We sat down with Thomas Odermatt to get the inside scoop on on his family’s Swiss butchery legacy – a legacy Thomas is continuing today. With access to 4 generations of experience based knowledge, Thomas has become one of America’s foremost butchers. He relies on traditional techniques to produce these specialty roasts, which pack uniquely supreme flavor in every bite.
Laura del Campo: How far back can you trace your butchery lineage?
Thomas Ottermatt: Definitely back into the 1920’s – close to 100 years… My great grandfather, so I am third generation, he was in the Alps in the town of Dallenwil farming and butchering. He was self-taught, but after that every generation went to school. My father was a master butcher so that’s where I started learning the trade from two years old.
Pretty much everything I cook or butcher reminds me of my heritage. So I don’t do any new type of butchery or new type of recipe development. Usually everything we do is going back to really traditional, old fashioned, old-style European butchery.
LdC: Can you share one secret from your sausage making?
TO: I think what is really important is the temperature of the meat. That’s definitely one of the keys to making your sausage stand out. Of course you observe the USDA regulations – nothing can be above 41°F, which is true and correct. A lot of people use ice to cool down the dough, the sausage stuffing. I strongly believe there is no ice needed so long as you are using the right components of meat at the right proportion and temperature. It’s definitely one of the secrets to making a really fantastic sausage.
And then again following the principle of only using five ingredients. You cannot have more than five ingredients, absolutely not. In other words, I don’t use artificial ingredients. Absolutely not.
LdC: Can you speak to the history of incorporating cheese into Swiss roasts?
TO: Ham and cheese is very traditional to the Swiss cuisine. So in our butcher shop we made our own ham. We made two types of ham. One is a smoked ham, one is a cured ham – but not a prosciutto, just a wet ham. So like a classic centerpiece. The cheese is another component that brings us back to the heritage of Switzerland, way back when. Cheese was one of the first economically traded commodities with the European Union or with the European countries such as Italy, France, and Germany. And the cheese is a staple to our daily diet.
And combining the cheese, ham, and pork – you have three absolutely top ingredients. When they are laid in the right proportion each one brings out different flavor profiles and in the end you have one flavor. And that’s like… You know the milkiness, the creaminess of the cheese, plus the healthiness of the ham, plus the sweetness of the pork.
And again, the roasts have only four ingredients. It’s the pork, it’s the cheese, it’s the ham and a few spices. That’s it.