The art of preserving pork in Umbria, dates back to the 2nd century BC. Because of the poor farming conditions in this cold mountainous area, the inhabitants of Norcia (in the Province of Perugia) relied on animal husbandry. This art was perfected under the Roman Republic and Roman Empire and continued to thrive under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church State until modern times. The meticulous selection of livestock, the expert dry or humid curing, the distinct and diverse flavoring, the personal care and attention by specialists of this art, all contribute to the production of these unique delicacies.
Umbrian cured ham, Prosciutto di Norcia, is the king of Umbrian delicacies. The most famous of central Italian ham is unmatched in quality and taste. The prosciutto is made of salted and naturally aged meat from the hindquarters of heavy mature animals. A Prosciutto di Norcia will generally weigh at least 20 pounds ( 9 kilos). The animals are raised in the high mountain ranges above sea level in the Valnerina district. The calciferous rock, of which the mountains are mostly made, filter rain water to create natural cellars with perfect conditions for the slow aging process (14 months or more) resulting in top quality cured meats. Prosciutto di Norcia is savory but not salty and each slice presents a variety of shades of garnet. The unique nutty taste of this ham is a perfect companion to a side dish of Mediterranean fruits or grilled asparagus.
Also known as lonza, ossocollo, capicollo, coppa. Capocollo is the famous Italian sandwich meat, characterized by its tenderness and aromatic flavor. Umbrian capocollo is made from prime cuts of pork neck, which is salted and flavored with fennel, garlic, salt and black pepper and cured in a red wine brine. The craft of capocollo preparation includes storage in fresh cellars where the capocollo is massaged by hand for at least 30 days. The capocollo is bound with natural string and allowed to air-dry. It is then wrapped in brown-paper and hung for 45-50 days at a temperature around 50 degrees F (10°C). A slice of Umbrian capocollo is compact and has a savory but slightly sweet taste which improves with age and adds refinement to any appetizer. Also delicious in a cold main course of arugula salad dressed with olive oil, lemon and wedges of pecorino.
This soft sausage has a strong and assertive flavor. It is made with shoulder and bacon meat, which is repeatedly minced to obtain a creamy texture. It is stuffed in natural gut casing and allowed to air-dry for 2 weeks. Delicious when spread on a slice of crusty Italian bread and accompanied with slivers of green apple or grapes and a little honey.
These spicy, pear-shaped sausages are characterized by their small size and intense flavor. They are made from coarsely ground lean pork, seasoned with black pepper and garlic. The fiaschetta are dry-cured in rooms heated with a natural log fire for 40-50 days.The spiciness of this salami is a perfect balance for delicate, close textured Umbrian bread. It is also popular as an addition to a rustic meat-based risotto.
The original and most famous of Umbrian salami is made from the best cuts of pork following a traditional and age-old recipe. The meat is expertly hand-cut to obtain the correct balance of meat and fat. It is flavored with whole and crushed black peppercorns, garlic and salt, hand-tied and aged for up to 40 days.This authentic delicacy can be served as an appetizer with grilled vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes and olives.
Meat taken from the cheeks of the pig are cured in a red-wine based brine for 20 days. It is subsequently hung for 10 days in a room where a wood-fire maintains a steady temperature that encourages the curing process. It is then seasoned with either crushed chillies, fennel or black pepper and left to mature in a cool room for 45-50 days. The guanciale is mostly a soft-white color with a ribbon of pink running through it. It has a variety of uses – for basting roast meats, to adding flavor to gravy, as a topping for minestrone or polenta or as wafer-thin slices placed over bruschetta or freshly baked bread.
A speciality made from pork belly. When making pancetta, some of the fat is removed and replaced with crushed chillies, fennel, black pepper and sea salt. The pancetta is rolled, tied with jute and pressed between planks of wood. It is stored in a cool place for approximately one month and as the curing progresses, the planks of wood are tightened to compact the layers. The finished product is dense and when cut appears as pink and white spirals. The taste is spicy but delicate. The flavor of pancetta lends itself to goat cheese, black olives, peas and other legumes. It can be used as an alternative for bacon in classic pasta dishes such as pasta alla carbonara, pasta all’amatriciana and pasta alla carrettiera.
Coppa di testa
Hand-cut meat from the head of the pig, seasoned with garlic, black pepper and salt and steamed in a jute bag. This cooked salami has a marbled terrine-like appearance with a delicate aromatic taste. It can be served in thin slices with arugula and mature pecorino or with fried eggs. Goes well with a glass of robust red wine.
Recipes Using Italian Cured Pork
Frittata with Prosciutto, Potatoes, Goat Cheese & Thyme
- 12 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 2 ounces arugula
- 1 russet potato (about 8 oz), peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
- 1/2 yellow onion thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (or cheese of choice)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Put the sliced potatoes in a bowl and cover them with cold water to keep them from turning brown.
Slice the onion and saute in the olive oil until soft and translucent.
Oil a 9×12 baking dish and place an overlapping layer of potato slices on the bottom of the dish (you will use about half of the potatoes). Spread the cooked onions and the prosciutto on top of the potatoes. Next a layer of arugula and top with crumbled goat cheese and half of the thyme.
Whisk together the eggs and milk and gently pour over the layers in the pan. Top with the remaining slices of potato and sprinkle remaining fresh thyme on top.
Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Removing the foil and bake 5-10 minutes until the eggs are set. Turn the oven setting to broil and brown the top of the frittata.
Lentil Soup and Ciauscolo
- 12 slices Ciauscolo salami
- 2 1/4 cups lentils
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cloves garlic, whole
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 3 potatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- Salt and pepper to taste
Put the lentils in water and let stand overnight.
Peel the potatoes and cut into small cubes. Into a saucepan pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute the garlic cloves and chopped shallots. Add the potatoes and let cook for 5 minutes.
Drain lentils and put into the pot. Stir, cover with cold water, add the rosemary, bay leaves and salt and cook for about 15 minutes, checking occasionally to see if the lentils are soft. The soup should be quite liquid, so it may be necessary to add a few tablespoons of water. When cooked, remove the garlic, rosemary and bay leaves and keep warm.
Take the slices of Ciauscolo and sear them quickly on both sides on a stove top grill.
Pour the lentil soup into bowls and place the Ciauscolo slices on top. Add freshly ground pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with crusty Italian bread.
Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
- 1 pound small brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved through root ends
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/4 pound 1/8-inch-thick slices pancetta cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-wide strips
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
Cook brussels sprouts in a saucepan of boiling salted water until tender. Drain.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté pancetta until crisp. Spoon off all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings.
Add warm brussels sprouts to the skillet; sprinkle with thyme and sage. Sauté over high heat just until heated through and vegetables begin to brown at the edges, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
- 6 oz finely minced guanciale
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups diced onion (about 1 large onion)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 ½ tablespoons minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon minced pepperoncini or other dried hot peppers
- 2 28-oz cans tomato purée
- 1 lb dry spaghetti
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat until the oil ripples but does not smoke. Add guanciale and cook, stirring frequently, until the fat begins to render and meat is no longer pink, about 3 minutes.
Add onion and stir, coating onions with the rendered fat. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden, about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and pepperoncini and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes more.
Add the tomato purée, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and gently simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until it reduces and thickens slightly, about 40 minutes. At this point the sauce can be used immediately, or cooled and refrigerated for up to a week or cooled and frozen.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain but don’t rinse, return spaghetti to the hot pot and toss with the sauce.
Pizza with Mozzarella and Capocollo
1 pound of pizza dough
- Fine sea salt
- 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes
- 1 small leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella cheese
- 1/3 pound thinly sliced capocollo
Heat pizza stone in the oven for at least 45 minutes before assembling pies. Place the stone on a rack in the lower third of oven. Heat oven to maximum temperature (500º to 550º). While stone is heating prepare topping.
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add tomatoes to the boiling water; boil for 20 seconds. Drain tomatoes, then peel, quarter, seed and coarsely chop.
Meanwhile, place onion slices in a bowl, cover with cold water and soak 10 minutes, then drain. Repeat 2 or 3 times while you prepare the rest of the topping (soaking raw onion in cold water mellows the harsh taste).
Rinse and dry leek. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add leek and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt and sugar; continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until sauce is blended and thickened, about 4 minutes more. Transfer sauce to a bowl.
Spread dough in a greased pizza pan. Working quickly, spread sauce over the dough, leaving about a 1/2-inch border. Tear the cheese into pieces and arrange on top of the sauce. Drizzle lightly with oil. Place pizza pan on the stone. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling in spots and the edge of the crust is crisp and golden, about 15 minutes.
Remove pizza from the oven and top with capocollo and red onion.
- Pork Fest! (recollectionsoffood.wordpress.com)
- Affettati misti (Mixed Cured Meats) (memoriediangelina.com)
September 20, 2013 at 10:44 am
I want that frittata – it looks fabulous.
September 20, 2013 at 11:33 am
and tastes delicious. Thanks Pam.
Our Growing Paynes
September 20, 2013 at 11:04 am
How does the Prosciutto de Norcia differ from Proscuitto de Parma? Another meat we can’t get over here is the cutatello (not sure if I spelt that right) and that was amazing.
September 20, 2013 at 11:33 am
The prosciutto di Parma has a slightly nutty flavor from the Parmigiano Reggiano whey that is sometimes added to the pigs’ diet. Prosciutto di Norcia is slightly spicy and made of adult pork and produced exclusively in the district of Norcia in Umbria. It matures for 2 years in a mix of lard, flour and spices. This ham is more rustic than Prosciutto di Parma.
Culatello іs а refined variety оf prosciutto, made frоm heavier pigs, cut smaller, aged, аnd may be cured wіth wine, wіth culatello di Zibello having PDO status.
The “long-standing FDA ban on the import of Italian cured meats was lifted on May 28. Amazon even carries them now.
Our Growing Paynes
September 22, 2013 at 8:21 am
I can get the good stuff on Amazon?!? We don’t have any local importers for this stuff so I will have to check this out. Thanks for the explanation. 🙂
September 22, 2013 at 10:02 am
You may be able to find these products locally, if there is a market for them in your area. I am sure there must be importers in the big east cities like Boston and NewYork. For many of us though, thank goodness for Amazon. Here is the link on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Citterio-Culatello-7-5-lb/dp/B002GC9J1G/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1379862124&sr=8-2&keywords=Culatello
September 22, 2013 at 11:22 am
Great post. Working on our own Pancetta, but really want to make the guanciale…sooo good.
September 22, 2013 at 1:46 pm
Wow – that is great – making your own cured meats. Thank you for commenting.
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April 17, 2015 at 2:47 pm
The Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta is delicious.
April 17, 2015 at 2:48 pm
Thanks so much for letting me know you liked this recipe.