Gorilla Meats Co. – Fresh Sausage & Charcuterie
I met Bryon at Coffee House Northwest. He was wearing a white fur hat that sparked our conversation. “I slaughtered an Alpaca overseas. We used most of the animal and I made this hat from the hide.” Then he mentioned his future charcuterie business. At the time he was busing tables at Jake’s Grill but he invited me to join him on a trip to scope out heritage pigs.
A few weeks later we’re on this pilgrimage to Hood River. Since I saw him last he has quit his job, created packaging for his products, and incorporated the business. While we’re driving he gets a phone call from a friend and launches into a discussion about packaging his product, he asks his friend, “You have one of those industrial vacuum sealers, don’t you?” This is the stage of his business’s frantic acceleration, between his leap-of-faith decision to focus on charcuterie full time and the moment the business can sustain itself.
The farm’s pig steward is Bray. He started cleaning animals when he was 17 and now he’s our guide for the day. We put on muck boots and climb onto a small structure that overlooks the valley, and Bryon and Bray begin discuss the family of pigs that play in the mud below. “We don’t put a ring on their nose. We let them dig and do what they want and be happy. We finish them with hazelnuts and chestnuts.”
We return to the house and Bray brings out a garlicky prosciutto to slice for samples. Bryon follows him back into the garage and they pick out a leg from the freezer for Bryon to take home and hang for prosciutto. “You’ll want to poke a hole in between the bone to get a sturdy hold to hang the rope,” Bray shows Bryon the exact spot with his fingers. Then we go inside the house.
Jim Aamodt is waiting for us inside. His home is a Western-inspired perch with a 360 degree view of the valley around him. Bryon and Jim lock in conversation about recipes from The Whole Beast and the history of his farm. Jim walks over to the wall and points to a picture of the hill his farm sits on. “This part of the farm is called the ‘slide’ and we’re considering fencing it all off for the pigs. The pigs have bred more than we expected so we have a lot of them, and they will soon need more room.”
Jim surprises us, “Two gentleman are coming to kill and slaughter a pig for their Christmas feast, do you two want to stay and watch?” An hour later Bray changes clothes, loads his pistol, and we all crowd onto a structure that towers over the field. Bryon and I watch as Bray stalks around through the mud trying to line up a shot behind the pig’s head. Twenty tedious minutes pass, the pigs know something so they scatter, and the two gentleman herd the pigs back up the hill toward us. Then a pig runs into the structure we’re standing on, Bray follows, and the pistol discharges below our feet. A second shot as the pig runs out of the structure, and it dies as muscle memory pushes its head into the mud and runs the feet for several minutes. They pull the pig through the mud and hose it off.
Bray works quickly and accurately to clean and slaughter the 450 pound animal. He shows Bryon the techniques along the way. I witness Bryon’s passion at this point. He absorbs each detail in how to remove the various pieces of the pig, and I see his unabashedness in asking every question and in pursuing every curiosity. The two gentleman give Bryon the left jowl, tail, and the five pound liver, and we pack it all into the car and drive off before dusk. On the way back Bryon raves about the pâté he plans for the liver.
Bryon and Gorilla Meats Co. are taking orders: brhinoinspace at gmail dot com
“I have duck prosciutto going to food carts but I also have lomo, coppa, Guanciale, bacon, pancetta, and a bunch of fresh sausage as well as pâté, terrines, and I just started salumi. My next big step is a wild boar and black truffle salami for $12 a piece.”
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