Don Day’s wife said that. She was talking about a hot Italian-style pork sausage. And Don Day’s Wife is an acclaimed Italian sausage maker. But this wasn’t her pork sausage. This was another woman’s pork sausage. And, unlike Don Day’s Wife’s sausage, this sausage is easily available to anyone in San Miguel.
The hot Italian sausage comes from a company called Locavore México! It’s a new, San Miguel-based business run by Amanda Rueda and her husband Javier.
“We are thrilled to bring the tastes of my kitchen to the people of San Miguel de Allende”, said Amanda. “Using locally-sourced ingredients is our top priority and we are proud to support the hard-working artisans who cultivate the produce and meat we use in our products.”
The heart of Locavore’s business is the Italian sausage and, if you don’t include steak, this blog gets more emails about Italian sausage than any other subject. The emails are usually in the form of a question and the wording is usually along the lines of: “Where do I get good Italian sausage in this town?”
The answer has always been a little awkward to provide. There have always been a few different Italian sausages in San Miguel. A good guy called Anthony d’Avanza made some tasty ones but he got bitten by the beach bug and moved to Belize. La Comer will occasionally have Johnsonvilles. There have been Aidells, Riverway, Premio and their own Kirkland brand at Costco but that takes an hour in a car. A San Miguel pizza maker sold his own sausage but shelved it to sell real estate. Both Bonanza and Luna de Queso sometimes have them. A couple of local butchers have been known to make them. But a reliable, everyday source? That has seldom been easy.
Personally, I am spoiled. I have my own private Italian sausage maker. Every month or two, Don Day’s Wife mixes up a batch and fills the freezer. The sausage she makes is very, very good…good enough to win sausage contests (which you can read about here: http://dondayinsma.com/2015/11/16/the-best-italian-sausage-in-san-miguel-de-allende/). But there’s never enough to allow for a lot of sharing.
So what was Don Day’s Wife doing eating another woman’s sausage, a sausage from Locavore México the other night? Well I’m sure you’ve guessed that there was a man to blame.
Someone told me about Locavore and gave me a link to their website. I’m an old advertising guy. And this was a well-designed site that appealed to an old ad guy. And though even an old ad guy is fully aware that there’s absolutely no correlation between graphic design and sausage design, I ordered a half kilo online and persuaded Don Day’s Wife to allow it to temporarily rent a space in the freezer usually fully reserved for her Italian sausage.
Amanda Rueda comes from one of the world capitals of Italian sausage, the windy city, the town where I remember in the long-ago days having smells of well-spiced pork lingering in the air. Amanda, Javier and their two young boys moved from Chicago to San Miguel de Allende last year putting a serious dent in the stats for the average age of ex-pats.
“I was laid off from a software company I worked at for nearly 12 years”, Amanda told me. “I spent the better part of my adulthood climbing the corporate ladder and chasing the American dream. Once I was laid off, I really started to evaluate what I wanted to do with the latter half of my life. After a lot of soul-searching, Javier and I decided to throw out the notion that money and material things drive happiness and sought out a life full of experiences, memories and nature. From there we decided to move to Javier’s homeland, Mexico. Once we were here I thought I’d get an online job, work the minimum required hours to survive and focus on the family. What I learned was that I was falling into the same pattern of living to work rather than working to live.”
“One of the wonderful gifts Mexico gives us is the ability to try any business idea with low risk; as such, Javier and I began to discuss what we would really enjoy doing. That led me to cooking. I’ve loved cooking my entire life and have a decent repertoire of Italian, Mexican and American recipes. We naturally looked to our surrounding area and asked ourselves, what’s missing, what’s good, and what would I pay for. Since I’d been seeking decent Italian sausage since I got here, the answer was simple.”
A few days later I saw that Don Day’s Wife had Locavore’s sausage on the counter thawing. A few hours later I saw it in the toaster oven (a recommended way to cook sausage as you’ll get an almost perfect sear).
A few inches away was a Panio baguette, the best bread in San Miguel according to both Don Day and Don Day’s Wife and perfect for hugging a good Italian sausage.
Now my traditional topping for sausage on a bun is sautéed young onions and red bell peppers with just a hint of yellow mustard. But Locavore México sells their own highly recommended toppings so, I thought, if you’re going with a strange sausage, you might as well go all the way.
Amanda Rueda has three different accoutrements that she recommends for partnering her Italian sausage. Decisions, decisions, decisions, I thought. So I bought two of them. And then, with a second order, I bought the third.
The first jar held what Amanda calls giardiniera, what other people call sottaceti, and what I call muffuletta mix. It includes olives, red peppers, onions, celery, carrots, cucumber, cauliflower and more in olive oil and vinegar. Some giardiniera are too spicy hot. Some are too vinegary. I thought Locavore Mexico’s was just right.
The second jar held a mix of long-cooked red bell peppers, plum tomatoes, garlic and spices. Amanda calls it a sweet and spicy chutney. Chutney implies something East Indian to me so a better name might be relish. I wasn’t sure about relish on an Italian sausage. But then I thought about when I was a kid and always put green relish on a hot dog…almost everyone did…so red relish might work. It did. Locavore’s sweet and spicy chutney was an excellent alternative to my same old/same old peppers, onions and mustard.
Amanda Rueda told me about her third condiment: “Our roasted bell peppers are quite simple to produce. I blacken fresh peppers from the market…all colors…on our grill, peel them once they’ve cooled, then simply slice and jar with garlic cloves, the juice from the roasted peppers, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.”
And which of the three toppings did Don Day’s Wife and I prefer on our sausage on a bun? For Don Day’s Wife, it was the roasted peppers. For me it was the giardiniera. But I’d take any one of the toppings on Locavore’s sausage any time, any day.
And how good is the sausage? Let’s just call it the new San Miguel standard. Yes the standard. The one that all others will be measured by. By me, by Don Day’s Wife, and by about fifteen of my friends who I’ve already shared the sausage with.
And why are these sausage so good?
There’s a very pleasant buzz from the pepper. The kind that sneaks up on you but then leaves a lingering glow. Yet not one person has said there was too much heat. Even Don Day’s Wife.
The sausage oozes juices thanks to a 20% fat content, lots of leg, and not a gram of filler.
The grind is quite rough so there’s some bite to every mouthful.
There’s fennel. And though there are traditionalists who will tell you that fennel only belongs in mild or sweet Italian sausages, they are missing out on one wonderful addition to hot Italian’s flavor.
The rest of the spicing (Amanda told me it includes paprika, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper, sea salt, black pepper, oregano and fresh minced garlic) is well-chosen and in well-chosen quantities.
I’ll let Amanda Rueda have the last words: “I can tell you what is special about our sausage. This recipe reflects the tastes of my home; my boys eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner! We make small batches twice weekly so every bite is fresh and, through the use of top quality ingredients, our sausage has an excellent flavor.”
You can order online from Locavore México at https://www.locavoremexico.com. They offer home delivery of their sausages (they also make a mild Italian and a breakfast), their toppings and a few other products.