Thankful for Meating Chester
When I was a kid, one of the greatest experiences of my childhood was a special VIP tour of Disney World in Orlando. I don’t know exactly how it happened. But it had something to do with my dad being a corporate lawyer, and maybe Coca Cola?
Whatever, when you are young, you don’t ask too many questions. All I know is that we had a private tour guide driving us around, and getting us into secret behind-the-scenes lines that bypassed the lines for the paying public.
This was literally the identical treatment Michael Jackson would get when he visited the park, or so I was told. The only reason I mention this is because last week I got another very special behind-the-scenes tour. This one came with a tasting, and it was much closer to home.
So today, I want to share what I learned from my time behind the counter at Chester’s Smokehouse.
First of all, there is a Chester, and I got to meet him. He’s the talent. You could call him “The Working Boss” which is different from “The Money Boss”. That would be Ken.
But it was really Ken’s father Mark who is the money man. Chester went to school in Poland for butchery, but he’s been making meats for his friends for a long time. Mark has apparently been eating Chester’s products for twenty years. Thankfully Mark saw a business opportunity with his friend Chester, and the two of them were able to get some marvelous toys.
Surely, you know of someone who has an old car in their garage they one day plan to fix up. Well, Chester had this antique German bowl chopper. Sometimes it’s called a Buffalo Chopper. But it’s the tool required to convert meat into hot dogs, liverwurst, and a host of other delicious products.
This magnificent machine is now fully functional. It requires so much power that it has its own box on the wall. The picture doesn’t really do it justice. This is the showstopper of the behind-the-scenes operation.
But there’s also a giant smoker that is powered on 100% hickory. However, I didn’t get to see it in action.
When I walked in the back, Chester was cooling down a 150 pound batch of liverwurst. He had taken it out of the heat bath and was cooling down about 25 tubes of the stuff in a giant vat filled with pellet ice.
I want giant vats of pellet ice and drains in the floor to dump the melted water. Just think how quickly I could cool my stocks. Speaking of which, I learned that Chesters also makes all of their own soups from scratch.
But I digress. We were talking about liverwurst. Did you know that Chester’s makes three kinds? So I thought it might be fun to do a small liverwurst sampling.
So I pressed Chester about which liverwurst was his favorite. There’s the coarse, the pate, and the traditional. But I stopped once it felt like I was asking him to choose a favorite of his children. And after tasting them all, I could see why. Sometimes you might want the crunch of the onion in the coarse, or the comfort of silky smoothness in the pate, or the bite of white pepper in the traditional.
While I tried the liverwurst on its own, I also wanted to sample it with rye bread.
Chester’s gets some serious rye bread. How serious? These rounds are baked for them by Berkshire Mountain Bakery in eight pound loaves. They are gigantic. This is the bread Chester’s uses for its sandwiches. And you can buy chunks of a loaf, or the whole darn thing, by the pound. If you might want to get just the end pieces, they will sell you those too. At a discount, of course. Man, I love that.
Why are the ends a discount? Because by building their mighty sandwiches from slices of these massive loaves, the shop builds up a supply of hard crusty ends.
Oh yeah, check out this Reuben.
The team at Chester’s makes the corned beef. They make the Thousand Island dressing. They use their house smoked swiss cheese. And the sauerkraut comes from Poland. Those in the know, however, might ask for the house made kapusta instead of sauerkraut. Kapusta starts life as sauerkraut, but then gets loaded up with all kinds of fun little meaty bits.
Maybe it’s no longer a Reuben at that point, but I’ve been trying to let go of my purist tendencies. Whatever you want to call it, it’s delicious. Personally, I like my corned beef a bit more fatty and tender. But when it’s thinly sliced like this, it’s less of an issue.
You can have a lot of fun at Chester’s putting together a sandwich. Right now, I’m entertaining fantasies about a sandwich that uses liverwurst pate as a condiment.
Oh, and remember that smoked swiss in the reuben. That’s not the only cheese Chester’s smokes. I know my friends at The Cheese Traveler have some very delicate and refined smoked blue cheeses. The smoked blue from Chester’s is anything but refined, but it is mind blowingly delicious when mixed with Frank’s Red Hot, leftover mashed potatoes, and chicken stock in some kind of makeshift buffalo chicken soup. Yeah. I did that.
I also took the meat from from a bacon rib, chopped it up, and mixed into some leftover mashed potatoes for killer mashed potato pancakes.
It has come to my attention that some people have been aware of bacon ribs for a while now. Chester’s takes a rack of ribs, cures it, and then smokes it. Just like you would do with bacon. I ate one straight, and it’s a flavor bomb in and of itself.
The regular bacon at Chester’s also has rib meat still attached to the belly. It makes the bacon extra wide and super meaty. I was given a half pound of that to bring home, and cook up for the family. After baking it in the oven, it cooked up beautifully, and Young Master Fussy lit up at the prospect of having scrambled eggs made in the bacon fat.
Love that kid.
They also sent me home with a half pound of breakfast sausage links. Those are some fat breakfast sausages. A half pound was only three links, but each was substantial. They packed a bit more heat than expected, but certainly were enjoyed by the kids. We had breakfast for dinner, and it was a big success.
One more confession. With a pan full of sausage drippings, after the kids were in bed, I made a little late night sausage gravy. Perhaps I mentioned my current desire to seek out comfort foods. Well, let me assure you, this was really comforting indeed.
Pierogies would have been equally comforting, but I ate all the ones I was given to sample in the store. The classic potato cheddar was great, but the corned beef hash pierogie really made me sit up and pay attention. Man, that was good.
After enjoying the pierogie, I was able to go downstairs and meet the man who makes them. To be fair, he is assisted by a machine. Man, that’s another marvelous toy Chester has at his shop.
Amazingly, I just learned that you can still even order a smoked turkey in time for Thanksgiving, if you do it today (Monday, November 21).
This might be a whole lot of gushing. Chester’s did give me a ridiculous amount of food to try, and more food to take home. This story still didn’t even cover it all. Little Miss Fussy came to fall in love with the Chester’s bag-of-meat in the refrigerator.
She’s totally hooked. You can bet we’ll be back on our own dime to pick up more of these meaty treats, and others. At least until I make it back to my doctor for my next check up, that is. I’m just thankful my appointment is many many months away.