I won a sandwich competition last week. I know what you’re thinking. I don’t win things and frankly, I don’t make many sandwiches. Yet I was invited to a special event with Switchback and McKenzie, both based in Burlington, and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to sip some delicious beer and learn more about the McKenzie’s Natural Artisan Deli brand.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good sandwich. But I spent years as a kid being forced to eat sandwiches I didn’t like. Between American cheese, bologna and white bread, can you blame me? They were boring, flavorless and somehow always managed to get squished at the bottom of my lunch bag. No offense to my parents, who spent years sending me to school with a lunch that was still always better than cafeteria food. Yet, by the time I got into food and cooking, sandwiches just weren’t much of an interest. Honestly, I wanted to make anything but a highly processed sandwich.
I’ve also held the belief that most deli meats aren’t very good. They’re often loaded with preservatives and questionable ingredients. What exactly is bologna anyway? When I do buy deli meats, there are only a couple of options out there that I’ll consider. That’s why I was happy to hear that McKenzie has changed its focus to provide meats for today’s generation of eaters, who are increasingly interested in the details of what it is they’re eating.
McKenzie Natural Artisan Deli, as they’ve recently rebranded themselves, was founded in Burlington in 1907. They believe in providing high-quality meats from family farms, clean ingredients and authentic flavors. Many of their products are now clearly conveying those standards. They are all free of antibiotics, hormones and nitrates, and McKenzie has also just released a GMO-free Choice American Angus Roast Beef. Non-GMO ham options are scheduled to launch later this year. These are some of the few deli meat options currently available without GMOs, and that’s not an easy feat when most animal feed in the United States is still GMO-based.
I was also impressed with their selection of cheeses, particularly the cheddars, which are hand crafted here in Vermont with mostly raw Jersey cow milk that’s aged for a minimum of 60 days. These are nothing like that American cheese I used to eat.
For a sandwich to impress me it not only has to include high-quality ingredients, it should have a well-balanced range of flavors and textures. That’s what I kept in mind when I crafted my sandwich at the event. The six main taste sensations we can experience on our tongue are bitter, salty, sweet, sour and umami, and I wanted to incorporate as many of those as I could. When it comes to sandwiches, I’m a firm believer that the more flavor the better. Unlike a multi-component meal, where each piece can contribute a varying flavor profile, with a sandwich you must make it all happen between two pieces of bread.
The goal was to create a Pure Vermont Sandwich, and naturally, I aimed to include as many Vermont ingredients from the extensive selection of meats, cheeses, condiments and fixings presented to us as I could. I love Potlicker Kitchen’s jams and jellies, but how do you make those work in a sandwich? Combine them with mayo or mustard to elevate your condiment game. I paired their apricot ale beer jelly with regular old Hellman’s mayonnaise and spread it over both slices of bread. For the meat, I combined the earthy flavor of McKenzie’s uncured rosemary herb ham with the sweetness of maple honey turkey breast. I included some spinach and red onion for some crunch and freshness, plenty of Vermont raw-milk cheddar, and topped it all off with what Vermonters go crazy for this time of year: fiddleheads.
Here’s the recipe for the sandwich. Which, to be honest, I made in a rush and am still surprised to have won with. She wouldn’t let me forget it if I didn’t mention it, but I owe some credit to my girlfriend for helping me come up with the name.
Fiddler on the Hoof
Makes 1 sandwich
Pickled fiddleheads can be found from Potlicker kitchen and likely other local producers. If you’d like to pickle your own, search for the simple recipe on Serious Eats.
1 ½ tablespoons Potlicker Kitchen Apricot Ale Beer Jelly
1 ½ tablespoons mayonnaise
¼ pound McKenzie sliced maple honey turkey breast
¼ pound McKenzie sliced rosemary herb ham
¼ pound Vermont cheddar cheese
About ten pickled fiddleheads
A handful of spinach
A few slices red onion
2 slices wheat bread
Lightly toast the bread. Combine the jelly and mayo in a small bowl and spread onto both slices. On one slice, place some spinach leaves. Divide the meat and cheese between the two. Finish with the fiddleheads and red onion. Carefully combine the two halves and slice on an angle. Top with additional fiddleheads to garnish.