By George Harvey
We first learned about Fortuna’s Sausage because it was chosen as a finalist in Martha Stewart’s “Made in America” contest. We are glad we did.
The story of Fortuna’s Sausage started over 100 years ago when a couple the family will probably always call Nani and Poppa moved to the United States from the southern Italian region of Calabria. With them, they brought a treasure trove of heritage and traditions of their old country.
Included in their traditions were recipes for making sausages. These were used as the basis of their business, when it was started in 1982. Today, the same unaltered ingredients are used. Nothing has been added, and nothing lost. And that makes a difference.
The old methods of curing sausage did not use nitrates. What they used instead were a little culture, a lot of patience, and abiding devotion. Fortuna’s sausages are cured by hanging them for weeks, until they are perfect. They do not need constant refrigeration, but that is not because of chemicals. Rather, it is because they are aged using processes nearly identical to those used to make fine cheese.
There is a story about this that is worth telling. A number of years ago, Patti and Paul wanted to bring a perfect, old-style sopresatta to market. They ran up against the problem that the US government requires a sopresatta to have nitrates. Patti and Paul drove to Washington DC to challenge the USDA on the issue, and within the course of a few hours convinced the government to allow them to sell their flagship sausage, “Soupy™,” without nitrates.
I was fortunate enough to be able to sample Fortuna’s Sausage products for this article. Soupy is outstanding. The pepperoni is clearly superior to any I have ever tasted before. I also tried their beef jerky that is so delightful I could call it a culinary miracle. Perhaps part of the miracle was due to the fact that Fortuna’s jerky is made using their own Vermont maple syrup.
Fortuna’s Sausage has standards that put quality of food above all else. This means that while they favor the idea of buying locally, enough local meats have never been available in the quality they require, so they do have to buy meat from good-quality suppliers in the Midwest. It also means their products are uncompromisingly made using the same traditional techniques that were used over a hundred years ago, when artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives were still a thing of the future.
Another plus for cured meat is that it does not require a lot of energy for cooking and refrigeration. Its reduced power load translates into a reduced need for attention to efficiency and renewable power sources. Nevertheless, the company is currently investigating sustainable energy options, including the installation of a solar array to power the business.
With Christmas before us and a short time to finish shopping, a quick trip to Fortuna’s website can make choosing a local Vermont Company’s products easy. This is food for the whole year, however, and we might remember that giving things that are delicious is always in good taste.
Fortuna’s is available in select stores, the Rutland Farmers’ Market, and online at fortunasausage.com.