Meet Utah Winner Creminelli Fine Meats
Posted on Monday, January 9th, 2012 in Blog by Emily Portman
Since as long as Cristiano (…and his grandparents, and his grandparents’ grandparents) can remember, the Creminelli family has been involved in the artisan meat business. Beginning as an apprentice for his father in his teens, Cristiano has since become a genuine salumiere, helping to expand his family business in Italy, as well as reinvigorating the American craft meat industry by introducing Italian, artisanal techniques.
Cristiano’s initial move to America was the result of an unusual partnership: an artisan meat producer and a consultant to the U.S. Olympic team. The seeds were sown when Chris Bowler, the current president of Creminelli Fine Meats, sourced Cristiano to provide protein for the Olympic athletes during the Olympic Games in Torino. A couple weeks after the games, Chris called to say that he thought there was a lot of opportunity for Cristiano and his craft in the United States. A plane ticket was booked, and, the rest, is history.
However, even after Cristiano decided that he wanted to create his own business in the United States, it took a few years to decide upon the perfect place. The desire to continue using artisanal methods for curing and drying meat accounts largely for why Cristiano ended up settling down in Salt Lake City, UT. “Since the climate is so dry, I can work in the traditional way for 8 or 9 months a year, creating a much more authentic taste.” Utah also happens to be a haven for small pig farms, allowing Creminelli to source locally and responsibly. “On most of these little farms, the pigs are free to range, they are named and part of the family. The animals are treated really well, and you can see this difference in the meat.”
Even though Cristiano still imports some spices from Italy, he has made a big effort to utilize and highlight American-made products as much as possible, building off of the rich landscape of Utah. “I think the meat here is a little better than what I find in Italy, and the abundance of raw materials has made it easy to put everything together. In most of my products 99% of the things I use are from the U.S. and most are local.“ New this year, Cristiano is working on a prosciutto that is made 100% from ingredients found in the United States. “I feel really lucky because I think I’ve arrived in the U.S. at the perfect time, during a renaissance of food, when people are really interested in their food …It’s exciting to put an American spin on our products, try new things and reinterpret old recipes.”
One of the biggest challenges so far has been gaining USDA approval for Cristiano’s artisanal methods, which vastly differ from the way meat is usually cured in the United States. Most producers simply use the acid method, which involves heating the meat up in order to protect against bacteria, essentially cooking the meat. However, Cristiano works with the bacteria itself, culturing it in order to make the meat safe. This allows Creminelli to use less acidity in their products and maintain a process that is as natural as possible. According to Cristiano, winning a Good Food Award has helped to justify these alternative methods and certify that their products do indeed compete with the best.
Cristiano’s delicious salamis have really helped to emphasize that, especially in the world of charcuterie, simplicity is the name of the game. When it comes to ingredients, he states them quite plainly: “Just fresh meat, salt, pepper, and spice.” Exactly the way it should be.