There are many meat markets in the Pajaro Valley. Some really shine, however, and the Corralitos Market & Sausage Co., Inc. is one of these.
Sunday was a busy day, as customers started gathering early to buy items for Father’s Day dinners and barbecues, but owner Dave Peterson kindly gave me a tour. Awards from CAMP (California Association of Meat Processors) coat the wall behind the meat counter; in 2011 the market won Reserve Grand Champion awards for “Fresh Italian Sausage” and “Chicken Apple Links.”
As a youth, Peterson worked in the market for Joe H. Cutler, a family friend and mentor, who founded the operation in 1957. Peterson took over the business in 1975 and has been manager and president of the market for 36 years; out of respect, he still keeps Cutler’s name on the business card as owner.
A few days earlier I stopped by the market and purchased some smoked bacon. My friend, Michael Fink, cooked it in a spicy stew with black-eyed peas, mustard greens and Asian spinach, yellow onions, and celery. The bacon was fairly lean, and not too salty; it added a rich, smoky, sweet flavor to the dish. Served with homemade cornbread, it was a scrumptious meal.
Peterson led me into a room where they cure the bacon, which was hanging in slabs from a rack. The room was redolent with the curing meat and spices used in the process. They have four smoke houses. “We use apple wood smoke, not hickory,” Peterson said. They obtain their apple wood from local orchards. However, the availability of apple wood for use in the future may be jeopardized. Local farmers are increasingly planting fruit and vegetables that yield more crops per year than apple trees, which produce only one crop annually. Hopefully, Peterson will find a good alternative should the time come.
At a table, one of the market’s 21 full- and part-time staff was preparing their “hands-down” number one seller: "Cheezy Bavarian" sausage, which consists of pork, beef, and sharp cheddar cheese. According to Peterson, they make about 950 lbs. a week. Another favorite is "Chick ‘N’ Apple" sausage, containing lean chicken and turkey with fresh apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sage.
Corralitos Market & Sausage Co. produces a fantastic variety of smoked and fresh or frozen sausages, as well as specialty products such as smoked salmon and poultry, beef jerky, Canadian bacon, beef bacon, and Kasterdina (a European-style smoked lamb). On one side of the store in a separate cooler, you’ll find packages of marinated beef, chicken breast, and pork ribs, also prepared in-house. The marinades include favorites such as the “Bloody Mary,” and “Korean Style Teriyaki.”
Aside from the meat products, the market is a great place to pick up fruit pies from local Gizdich Ranch. They have a wonderful selection of California wines. While I perused the wine shelves, a knowledgeable staff member helpfully pointed out examples of local brands.
I took home several links of "Cheezy Bavarian" sausage, and had it for dinner with brown rice, broccoli, and onion. The finely ground sausage meat was moist and flavorful. The taste of the cheddar cheese was surprisingly subtle, adding to the richness of the meat. I can understand why it is the market’s most popular sausage. I was also impressed by the friendly and knowledgeable staff, and experienced management. I will definitely return soon.
If you can’t get to Corralitos, you can purchase Corralitos Market sausage and specialty meats at the MPC (Monterey Penninsula College) farmers market on Fridays, and at the Cabrillo farmers market in Aptos on Saturdays.
8569 Corralitos Rd., Corralitos. Hours: Mon.—Sat. 8 a.m.—6 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.—5 p.m. 831-722-2633.