News from the Noteworthy from Sustainable Otsego
A Smoldering Love for Food: Catskill Smokehouse
Jonah Shaw, of Delhi, grew up with a chef’s knife in one hand and a scribbled spreadsheet in the other. From the beginning, he loved cooking great-tasting food and understood the importance of organization to creating it consistently.
He still puts both to use weekly, making many hundreds of pounds of Catskill Smokehouse sausage, bacon, brisket, ribs, pulled pork, ham, smoked trout, and other smoked taste treats. The knife is now assisted by large grinders, a vacuum sausage stuffer, and a huge custom-made hot/cold smoker. The spreadsheet, now on a laptop, is mandatory as he and his crew source more than 138 ingredients, including spices and herbs from around the world, to ingredients grown or foraged locally. All to make over 33 kinds of sausages and two dozen other smoked meats.
Making just one kind of smoked sausage or meat never crossed Jonah’s mind. He lives to experiment with flavors, textures, and aromas, and has knowledge of and access to superb ingredients from around the world, as well as from just down the road. The pork is sourced locally as much as possible, but most still comes from rural Pennsylvania. Still, all his pork is “never ever” pork—this means the animals never have been administered hormones or antibiotics at any point in their lives. Jonah founded his companies on the principles that all food should be safe and healthy, quality food is what counts, and really great food shouldn’t be a luxury for the few. To that end, everything he and his crew of four make is created in small batches, using only the best ingredients, and with tight quality control.
Jonah’s first encounter with the food world started when he was four. In 1976 his mother started—and continues to operate—a food co-op that became the Delhi area’s go-to source for local products. After high school, he bicycled through Europe for a year, seeking interesting local food at every stop. He then led several restaurants in Philadelphia before returning to Delhi to open the Quarter Moon Café and the Catskill Food Company. He now operates the Catskill Smokehouse and Catskill Food Company. Since 2010, he has put on the celebrated Taste of the Catskills Festival, held annually on Columbus Day weekend at Maple Shade Farm, outside Delhi. It’s a family-oriented celebration of local food, drink, music, craft and agriculture, with the emphasis on local.
Jonah says, “I grew up in the Catskill Mountains surrounded by home-grown food and family farms. With clean air, mountain spring water, and rich farmland, the Catskills has produced artisanal dairy, an abundance of seasonal produce, and heritage livestock since the 1700s. I believe the tradition should be preserved and passed on. I also know that people who live here desire and deserve the highest quality food. The Catskill Smokehouse exists to preserve the tradition and satisfy the desire.”
Authored by Sustainable Otsego. Since 2007 we have promoted ecologically sound practices – locally, regionally, and nationally. We advocate sustainable living, economic independence, and home rule. Visit sustainableotsego.net or facebook.com/SustainableOtsego.