I first encountered Jody Somer’s cacciatorini, or hunter’s little sausages (or little hunter’s sausages) on a visit to Dancing Ewe Farm several years ago. We were there for a dinner sponsored by Tango Fusion, a local dance studio, on a snowy day typical of winter in Granville, NY where the tiles on slate roofs come from. Inside Jody’s caseficio (cheese house), majestic wheels of pecorino lined the shelves in a setting as still and cold as a tomb.
We proceeded to have a delicious meal focused around the cheeses and pasta sauced with produce from the farm. At some point Jody took me aside to show me his meat curing room where his first batch of sausages were hanging like bats in a cave. There was no possibility of tasting these, he explained to me. He had just been certified by the
Cornell University Agricultural Extension to prepare cured meats, and it would be some time before they would be commercially viable.
Today, you can buy those meats at my local Saratoga Farmer’s market and also by mail order, and I think they are as good as anything I have eaten in the way of salami-style sausage. I like to be kicked in the teeth by my charcuterie, and am often disappointed when a glistening, feral-looking slice turns out to have a mild flavor. This will not happen with Dancing Ewe cacciatorini. They reek of wine and garlic and are not shy about sharing their flavor, whether you encounter it sliced on a charcuterie plate or bite into a whole sausage and let the juice squirt onto your tongue.
I said mail order. Even though they are a shoestring operation, Dancing Ewe has made a commitment to selling its cheeses and cured meats on its website. I placed a sample order and paid just $10 for shipping which is surely not a break even proposition. (I’m quite close to the farm; your shipping may be more.) Hand packed by Luisa Scivola, Jody’s wife and partner, the package arrived a few days later and the meats came through just fine. If you’re not local to the Saratoga and Troy farmers’ markets, I urge you to give them a try.
Luisa and Jody seem to be a magical couple, food-wise, who are able to succeed in everything they take on. In addition to the cheese and the cured meats they import wines, sell their own line of olive oil, hold the farm dinners I mentioned (under the stars in the summertime) and in their spare time sponsor a sheepdog competition.
Jody went to Tuscany in the early 2000s to learn traditional Italian cheese making. He met Lisa there and they got to know each other better when she came to the U.S. to work as an au pair. They continue to make annual trips to Tuscany (another enterprise: you can rent their apartment there when they are not using it, via the website) where they refine technique with Raffaella, Lisa’s mother, and Raffaele Giannarini, the local butcher.
The cheeses, made from the milk of sheep on the farm, range from the approachable Ino Fresco, which is aged two months and tastes of the grassy upstate hillsides, to Pecorino Riserva, a two-year-old beast that needs to be savored in small doses. There is also a growing family of cured meats; I highly recommend the basturma. Actually, you can’t go wrong so put together a nice big order. Some things you’ll like, some you will love, and I predict that cacciatorini will change your life.