Once again, Olson’s Meats and Smokehouse walked away from a regional meat competition with a couple grand champion placements.
The annual contest, put on by the Northwest Meat Processors Association, was put on hold for two years as COVID swept the world, but returned this year to Hermiston, Oregon, March 17 through 19.
This was an interesting year, said Greg Olson, owner of the Enumclaw meat shop, because several of the usual competitors declined to show while there were several new faces looking to make a name for themselves. In total, there were more than 40 shops from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana that put in an excess of 130 entries for 15 different categories.
Olson and his team entered six categories: boneless ham, fermented summer sausage, unfermented summer sausage, meat snack sticks, fresh bulk sausage, and dry-cured products. They came away with placements in five, the most notable being the boneless ham and snack foods entires, which received the grand champion placements (that’s the equivalent of first place).
They also earned a reserve champion rating (second place) for their summer sausages, and a champion placement (third) for the fresh sausage.
Earning such high honors is not new for Olson’s. Since entering this competition for the first time in 2003, the shop has practically earned more titles than they can fit certificates and plaques on its walls. They particularly expect to place well in the ham and summer sausage categories.
“We have write-ups pretty much every year, usually grand champion, always, for fermented and unfermented summer sausage. Always,” Olson said. ““Why is that? Because it has to be exact. When they make the summer sausage, and [judges] cut it, and they look at it, it has to have flecks of meat, flecks of fat that are very, very uniform. And the color and the smoke of the outside has to be just what the judge likes to see.”
This means the grinding of the meat, which includes both beef and pork, needs to be done perfectly — separately at first, and then together, and definitely in a grinder, not by hand.
“My son [Adam] is a master sausage maker, and that’s why he wins,” Olson continued. “He came in not knowing much about it. He knew how to hold a knife. But I bought him a book, a sausage maker’s book… I’m telling you what, he’s been nothing but perfection since then.”
Judging for the hams is just as — if not even more — intense.
“The ham is a big deal… very big deal, because what they do is take the bone-in ham, the [boneless] ham, and the two bacons, four items, when we’re done with this thing, they auction them off,” Olson said, adding that the money raised goes to scholarships for students looking to get into the meat industry.
Olson’s grand champion boneless ham was not auctioned off this year, though it normally goes for $400 or $500, Olson said; the winning bone-in ham, submitted by H&K Meats in Jefferson, OR, went for a whopping $2,200.
Every year, Olson’s gives away several of his winning hams for free in a Courier-Herald egg counting contest every March and April, before Easter. The contest ended in the April 6 edition so winners could receive their prizes by the holiday. This year’s winners were Seann Abuan, Sharon Martin, Diane DeGooyer, Brad Malidore, Ed Haron, and Ron Maley.
Address: 20104 SE 436th St, Enumclaw
Hours: Mondays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesdays through Fridays 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.