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Maybe I seek them out, but over the past few years, I have crossed paths with some of the country’s finest charcuterie makers. Every one of them have been amazingly nice and very generous with their time and knowledge. From Rob Levitt to Craig Deihl to Michael Ruhlman to Brian Polcyn to Chris Cosentino, each of the meat heroes has gone out of their way to make me feel less of a silly fan boy (which I am).

On our trip back from Northern Wisconsin nearly a month ago, we wanted to stop in one of our favorite cities, Madison, but needed recommendations for stops that would be open on the fourth of July. Madison has an incredibly rich food scene and one of its members stepped up with some major recommendations. Little did he know that my goal was to find some of the products that he and his collective makes.

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Stopping by an amazing shop, Fromagination, I found a number of products from the Underground Food Collective. The UFC, featured by favorite local writer, Mike Sula, here,  is a group of cooks based in Madison that has their collective spoons in many pots. They have a restaurant, butchering demos, Artisan Meat Shares, and a great catering operation. Their meats are featured around Madison and I finally found some. There were more peices, but I jumped from the car, rushing because the girls had already been in the car for 3 hours and had another 3, and grabbed a stick of goat sec and a chub of nduja.

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The three hours in the car with the charcuterie was not terribly fun for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that the smells from the goat sec was magnifying the hunger in the front and back seats. As we reached home, I sliced up a peach, put the girls to bed, and joined L on the deck for a little relaxation.

The nduja did not live up to expectations. It had a nice spreadable texture, but the spice was not there. With the soft texture, I feel like you need the piquancy of the heat to balance the richness. The flavors were good, but not enough. The goat sec was off the charts good though. Funky, salty with a good hit of garlic, and clearly not pork. I have nothing against pork, but most of the long cured charcuterie not made from pork is actually indistinguishable from it. This goat tasted like goat. Gamey and delicious, it also was clearly darker than the average cured sausage. It went fast. At least faster than the last leg of the trip home. We look forward to hitting Forequarter, their restaurant, next time we make it to Madison.

Not all was lost with the nduja. I have been watching Deihl, mentioned above, and Bob Cook at Cypress in Charleston make magic for some time now and saw them stuffing rainier cherries with nduja, putting the stems back in place. It made a ton of sense, but to me was an amazingly creative use for nduja.

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I liked the idea so much that I opted to use the last of the UFC nduja paying homage to Cook and Deihl by stuffing the nduja into stonefruit. The plum and cherry were both delicious, but the apricot was transcendent. It is certainly a trick that will be used again for a party. Hopefully, we’ll have a party with enough stone fruit still in season.

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