Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"quanto piu stomachevoli vivi, tanto piu dilettevoli morti"

pasta, bread, olive oil, bergamot, cheese....now it was time for meat. off we went to Lazzaro di Motta San Giovani where we had a cured meat workshop at the Agriturismo Agririggio, with particular attention to the Slow Food Presidia "capicolla azze anca grecanico." this place swarmed with local press giving interviews to the students that could actually speak decent italian and we met with Christina, the Slow Food Calabria president. while being filmed, we are taught about the objective of the place, which is to raise awareness surrounding the area's national park, the food/culture/character/traditions of the"area grecanica" and also to develop the traditional gastronomic ways of making capicolla, which is a calabrian slow food presidia known as "il re dei salumi dell'aspromonte" - the king of aspromonte meat. it is necessary to protect a food such as the capicolla because it has strong links with the history and cultural roots of the grecanic people.

we go into a room in the laboratorio where there is half a (dead) pig lying exposed on a stainless steel table. although the slow food presidio Calabrian Black Pig is an all black, it is boiled in 80degrees Celcius water until the hair comes off and leaves behind a pale pink skin. there also isn't a ton of blood because the butcher cuts the main artery in the throat to drain all the blood from the animal. only 5 producers still make this kind of capicollo, meat from the thigh, and we learn about the traditional way of making it. some of the students take turn cutting the meat up and removing the fatty skin. asher, the youngest of all the students, already has butcher experience and is a pro and catherine, who is the only vegetarian of all the students also takes a turn.  the cut meat is carefully covered in sea salt and massaged into the meat and then patted off to remove the excess salt that was not absorbed by the meat. there are no precise measurements for how much salt to use, it just takes years of practice to know. the temperature of the room needs to be within 3-7 degrees celecius because high temps will cause the salt to pentetrate too fast and then the capicollo will be too salty - for this reason, this process used to be done in the winter. also, the seaside is not necessarily good for making cured meats, but the people knew that the winds were important, particularly the ones in the area influenced by the straits of messina created a particular humidity that was perfect for capicollo.

the meat is then kept in a brine for 3 days, then is placed within a thin layer of fat sprinkled with black pepper, wild fennel seeds, and dried red chili flakes then tied tightly with string to completely enclose it. it is then left to cure from 6months to 2years.

the capicollo is not only considered because of the breed of pigs, the production methods but also the living conditions of the pigs - they are kept semi wild - meaning enclosed with a fabulous mountain top, sea view (did i mention it was another steep steep hill for us to climb? calabrians must have nice legs and toned butts). the fact that the pigs are free to walk around their pens and not kept in cages attributes to the meat's color and fat distribution. they are happy pigs with curly-q tails. 

 happy pigs and their sicilian view

our lunch was two huge long buffet tables filled with food - i've never seen so many people drool with excitement and anxiously stand to wait their turn in line. we had salumi grecanici/cured meat assortment, formaggi grecanici, ricottine, fritta di cipolle/onion fritatta, uova con curcuci grecanici/hard-boiled egg filled with crunchy pork, porchetta grecanica, polpette di carne suina e polpette di melanzane/pork and eggplant meatballs, cardi avvolti nel lardo del suino nero grecanico/fried battered artichoke wrapped in calabrian black pig lard, zuppa di fagioli con cotenna di suino/bean stew with pork rind, antico arrosto "omerico" con verdure di stagione/wilted fennel greens, frutta di stagione/seasonal fruit: loquats, and mandorle 'nturrate/crunchy sweet nut brittle and then of course the roasted pork meat and another one that was cooked in a clay pot. it was such an array of food, i of course had to try one of each, which equates to three photographs of my plate: 

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