In the early-morning hours in late spring 2013, Jason and Melanie Schoendorfer gathered a cooler full of homemade bacon and sausage, several dozen eggs, and a few cases of fluffy rolls and headed for the weekly Pinecrest Gardens Farmers Market.
They didn't know what to expect. "We had 100 buns thinking we were going to sell all of these breakfast sandwiches, and, obviously, it was a little bit more modest," Jason says.
The two didn't know that three years later, they would be one of Miami's premier producers of ground and cured pork products. And this month, the duo whose endeavor became known as Babe Froman Fine Sausages will in part shed its existence under a tailgate-style pop-up tent when it moves into Babe's Meat & Counter in Palmetto Bay.
Though 39-year-old Melanie seemed destined for this life, it wasn't initially clear it would be the same for Jason, whose family until 2014 owned a pet cemetery and crematorium. Melanie was born and raised in the northeastern Ontario town of Timmins, best known as the birthplace of country singer and I Heart Huckabees star Shania Twain. The rugged landscape also demanded its residents learn how to fend for themselves.
"She grew up making things like wine and prosciutto," Jason says. "That childhood experience embedded a lot of love for what we do now." Until 2013, Melanie worked as a cheesemonger and speciality buyer at the high-end grocer Joanna's Marketplace near Dadeland. The two began experimenting with making charcuterie to pair with the cheeses she brought him, and eventually the hobby mushroomed into using home kitchen equipment to make sausages and smoke meat.
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These days, the two sell their wares at farmers' markets, appeared at this year's South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and generally turn out about 70 pounds of sausage and 45 pounds of bacon each week. Those numbers will rise significantly once the shop is running at full bore.
"It'll give us a chance to do more whole-animal butchery," Jason says. "We do break down whole pigs now and then, but we’ll be able to do it on a regular basis. We’ll fill the case with the money cuts and be able to do a greater variety of sausage and charcuterie."
Over the years, their offerings have included breakfast sausage, smoked sausage, and classic bacon. They've experimented with Buckford bacon, which is similar in preparation but different in that it's culled from a part other than the belly. There have been bacon burgers, pungent lamb merguez, and even hamburger patties made of ground bacon. Lately, they've become the only place in Miami where you can find Montreal smoked meat, which is the Canadian sibling of Jewish delis' pastrami. Who knows what the Schoendorfers will be able to pull off with a full kitchen behind them.
Babe's Meat & Counter. 9216 SW 156th St., Palmetto Bay; babefroman.com.