers and wine. Prepared with both mild and hot seasonings it was the perfect accompaniment for savory crackers with some jam and of course…wine! Kathy’s Italian sausage is primarily provided to local restaurants and one specialty meat store in the Denver area but their dry product is available online for shipping to the continental US.
After our groups tour of the facility we got on to the fun stuff; the food! Kathy had arranged varieties of her dry sausage for tasting with some unexpected elements for dipping. Marshmallow fluff? Caramel? Yes, there were savory offerings too but the sweet ones were unexpected and surprisingly good. I’m not sure why I questioned that…I sure love most anything with a combination of sweet and some heat! I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of dry sausage…opting to never have pepperoni on my pizza even, but this was good and the hotter version has a nice kick.
I opted to do my own version of the sausage and peppers that Kathy served our group using her fresh Italian sausage. As a card carrying member of the ‘Green Pepper Haterz Club’ I just had to substitute something for those green bell peppers and in the making ended up with a much different dish. Kathy had sent each of us home with a basketful of goodies so I also wanted to incorporate some of the other local products she had given us including the Aiello’s spaghetti sauce and Balistreri Vineyards Sangiovese wine.
Was it so good because I was a part of the process and got to see it being made? As unique and fun as that was I don’t think so…it’s just great sausage. Most of their fresh Italian sausage is produced and sold to local restaurants (the one local retail outlet is Vinnola’s Italian Market in Wheat Ridge, CO) so I feel particularly blessed that we were given some to play with. I just happened to have some Tillamook Monterey Jack Cheese on hand which was perfect for this sandwich. You might not be lucky enough to have some of Kathy’s sausage in your neighborhood but just find some good fresh sausage and try this sandwich; it’s a keeper!
Not in Denver? Be sure to visit their online store if you love dry sausage; it’s made with care and it shows.