Did you hear about the two little piggies who went to the market?
A few weeks ago, my cousin Kathleen and I discovered Oscar’s Adirondack Mountain Smokehouse, the famous pork palace of the North Country, where the Quintal family has been making bacon since 1943.
We were on our way home from Chestertown and The Priory Retreat House, where we had spent two days refreshing our souls. As we motored into Warrensburg, with its quirky statues of horses and lumberjacks, I told my cousin about the horrible fire in September 2009.
The blaze destroyed Oscar’s but, as Emeril Lagasse, the pudgy everyman’s chef, likes to say: “Pork fat rules.”
And indeed, after 17 months, a new kingdom of smoked meats rose from the ashes and opened its doors in February 2010. (Check out YouTube to see the grand re-opening.)
Pulling in the long driveway to pork paradise, we giggled when we spied the life-sized pig statue on the front lawn. The fake farm animal reminded us of when we were kids in the 1960s and our two families traveled from Buffalo to Adirondack theme parks like Gaslight Village, Storytown and The Enchanted Forest.
Unlike today’s flashy cyber figures, the crocodiles, bears and Cinderella we met as children were just silly statues, but we loved them and posed for a million photos with them.
Array of food
With all the pig characters on the outside of Oscar’s, we were already in a good mood as we walked inside. When we saw what all the food neatly arranged in gleaming white cases and on the refrigerated shelves, we chattered excitedly as only middle-aged women can do.
Pork, beef, deer, elk, chicken, lamb, ham, catfish, trout, bacon, cheddar cheese and giant turkey legs. It all gets smoked at Oscar’s, where 159 products are made on site.
“Look, smoked blue cheese,” said Kathleen, pointing to a dark blue round shape, as big as a layer cake. “Mmm, that sounds good.”
We each grabbed a bite-sized sample of elk stick, which looked like a Slim Jim.
“Now that’s DEE-lish,” I said, with a mouth full of chew.
Yes, I was probably channeling TV food celeb Rachael Ray, who shops at Oscar’s when she visits her little cabin in Lake Luzerne. (On Feb. 6, the market was featured on her show and you can see that clip on www.rachaelrayshow.)
Before I tell you what we bought and what we did we with it, I must confess that my cousin and I don’t usually pig out on pork.
I’m a semi-vegetarian cancer survivor who shuns animal fat for health reasons, and Kathleen is a hospital dietitian who counsels patients as they recover from heart attacks.
Taste of nostalgia
But how could two Polish-American girls raised on kielbasa and liverwurst resist the tastes and nostalgia of their childhood? Our Polish grandparents were butchers and made their own kielbasa at Buffalo’s Broadway Market. For many years, Kathleen’s father ran the family meat market, and as a teen, she worked there every weekend.
We couldn’t help it, and we blamed our inner child. We were in the mood for meat.
I picked up a ring of kielbasa, a smoked trout, chicken sausage with spinach and cheese and some Canadian bacon.
Mr. Picky, my husband, loves the lean bacon slices in a breakfast sandwich that he puts together with a big toasted roll, some Dijon mustard, a slice of cheddar and a egg poached in the microwave.
When we got home, Kathleen made a smoked boneless pork loin for dinner.
Cutting the meat into slices, she warmed it in a pan with canned crushed pineapple. She served the pork with crispy, Greek-style baked red potato slices spiked with lemon and steamed asparagus spears. For dessert, there were cinnamon-and-walnut baked apples topped with vanilla ice cream.
After Kathleen flew home with Oscar’s bockwurst tucked in her suitcase and a liverwurst sandwich in her carry-on bag, I cooked up an Oscar’s chicken sausage “Whatever Casserole” with veggies that happened to be around that day.
Everything was chopped or sliced, doused with olive oil, sprinkled with herbs de provence and baked: sausage, peppers, onion, garlic, potatoes, baby portabella mushrooms, green pepper and carrots.
“And what are you going to do with your bockwurst, Kathleen?,” I asked in an e-mail.
(Bockwurst is a German veal and pork sausage that’s light in color and fine-grained).
“I like to boil it and eat it with ketchup,” she answered.
The meat of the matter
In a flash, the mention of boiled sausage, flew us back to our childhood again.
Because our family was in the meat business, as kids we ate miles and miles of wieners and sausages, and often they were boiled.
While other kids were forking up Beefaroni, we were stabbing at bologna links, fat round sausages, three inches in diameter, with tough, thick casings that were hand-tied with string at either end. The pink, smooth meat, which tasted like warm bologna, was flecked with yellow mustard seeds.
“At our house, we called them hockey pucks,” Kathleen said, “because that’s what they looked like when you cut them. We had hockey pucks and sauerkraut. Oh, and mashed potatoes and Mom’s homemade chili sauce. That was a Saturday night dinner.”
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