• Editor's Note Winter 2010

    Editor's Note Winter 2010

    Vermont is facing many challenges when it comes to local meat production: Grazing land is expensive, there aren’t enough facilities in which to process animals, and many residents refrain from buying local meat because they don’t know how to cook the unusual cuts sold by small farms. What exactly do you do with a pork loin or lamb shoulder?

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  • A Breed Apart

    A Breed Apart

    On a 40-acre hillside in Corinth, Ben Machin raises a flock of 60 Tunis sheep. They’re a “heritage breed”—a domesticated breed of animal that has a long genetic history but is now endangered. As industrial agriculture continues to rely on just a few breeds designed for maximum growth in the shortest amount of time, more sustainable farmers are raising heritage breeds as an alternative—and to save them. Ben, a 35-year-old farmer who also works as a forester with Redstart Forestry and Consulting, is managing the flock that his great-grandfather started in the 1920s. Local Banquet editor Caroline Abels recently spoke with Ben about his unique sheep and why heritage breeds matter.

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  • A Boost to the Butchers

    A Boost to the Butchers

    In March 2009, in an attempt to help strengthen Vermont’s meat-processing infrastructure, the Vermont Farm Viability Enhancement Program awarded $40,000 in grants to four facilities. For recipient Tony Brault, it was perfect timing; he had been planning to add on a spiffy retail area to his slaughterhouse. But for grantee Gary Barnes, who runs a meat market, the amount he was awarded would barely begin to cover the cost of adding on a separate processing area for wild game, so as of this writing, he had not collected the grant funds. Nevertheless, the grants helped both of these meat facilities in northern Vermont, with and without funding, and here’s how.

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  • We Have Sausage

    We Have Sausage

    Late in life my father was able to get the spicy breakfast sausage he loved as a kid sent north to him from the general store in the small southern town where he grew up. It was better than caviar, he once noted. Packed in dry ice, it was shipped only in the winter, when the weather was safe for fresh meat to travel. And when my infrequent visits home coincided with those deliveries, he would call out in greeting the welcome words, “We have sausage!”

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  • Farming & Feasting with the Robinsons: Winter

    Farming & Feasting with the Robinsons: Winter

    In the not-so-distant past, eating locally was a way of life and a matter of necessity. For four generations, the Robinson family farmed in Ferrisburgh, at the place known today as the Rokeby Museum. The museum’s collection includes correspondence and household records detailing the family’s ways of farming, preserving, and eating. In the last of this four-part series, we take a look at how the Robinsons cooked, ate, and farmed in the late 1800s.

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  • Close to Home

    Close to Home

    We’ve always believed that if you eat meat you should be able to kill it. We had our chance to put our beliefs into action this year.

    On two very different days, one in early July, the second in late October, we gathered with four friends to kill the 30 chickens and 10 turkeys we had co-raised. Although this past July wasn’t the hottest on record, the day we gathered was warm and the rain held off. On a cold and raw late October morning we met up again to process turkeys and a few older laying hens.

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  • Dairy farmers raise veal—with a conscience

    Dairy farmers raise veal—with a conscience

    It’s bad luck to be born a boy—on a dairy farm, that is. A farmer’s face will often fall at the sight of a newborn male calf, who obviously will never grow up to produce milk. “Girl?” someone might ask on hearing of a birth on the farm. “Nope—a bull,” the farmer might say. “I’ll call the truck.”

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  • Older dairy cows could become steady source of local beef

    Older dairy cows could become steady source of local beef

    It all starts with a single surprising statistic: 40,000 mature dairy cows leave the state each year. They are so-called “market cows”—dairy cattle who have stopped producing milk at an economically viable rate. They are culled from their herds and trucked primarily to Pennsylvania, where they and other cows from the Northeast are slaughtered and processed. Their meat then enters the industrial food distribution system.

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  • Windowsill Greens

    Windowsill Greens

    In the dead of winter—when fresh salad greens are scarce, expensive, and probably not local—I grow shoots (the stem and first leaves of a plant grown in soil) and have fresh, colorful, crispy, and delicious greens that are ready to use every day. Pea shoots, sunflower greens, buckwheat lettuce, radish greens, and broccoli greens are my favorites—they offer a fantastic mix of flavors and make a great-looking tossed salad. Shoots are also inexpensive and easy to grow, benefit your compost pile, and provide colorful trays of growing plants that can make the dark days of winter a little brighter. Good-bye cabin fever!

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Green Mountain Ducks

    Farmers' Kitchen—Green Mountain Ducks

    North Branch Farm, in the mountains of Ripton, is an unlikely place for ducks, but we’ve been raising them on a very small scale each summer for the last four years. Pekins are our favorite meat ducks to raise—they’re fast growing and white and beautiful. And they have lots of fat.

    “Lots of fat?” you might ask. “Why would we want that?” Or maybe you already know. Local duck fat is a localvore’s dream. Any food lover’s dream, actually. It is delicious to cook with as a replacement for oil or butter, and it keeps beautifully in a glass jar in the fridge.

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  • Last Morsel—Carnivore with a Caveat

    Last Morsel—Carnivore with a Caveat

    I stopped eating meat at the impassioned age of 14, when a biology teacher showed a film called Diet for a New America, which graphically described the many and various evils of the modern meat industry. I dumped that day’s turkey sandwich in the garbage and didn’t touch meat again for nine years. My reasoning was three-fold: I believed that vegetarianism was better for my body, better for the planet, and decreased the total suffering of the world. I knew that certain responsible farming practices could, in theory, mitigate or overcome most of my objections to meat, but I’d never seen them in practice and didn’t know how to judge them or trust their claims.

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  • How to cut a chicken

    How to cut a chicken

    The kitchen skills of our grandparents have largely gone unused since the appearance of ready-made foods in American grocery stores. Yet if we want to eat local food, we must often cook from scratch. Here is a guide to cutting a whole, uncooked chicken—a necessary skill if we want to eat the fresh local birds that Vermonters are beginning to raise again in large numbers. Once you’ve broken down a chicken, you’re good to go with all sorts of recipes!

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We Have Sausage


Written By

Denny Partridge

Written on

December 01 , 2009

Late in life my father was able to get the spicy breakfast sausage he loved as a kid sent north to him from the general store in the small southern town where he grew up. It was better than caviar, he once noted. Packed in dry ice, it was shipped only in the winter, when the weather was safe for fresh meat to travel. And when my infrequent visits home coincided with those deliveries, he would call out in greeting the welcome words, “We have sausage!”

The passion I inherited from him is nicely served these days. In the summer I shop for sausage at the Bellows Falls Farmers’ Market. The choices are many, but I usually find myself coming home with andouille from Judy Sopenski’s Not Your Ordinary Farm in Guilford, and Italian sausage from Harlow’s in Westminster. Both are great on the grill, served with peppers and onions on a soft roll. The roll shouldn’t be too interesting, though: like a lobster roll, the main ingredient in a good sausage sandwich is the thing itself.

It’s often sausage that takes me across the Connecticut River from Vermont to Burdick’s, a restaurant and grocery in Walpole, New Hampshire. There’s a daily sausage special on the restaurant menu, and the meat counter at the grocery has a dizzying variety of sausage choices. John Maciejewski, the store manager, lists where the various meats are raised, all farms in the area. “I love having a hands-on butcher shop,” he says, “where you can come in and ask the butcher, ‘What should I do with it?’”

“Sausage making is a skill you can call your own,” says the butcher, Shawn McElmar. He and John and I are sitting in the restaurant. People around us are enjoying coffee and pastry, but at our table it’s all sausage talk. Shawn started out in a variety of jobs at Burdick’s—shipping, cleaning, dishwashing—and four years ago put himself forth as an apprentice sausage-maker. Now he’s the store’s self-identified wurst-macher—sausage maker—and butcher. Shawn likes to experiment with how meats are combined and what seasonings are used, all fresh herbs. I ask if he ever gets tired of sausage and he shakes his head, an emphatic no. Does he eat sausage at home? Yes, he says with a smile, and when he’s eating by himself, sometimes that’s all he’ll have. I understand, and sympathize. On my way home I stop at the butcher counter. Shawn hands me a package he’s put aside for me. It’s Loucanico Greek sausage, a pork and lamb sausage made with coriander and garlic. Amazing stuff. Since I’m not eating alone that night, I’ll have to make something to go along with it. Ravioli with cheese? Sounds good.


On a rainy Sunday in late October, the Lander family kitchen in East Hardwick is a busy scene. About a dozen sausage-making friends fill the room: it’s a show! Yesterday was the butchering of the pigs, and today sausage will be made. My own Lander favorite is the maple, but today’s variety will be something new. “I try different things and make it up every time,” says Justin Lander. “Yesterday we made the yirtrnicky, Czech sausage that uses the head, heart, liver, kidney, and lungs. You have to do that right away, as soon as the slaughtering’s done. Very thrifty.” Justin is the chief wurst-macher here, and he raised and slaughtered the pigs as well. He’ll have a full freezer at the end of today’s work. This is start-to-finish sausage making—holistic, you might say.

I talk to Shawna Lucey, who used to live at the Landers’ farm and is now back to help with the weekend’s activities. I ask her about Hardwick’s new visibility as a food center. “Long before things became trendy and commercialized, there was an authentic local food system here in Hardwick. People who raise their own food in this community work together, they support each other. Look around the room!”

Ezra Gorelick is the sorcerer’s apprentice, Justin’s neighbor and main helper. He has just turned 12, an ardent sausage-maker who has provided the day’s key piece of machinery: a sausage stuffer. It’s new, he tells me, a birthday present. “As soon as I opened it I put it on my bike and brought it right over to Justin and he showed me how to use it. I thought the casing went on the inside, but it doesn’t.” He gives me a brief demonstration. “I rendered some lard and I learned from Justin that wasn’t the way to do it. You use unrendered lard, pork lard.”

As sausage making in the Landers’ kitchen continues on through the afternoon, there are offers to help from fellow cooks and kitchen helpers, experienced sausage makers, and wurst-macher hopefuls. But Justin and his young helpers—Ezra, his sister Talia, and his best friend, Emmett—have the energy of the day. The four of them fly through the work together. Everyone else gathers for cider, conversation, and the promise of dinner to come. They will have sausage.

About the Author

Denny Partridge

Denny Partridge

Denny Partridge acts and directs with Mud Time Theater of Bellows Falls. She’s currently touring with THE NINE QUESTIONS, a new play about a rocky Vermont marriage in 1760.

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A quarterly magazine devoted to covering local food, sustainable farming, and the many people building the Vermont food system.

Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.


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