Dining and Drink

The science in salami making

Sarah Woolworth brings her scientific mind to Underground Meats

The other day, I met Sarah Woolworth of the popular food blog Wisconsin from Scratch, which ranked among the top three best blogs in Madison Magazine's Best of Madison 2015 readers poll. Over coffee, and in the midst of sharing recipes, I learned that she is also a salami-maker.

When she's not coming up with her own recipe and photographing it beautifully from her dining room table, Woolworth is working downtown at Underground Meats. There, she makes sure the charcuterie we love meet the rigorous standards for safety, yes, but she also ensures that the texture of the meat is just right. This entails making sure it is consistently cured throughout, bright and brilliant pink in color, and has a taste that exceeds expectations.

Underground Meats, known for its commitment to local, small-scale farms, is part of the Underground Food Collective, a company that also heads Forequarter Restaurant, Underground Butcher and Underground Catering. Underground Meats gives us the meat we can buy and enjoy at home, and also produces the selections you'll find on your charcuterie board from Jonny Hunter and his exceptional culinary team at one of Madison's finest restaurants, Forequarter. Hunter, by the way, was a semi-finalist in the James Beard Best Chef-Midwest award. You can be sure that the flavors of the meats they serve at Forequarter have reached full maturity and the seasonings are spot on. That's Woolworth's job, and her college education, while not the one you might expect, makes her very good at what she does. 

A graduate of UW-Madison's school of material science and engineering, Woolworth worked in her field for about five years—an honest try if you ask me—before deciding she wanted to use her scientific mind to celebrate the realm of food. 

When Woolworth first joined Underground Meats, she enjoyed learning the careful, methodical practice of butchering whole animals. Gradually, she moved over to the air-drying side of the business and tells me, "Meat curing has so much science behind it and as a science-minded person, I find that really interesting."

Among her favorite salami is Underground's Finocchiona, a dried sausage made with lots of fennel and white wine. According to this trusted scientific foodie, when sliced very thin and layered with delicate fresh mozzarella and shaved fennel, it makes a delicious grilled pizza, perfect for those summer days, that fear not, surely lie ahead. 


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