Photo Courtesy of JD Gold
“All-in-all, it’s a pretty boring story of one guy who has a hobby and is the province’s crazy cat lady.” These are the humble words of JD Gold, the founder of both Peculiar Meats and the Damyang Project. Gold’s hobby is making sausages, hams, and other meat products for a select number of customers in the Gwangju area. The Damyang Project is a service that provides for the local homeless cat population. The only thing peculiar about the meat is Gold’s traditional, distinctly foreign approach to the processing and other aspects.
Gold is an “American semi-retired Science and Math teacher from the state of New Jersey.” He worked in Japan for a year but did not like the school system there, so he took a job in Korea. Gold delivers his locally famous, home-made meat products to Gwangju, which is the nearest city to Damyang, where the meat-processing kitchen is.
“I manage to do only one to two batches of meat a week, and only deliver to Gwangju once or twice a month. Making sausage (and other processed meats) is extremely labor-intensive, so a single batch of say, meatballs, will take between four to five hours of processing,” says Gold.
Gold has been making his own meats for most of his life. About five years ago, he decided to start doing it here in Korea. “Let me tell you a long story,” Gold says. “Simply put, about five years ago, I got tired of never having my “comfort foods” (meatballs, sausage, etc.), since the Korean versions of these things were terrible and seasoned in ways that just tasted wrong. So, I decided to bring back a grinder from one of my trips home.”
Since Gold processes his own sausage, this allows him to get the texture just right. “My family comes from farm stock and have always made our own meat,” he says.
Once Gold got the texture and the seasoning right, he then started making meat for himself about once a month. Nowadays, demand from the community has increased, so he makes sausages up to twice a week. Gold offers his products for what he claims are more than fair prices. “Ask around and check meat prices,” Gold explains. “Folks will tell you that the finished product is comparable to US products, and the pricing is much cheaper than store-bought.”
Gold describes his efforts as “semi-non-profit” because all the proceeds are donated to a charity that he founded, called The Damyang Project. It finds homes for cats and provides neutering/spaying of the feral cat population. The main expenses of the charity come from veterinary services. I asked Gold to describe his sausages. He responded, “[In Korea] the textures are more reminiscent of finely-ground German bratwursts, so I make mine more in keeping with traditional mid-western (USA) meat styles.”
Gold was “born and raised back when most families still hunted and fished for fun and additional food.” Since Gold’s family did not have much money while he was growing up, the boys were encouraged to hunt and fish, not only for fun, but to literally “bring home the bacon.”
“All my meats come from either the Nonghyup meat collective or from a local butchery, bought in bulk and cryovaced or vacuum-packed,” Gold says. “My customers are anyone who is interested when I post on the Gwangju pages. I tell folks what I have and when I will be coming into the city. I do not use delivery services.” He never uses preservatives, except for the home-made hams. Gold explains, “Hams actually need a type of salt that acts as a preservative. You can’t have one without the other, like bacon.”
Gold is precise about his packaging. He comments, “Except for meatballs and sausage patties, all meat is sold in bulk packs of 500 grams weighing one to three kilograms.” Because of restrictions on imported meat products, he is not able to get the type of intestines needed to make link sausage. Recent posts on Facebook by Peculiar Meats offered Christmas Hams. Gold explains, “At this time, I regularly make breakfast sausage, Italian sausage, Italian meatballs, Philippine Longanisa, Apple cinnamon, and pepper hams (in season). I am currently trying to find a good recipe for chicken sausages that works well in artificial casings, but no luck so far.”
Free sausage alert! Aspiring customers may receive samples of new recipes by being in the right place at the right time, mainly by hanging out at First Alleyway in Gwangju while Gold is meeting up to make deliveries.
One should note that there is no connection to any other Peculiar Meats companies which may exist by the same name. For updated information about the cats and kittens, contact Gold by personal message on Facebook or see the profile for The Damyang Project.