Salamis and Sausages
The production of sausages and soppressata (a typical type of salami), which is one of the more particular characteristics of the Lucana pork butchering, goes side by side with the processing of the innards of the animal. These are treated with the same method of salting and maturing, following the systems generally in use. The capocollo ( a typical type of ham) is worthy of note, but a taste of a Lucano prosciutto (cured ham) can be a real surprise: it is matured in the Vulture area and its flavour is made unique by the use of chilli pepper which is used together with salt and other spices.
This is characteristic of the southern pork butchers, it takes its name from the cut of the meat which is used, which goes from the shoulder to the upper part of the neck. It is elongated in shape, bright red in colour and appears leaner than the coppa from the region of Emilia, to which it is, however, very similar. The flavour is determined by the quantity of pepper used. It is customary, after the salting, to cover it over with finely chopped chilli pepper.
It can be found on the serving plates of mixed, sliced, cold hams and salamis eaten as hors d’oeuvres.
The processing of this prosciutto has particular methods of preparation, arising from the many centuries of experience spent in the research of the best result in terms of the flavour and the method of preservation. The animals used are of limited dimensions, not being over one hundred and twenty to one hundred and forty kilograms (two hundred and sixty to three hundred pounds) in weight, and bred by the farmers of the area. After the thigh of the animal has been trimmed and prepared, it is put in brine for two weeks, then transferred to different premises and put between the original wooden presses, with a slight tightening of the screws each day. The operation lasts eight or ten days during which the liquids are squeezed out of the meat. Once this is over, the prosciutto is larded in the cut parts with a mixture of pork fat, pepper and hot chilli pepper. Now the ham can undergo the first ageing which will last three or four months; finally, after another larding, the prosciutto is aged for another period of time. The final product is put on sale after at least fifteen months of treatment and is truly praiseworthy.
The consumers in Lucania divide their preferences between two types of sausage. The first, more highly prized and costly, is made from chosen pieces of meat taken from the fillet and the thigh trimmed of fat and sinews and then cured with salt, pepper and fennel seeds. The other is made of meat which is less finely processed, takes its flavour from the lard and is further seasoned with salt, pepper, chilli pepper and the indispensable, recognisable fennel seeds. The ageing lasts just about a month.
Lucania adds another, very traditional type of sausage to the well known, traditional ones: the “pezzente” (beggar) sausage. The adjective refers to the poor quality of the meats used, coming from parts of the pig which could not be used for the more noble preparations, and this is why it is also known as the sausage of the poor. Parts of the head are used, above all the cheek and other various scraps, all finely minced up. The mixture is seasoned with salt, wild fennel and hot chilli pepper and then packed into the same stomach casing used for the traditional sausage.
Connoisseurs eat it raw, but the real speciality is obtained by boiling it together with vegetables and enjoying it on slices of toasted bread, or grilled and served with polenta.
This is perhaps the most typical salami of the Lucania region. In the area around Potenza, they call it soperzata. It has its country of adoption in the territories of Lagonegro, Lauria, Picerno and Tricarico. It should be made, to follow the rules, from pork fillet, and the pig, if possible should belong to the black race of pigs. The meat is processed by hand using the method known as "punta di coltello" (‘knife point’). Once it is reduced down to an even mixture, there is the addition of small cubes of lard, salt and black pepper. It is all then packed into the wide stomach sacking, tied into single salamis so that each piece has an average weight of about two hundred grams (seven ounces) and is kept weighted down overnight; finally, it is slightly smoked. The ageing lasts four to five months. The salami is preserved in earthenware or glass jars in olive oil or, better still, in the pork fat of the same pig.
It is one of the classic hors d’oeuvres of the gastronomy of Lucania and is the protagonist of every country snack.