One of the more sensible tenets emerging as the food revolution rolls on is the eat-less-of-but-better idea. In no category is this more valuable than meat, and Orange County native Andrew Burke is here to help.
Burke, of Yorba Linda, had dabbled in curing and smoking meat, a hobby that took a turn to the serious when one of his daughters (he’s got five, aged 10 to 23) gave him Michael Ruhlman’s “Charcuterie” (W.W. Norton, 2005). Ruhlman’s influential tome is without a doubt responsible for untold numbers of beginning charcutiers taking up pink butcher’s salt, and seeking out sources for sausage casings.
The book solidified Burke’s interest, and set him on a path to the launch earlier this year of Burke’s Fine Meats, “established 1965,” as the cheeky tagline on his company logo has it, an online fount of handcrafted, artisanal, cured, smoked meatiness. Well, with a notable meat-free exception—“Katherine  and Madeline  are vegetarians… hence the vegetarian chorizo,” Burke says, while “Faith  and Meredith  think the business is GREAT—both have helped process, grind, and smoke stuff.” Alexandra, the eldest at 23, “is very supportive,” but was a bit taken aback when a date recently asked if she’d ever heard of Burke’s Fine Meats, “with the piggy logo.” Aside from the soy-protein evidence of dutiful fatherhood, it’s pretty much all meat, all the time, the rest of the time, at Burke’s.
Recently I ordered several items to test drive, with very good results. Bratwurst, made from beef, pork, and veal, and including freshly-ground nutmeg, fresh ginger, and organic cream, is savory and snappy. Bacon, both traditional ($7.99/pound) and double-smoked($11.99), is so meaty it’s almost, well, unbaconlike—not a complaint. Spanish-style chorizo ($7.99/pound) I took the liberty of using in a Portuguese dish, the classic sausage and clams, a very good version from David Leite’s book, “The New Portuguese Table” (Clarkson-Potter, 2009), conveniently available on his well-regarded website, Leite’s Culinaria. While the chorizo worked perfectly in the clam recipe, on its own, thinly sliced, it’s also a fabulous cocktail nibble. And, after provisioning at the Sapphire Food Fair I wrote about last week in ToOC, Burke’s pancetta ($6.99/pound), fried crisp, made just the garnish I wanted for sizzled frisée with Gioia burrata.
The array of products is ambitious, from prosciutto-style ham cured from organically-raised pork ($9.99/pound; he uses Berkshire, Duroc, and Mangalitsa in various applications) to grass-fed-beef pastrami ($5.99/pound). There’ll be even more coming along presently, as Burke’s Fine Meats has bricks-and-mortar stores in its not-too-distant future. In the meantime, we’ll just have to get by with fine charcuterie, imported from Yorba Linda, delivered to our doors.