White Oak Pastures
$136 for 3.9 lb.–4.9 lb.
“There was a lot of trepidation on my part,” Will Harris says of deciding to make Ibérico pancetta. A cattleman who raises livestock with his family at White Oak Pastures, the 3,000-acre farm his great-grandfather founded, Harris worried that the black Iberian hogs he was bringing in from Spain for the new line wouldn’t adapt well to the ecosystem of Bluffton, Georgia. “We were moving these pigs from a fairly arid and high elevation to the coastal plains of Georgia.”
Even so, Harris hoped he could produce a cured pork to rival the prized Ibérico black-label hams from Europe. Three years ago, the first thirty hogs arrived from Harris’s partner in the venture, the Oriol family in Spain, and were set loose to forage, feed, and breed. They and their offspring were fattened on local pecans and peanuts, then the offspring butchered and the pork sent to the drier clime of Iowa to cure for two years.
Importing hogs proved well worth the risk—the ethereal pancetta offers a robust flavor with a lasting trace of nuttiness. Europeans slice the pork paper thin and eat it raw, but you can also treat it like bacon. Fry it extra crispy for a standout BLT, or dice it and sweat it down with a mirepoix as a base for hearty soups. “It’s like silk on your palate,” says Food category judge Asha Gomez. “You can taste the care that went into raising and curing the animal.”
$10 for 16 oz. jar
Consider the lowly jalapeño. In its most debased state, it bobs forlornly in gas station pickling jars, plunked next to the hot-dog rollers. Jack Daniel (his real name) figured there had to be a better way. “I’m the son of a serial canner,” he says. Inspired by his mother, Daniel began experimenting with peppers and sugar curing, adding just enough brine to tone down the sweetness. After a decade or so, he launched his own business and now sells mostly online. “What I like about my jalapeños is that they don’t have a hard edge to them,” he says, “but still have a bite on the back end.” Think of these as bread-and-butter pickles that went to Mexico and came back speaking fluent Spanish. Daniel says they’re best showcased simply—atop a cracker spread with cream cheese.
$20 a bottle
While working at a fine-dining restaurant in Virginia, Daniel Liberson often foraged for edible flowers to make into hyperseasonal salads—delicious, but fleeting. So he set about deciphering how to capture their essence in a less ephemeral manner. Using a base of wild honey mixed with in-season flowers, he fermented a mead, which he then aged into vinegar, a natural preservative, and then he further infused the result with dried blossoms to reinforce flavors. His Lindera Farms Magnolia Vinegar—made with native sweetbay magnolia blooms—is a soft, pleasing vinegar with no trace of a back-of-the-throat bite. Drizzle it over summer melons, or mix it into a classic gin and tonic. Liberson especially enjoys watching first-timers try it: “There’s
always a shock that vinegar doesn’t have to be badness in a bottle.”
$7 a bottle
Blackberry Patch pulls off a neat trick with its satsuma syrup: With just three ingredients (satsuma juice, cane sugar, and lemon juice), the company conjures a complex and layered product that’s as versatile as it is satisfying. Not only is it a terrific pancake topper, but you can also use it to marinate pork chops. The Thomasville, Georgia, outfit had already gained some fruit syrup experience (blueberries, strawberries, and peaches), and when it checked in with the folks at Florida Georgia Citrus, who grow heirloom satsumas just across the state line, inspiration struck again. “Once we tasted the satsuma juice, we knew it would be a great ingredient,” says Collier Feinberg, who helped develop the syrup. The creation has a bright, fresh taste, with just a bit of pulp to give it body—a welcome alternative to a surfeit of sugar for thickening.
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