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Salted Pork meats


The many varieties of salami offered in Umbria well represent the spirit and the art of good eating of this place which in Norcia is an important centre of ancient gastronomic traditions. Infact the masters that produce the pork products are called in all parts of Italy, above all in Latium and Tuscany "norcini", expert packers of meats and butchers according to tradition that dates back to the Roman period. The Valnerina and the Alta valley of Tevere were already known and appreciated in ancient times for their pork products and remain almost intact today, so much so that in this place there flourishes the wild boar which multiplies "brillante" permitting the placing side by side of tasty sausages of wild boar and that of traditional pork: hams, salami, sausages highly valued and extremely tasty! But the pig, in Umbria, represents a continuity of tradition that does not have equal anywhere else. It is still used in many cottages in the countryside observing the ancient medieval use of celebrating the day in which the pig is butchered and the different pork products produced ("spezzatura del maiale") eating the spare ribs (roasted or in a sauce which flavours tagliatelle pasta dishes) and the loin and sirloin. Everything is used from the pig, beginning with the sugna that, when melted over a moderate heat which purifies it, offers an excellent lard for certain fried foods.
A speciality from Perugia - but also widely spread throughout Umbria and the rest of Italy - is the roast sucking pig (porchetta) which has its origins in this city. The swine destined to become the roast sucking pig must be very young, nourished nearly exclusively on acorns, with little fat and a variable weight between forty and fifty kilogrammes. After the butchering it is washed in boiling water and scraped with a special knife until it becomes very white. Then the trotters are cut off, the ears, the kidneys and the scapula. The viscera, tongue and the limbs are cut into small pieces, boiled and flavoured with salt, garlic, fennel, pepper and used to stuff the thorax and abdomen. The swine is then skewered by a wooden pole of a thickness of four or five centimetres, into the anus. The opened part is sewn up and it is put to cook on a moderate heat, about 200°C, in a large oven for about five hours, and according to weight. Under the roast sucking pig there is placed a pan to collect the juices that seep out during the cooking and with an Umbrian term is called "intocca" The soletti are cooked in these juices, which is the trotters, tail and the ears of the pig cut into cubes and flavoured with garlic, salt, pepper, sage, rosemary and wild fennel. When the hide becomes the typical golden colour the roast sucking pig is ready.
Another ancient, and very tasty speciality is the sanguinaccio (black pudding), very much appreciated because it is difficult to find due to its being very delicate and easily perishable.
It is made by adding fine white salt to the pig's blood mixing it well to avoid coagulation, cubes of fat, slices of homemade bread, pine kernels, currants, cocoa, orange peel, sugar are left to infuse for at least twelve hours. This mixture, well stirred and amalgamated, is packed into the gut of the pig previously washed accurately. As soon as it is packed the sanguinacci are placed in cold, lightly salted, water and left to boil for about thirty minutes over a moderate heat. Taken out, they are hung up and when eaten, they are cut into slices and a small amount of oil (or lard) is passed over on both sides.
A variant on the sanguinaccio is the migliaccio. For this food the infusion is prepared without the sugar and with a little intocco. The mixture is placed in an earthenware baking-pan and cooked in a hot oven for about forty minutes. Eaten hot it is a true delicacy for the palate, a joy for every gourmet.
But the scene of pork products in Umbria is dominated by the sausage which is produced in an exceptional variety. Above all that which is classical is made with the lean pork meat and fat, flavoured with salt, garlic and pepper that presents the variation of the hunter's sausage made with lean meat and lard but with a little saltpetre added and flavoured with the same ingredients as above which is eaten previoudly uncooked and fresh, whereas a particular method for cooking the classic sausage is that of perforating the skin first and then placing it in a pan with only a little amount of oil and water and leaving it to fry for about ten minutes. When the water has evaporated some well washed, fresh grapes are added and then it is again placrf over the heat for about another twenty minutes. It is an extremely tasty dish which is served hot.
But to pass onto the most typical Umbrian sausages let us remember the mazzafegati, made from pig's livers in a more salty version rather than sweet: the liver is chopped into small pieces and is mixed with sausage meat, salt and pepper, currants and pine kernels and packed into the large gut making a large shape. It is cooked whole over the embers of a fire. For the sweet version the salt is substituted with sugar and there is also added orange peel which gives it a particularly delicate flavour.
The sausage - which is also made with the wild pig - may be left to age and eaten in slices that remain soft if the packaging is well greased and may be flavoured variously with more or less garlic, with hot peppers, with fennel, in a truly tempting propostion.
The ham of the pig or of the wild boar is naturally the most refined product; that of Norcia was known in the Indicazione Geografica Protetta; and infact counted among the best in Italy and appreciated because it is very flavoursome, soft and dry and put on the market with a maturing of at aleast one year.
Coppa in Umbria is the term used to define the sausage made from the head of the pig flavoured with celery, carrot, onion and orange peel.
The capocollo treated with salt, pepper, garlic and white wine asks for a more complex production as it is left for fifteen days pickled in salt, then worked with the wine and dried in the open air for another seven days, at the end of which it is well wrapped with straw paper and left to mature in a well-aired environment for at least three months.
Lastly there is a great use in Umbria for the Cotiche and Cotechini,(spiced pork sausages) eaten with the famous lentils which, symbolically, bring many good wishes, inevitable especially in dinners given on New Year's Eve.

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