Producing cheese and bean-to-bar chocolate in house, Boulevard Market’s curated variety of wine and fine deli meats renders it a gourmand’s oasis in otherwise unassuming Tecumseh, Michigan, this time with new house-brand Black Pig Salami Co. Channeling their drive to improve the fine food collective’s approachability for everyday people, Boulevard Market founders Erika and John Aylward have turned their energies toward creating Michigan’s first dry-cured fermented craft salami.
Though the two owners thought making this cured meat product would be relatively simple, the process proved a months-long challenge faceted by not only mastering the time-honored dry-curing and fermentation process, but also spurring an overhaul of Michigan’s dry-cured meat licensing requirements.
Aided by elements of both microbiology and organic chemistry, the new pork salami’s fermentation and dry-curing process learning curve proved steep. While traditional cooking kills harmful pathogens through heat-treatment, fermentation relies on benign microorganisms growing in the place of bacteria.
“Using a bacterial starter culture, we’re controlling the meat’s natural pathogens by regulating the pH and dryness of the product,” Erika explains. If that explanation sounds a bit scientific, it’s because there’s a science to dry-curing based on achieving certain temperatures within strict time limits while documenting each step in a lab journal.
Adhering to USDA safety guidelines on acidification and drying, The Aylwards create conditions in the meat where the germs simply can’t survive. The result awakens a nuanced funk, characteristic of fine salami.
Slices of microbiology
“We learned a lot about microbiology that we never thought we’d need to know,” Aylward said.
Vowing to make everything by hand in the Boulevard Market kitchen also presented some unique legislative challenges. The Aylwards contacted the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), only to learn that the agency did not have guidelines in place for in state dry-cured meat producers. After a few months of regulatory back-and-forth, Boulevard Market was granted Michigan’s first dry-curing facility license.
“Though there are some bigger producers making great stuff, we looked at this as an opportunity to create something local;” Aylward said. “Craft salami made by a person they actually know rather than some anonymous factory situation.”
Though future product plans include dry-cured beef, duck, and goat salamis, prosciuttos and capicolas, expect the Aylwards to first master their salami production with Black Pig Salami Co. For Erika and John Aylward, one dry-cured salami product for now is enough to slice.
“Making approachable local products that everyone can get their hands on and appreciate helps us communicate the ripple effect it makes for other farmers, producers, and the larger community,” Aylward said. “It brings everyone up.”
The Boulevard Market
102 E. Chicago Blvd., Tecumseh, MI
517-423-6000 | boulevardmarket.com