In the southeast Kansas town of Frontenac, Matt DeMoss is preserving Old World traditions and methods of making charcuterie at The Meat Shed. Recently, he has traveled to Kansas City to sell his charcuterie at local pop-ups and retail shops such as Somerset Ridge Winery and Crow’s Coffee.
“I started making salami and other cured meats a few years ago,” says DeMoss. “I learned how to do original recipes.”
DeMoss, a former teacher, developed his interest in charcuterie from a hobby into a business in part to keep traditions alive. Childhood experiences also inspired DeMoss to make sausages, bacon and other meats. He grew up in Girard, a Kansas town a few miles west of Frontenac, where he watched older men gather, butcher a pig from a local farm and make sausage and bacon. DeMoss remembered that feeling of fellowship and memories of the hand-prepared meats.
“It tasted better than store-bought,” says DeMoss. “As I got older, I wanted those ingredients and flavors from my childhood. Being in rural Kansas, I had to learn to make it if I wanted to eat it.”
Some of the men from that older generation, descendants of European immigrants, had died. DeMoss realized that someone else should learn the art of making charcuterie or these old ways would be lost.
“I volunteered to learn from first- and second-generation immigrants to get their firsthand knowledge,” says DeMoss.
In the 1900s, immigrants from Germany, France, Italy and Slavic countries settled in this region of Kansas. “They worked in the mines and brought Old World traditions with them to make meats, beer, and wine,” DeMoss says.
The Meat Shed specializes in Italian sausage (without fennel seed to adapt to local tastes), breakfast sausage, bratwurst, mortadella, pate and more. Eventually, DeMoss plans to add capicola, prosciutto and other specialties.
DeMoss has supplemented his hands-on lessons by contacting butcher and charcuterie shops across the country, such as Hank Charcuterie in Lawrence, and via Facebook to learn the craft. He has also extensively studied books on butchering and preparing charcuterie.
“I want my products to be top-shelf,” says DeMoss. “This charcuterie is not that far removed from its heritage. It’s a taste of Europe.
Last summer, DeMoss committed to building a business based on his newfound knowledge and skills. He built a shop in his garage and gained health certification to process and prepare cured meats.
Since August 2016, he began making appearances at area farmers' markets in southeast Kansas and Kansas City during the season. The Meat Shed sells retail direct to customers at these markets and pop-up events, but DeMoss can also ship orders direct. He travels to Kansas City at least twice a month to meet customers at events and “have a positive social impact” through The Meat Shed that “represents the southeast area of Kansas.”
“I want to bring a better product to market that represents good food and brings back the tastes I had as a child,” says DeMoss. “We live in the breadbasket of the U.S. I want to focus on local sourcing and humane treatment of animals. If we eat better, then we will have a healthier lifestyle.”
The Meat Shed will appear with samples and products for sale at Somerset Ridge Winery on Sat., Feb. 11 and at Olive Tree on Sun., Feb. 19.
The Meat Shed, 601 S. Mt. Carmel Road, Frontenac, Kansas, 620.704.1369, themeatshed.co/kitchen.html