Lynnafred and I were headed north on US 5 in Western Massachusetts on other business when we spotted a small hand-lettered sign at the junction of US 5 and MA 116, promising us a visit to a smokehouse if only we would take a short 2-mile side quest.
That was too tempting to resist, so off we went.
Sure enough, we soon found Pekarski's Sausage, a small company that makes good, honest sausage and smoked meats in small batches by hand.
I can't even begin to list all the products they had available, but I can give you an idea of what they had in the twin display cases running the length of the store...along with a few reviews, since we bought a bunch of stuff to try out.
In photo of the meat case on the left, you can plainly see their kielbasa. It's awesome. The spice blend and smoke is absolutely perfect. Many commercial kielbasas are either runny with grease, or so dry that they crumble. Kudos to Pekarski's, because they have the most ideal ratio of fat to meat I have ever tasted in a kielbasa.
In the background, just barely identifiable, are Daisy Hams. If you're from New England, you might be familiar with them - in the 1970's, they were very cheap and common in the supermarkets here. They used to be a boneless pork shoulder, rolled tightly, cured and smoked, and they were sold in tight little plastic-wrapped cylinders that needed only to be boiled with some spuds, carrots, and cabbage for a traditional New England Boiled Dinner. As time has passed, Daisy Hams have gotten a lot more expensive, and a lot crappier. The last time I bought one in the supermarket, it seemed to be a conglomeration of meat scraps and chunks of random pork fat, and it wasn't very good. Not so here at Pekarski's. Their Daisy Hams are rolled and smoked in a mesh sleeve, and it is totally obvious that they're making them the old-fashioned way, out of boneless pork shoulder. We didn't buy one on this trip, but we plan to pick one up next time.
Pekarski's slab bacon is excellent - much better than the usual supermarket bacon, and easily the equal to my own homemade dry-aged bacon. We bought a pound of it and had the butcher slice it at nice and thick. Next time I think we should get two pounds.
On the other side of the case were various sausages and links.
Their breakfast sausage is, to use a wicked overused term, amazing. The links are roughly twice the size of ordinary breakfast sausage links - about the same size as a hot dog. They fry up wonderfully - moist and delicious and not at all greasy. The spice blend is excellent; I was able to identify sage, thyme, and maybe a bit of coriander and some pepper. Really top-notch.
Lynnafred couldn't resist picking up some chorizo, which turned out to be far and away the best tasting chorizo EVAR. Plans are in the works to use Pekarski's chorizo in a batch of arroz con gandules.
Also available the day we were there: Back bacon (aka Canadian bacon), bratwurst, unsmoked (fresh) kielbasa, fresh pork ribs, smoked pork ribs, smoked pork chops, whole smoked chickens, and whole smoked Cornish game hens. And probably more stuff that I either didn't notice in my wide-eyed wonderment or have forgotten about.
I spoke to the butcher when we were there, curious to find out where they are sourcing their pork. I sometimes have trouble finding good quality pork belly when I make my bacon, and was wondering if they had a local source. They told me that most of their pork comes from farms in New Hampshire. Cool - keeping it regional.
Seriously, Pekarski's is a hidden gem of the Pioneer Valley, and even though it's a good forty-five minute drive from my house to get there, the trip is worth it (and besides, if you get off the highway and take MA 116 all the way there, the back-country drive is gorgeous.) The prices are slightly higher than what you'd pay for mass-market stuff in the supermarket, but the vast improvement in quality and freshness more than makes up for that.
There is plenty to do in the area if you want to make a day trip of it. You can wander around in the Yankee Candle store, smelling Man Candles and more until the overwhelming scents give you a headache. There's Historic Deerfield, where you can wander around in the village and take tours of the cool old Colonial-era houses. And if you're into bugs flying all around you and landing on you and crawling up your arms and whatnot, you can also visit the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory and Gardens, which is a big damn glass building filled with flowers and butterflies which delight in invading your personal space (yeah, I know - they're butterflies, so what's the big deal? Well, butterflies are still BUGS, dammit, and I don't want dozens of them on my SKIN, thank you. I'd go again if they'd only let me in with that can of Yard Guard I brought.)
293 Conway Road (MA 116)
South Deerfield, MA 01373
No credit or debit cards accepted - cash or check only.