January 16, 2006

Pigging out

When Kate and I began dreaming about pigs, pork artisans, farmers and recipes, my mind started going a thousand miles and hour.

Where does one start and even a worse dilemma, where does one stop?

I knew where to start, that was easy, at the Central Market where I do have the choice of Nose to Tail, without having to slaughter my own hog!

Most of the butchers in the market have such an incredible selection of sausages and salami’s there is not need for me to make my own. I can get salami plain, with fennel, or spicy, all of them pork from several different regions in Italy.
Prosciutto from not just from Parma, but they tell my what hillside and the name of the producer..and often how many pigs he has!
Tuscan hams, Umbrian hams, Spanish and more. Dry cured, wet cured, smoked. Rubbed with ground black peppers, whole peppers or chili pepper. A Poem to pork

The quality of the pork and freshness allow me to eat a raw sausage! A Tuscan favorite, mixed with luscious , creamy Stracchino cheese, spread onto bread can really be eaten raw!
Most people will grill it and serve warm for winter’s meal, but raw “ e’ il suo morte”, the best!!!

There are so many creative cuts and presentations of pork to be taken home and just cooked such as: stuffed with green apples and pecorino cheese, prunes and pinenuts, a whole shank hollowed out and filled with a leek to be slow roasted.

Or Arista, Florence’s roast pork, already given a aromatic herbal rub, and garlic and rosemary slivers inserted to infuse flavor, called Arista from Aristos in Greek, meaning the highest, as in Aristocracy, taken by the Florentines to mean the best!

Or shall I pick up the rack of ribs, frenched and the meat wrapped around a filet, called Brontasaurus.. looking like something Fred Flinstone would have ordered?

Perhaps just a simple tenderloin, wrapped in fresh bacon and given a peppercorn and herb rub, to be simply panfried?

Winter brings us the pork liver, seasoned with fennel and wrapped in caul fat, roasted with a bay leave, Fegatelli.

My local butcher in Certaldo, prepares then with bits of liver and also pork, for the locals, but he being from Florence prefers them, as I do, ground and highly seasoned. A much more delicate preparation, with breadcrumbs and fennel, salt and pepper.

Last month I was in Palermo, and while walking back late at night, we cut through the closed Vucceria street market, only to find a huge grill set up with 30 different cuts of meat! Hearts, spleen and intestines where a few of the things I could identify.

One of my favorites was a green onion, wrapped in fresh bacon and grilled. Serve sprinkled with salt and a squeeze of lemon juice.

A previous blog entry I cooked a pork shoulder chop, my favorite for it’s flavorful extra layer of fat!
The acidity if the fresh grapes make this dish one of my favorites for parties!
All dressed up!

When David L had his prune blogging weekend, I contributed my favorite wild boar recipe, an traditional Dolce/Forte , sweet and strong, flavor combination, not unlike a Mexican Mole but easier to make. You can substitute a pork shoulder, cut into serving style pieces.

The temple of meat is in Panzano in Chianti, Antica Macelleria Cecchini, master to many of today's butchers in America, for some of his incredible Goodies such as Porchetta

Or the incredible Burro del Chianti, a herb infused lard to be served on toasted bread or used in cooking.

Dario giving it a place on honor in the shop in a sterling silver bowl, worthy of the contents.

Honor your pig!

My homework for the Slow Pig was to try to make Head Cheese, out of just the pork feet.. so is it feet cheese?

In Tuscany it is called Sopressata.
I worked at the Macelleria Cecchini for a few years, more as a girl Friday, working at the cash register when needed, creating meat sauces to sell, my own Mostarda Mediterranean, a hot pepper jelly, also catering and whatever was needed.
Sometimess that whatever was helping make the sopressata.

With Dario nothing is small. Huge kettles were going with whole hog heads and sometimes also wild boar heads brought in from the local Cinghiale hunting club
the pieces were cooked and then while still hot, taken off the bones, the meaty pieces broken into smaller pieces and then seasoned and put in cloth bags to solidify.

So in my own little way I did the same thing.
I bought the pig's feet in the San Lorenzo market and had then cut in half lengthwise.
I boiled then in salted water with carrot, onion and celery.

When the meat was tender, about 2 1/2 hours later, I pulled the meat off the bone, seasoned with some of the Tuscan Butcher's spice blend called Droghe Toscane, heavy with nutneg, allspice, ginger and cinnamon.
I added some grated orange rind, chopped parsley and some chili pepper along with a little of the broth from the pan.

I recreated the idea of the cloth sack, by using some gauze, and placed the gauze into a small ziplock bag.

When the bag was filled, I zipped it closed and then tied it as we did a the butcher shop. I poked holes into the bag, to simulate the same effect the cloth bag had. I remember it giving off a lot of liquid.

The bags were placed overnight in the fridge with a weight on them.

The next day, I wiped off the extra gelatin that was on the bags, untied them and sliced the Sopressata.

Loved it.. and served it with the spicey Mostarda di Cremona, candied mustrd fruits, giving the palate a nice kick!


  1. too fabulous! beautiful post...

  2. venexiananan6:44 PM

    You found the burro, oh my goodness, vado matta per il Burro. Where is it that they call it sorpressa? Is there a difference between the two?


    p.s. What I really wanna know is...when is YOUR cookbook coming out? ;-)

  3. Nan. am working on getting my book out!!!
    The Burro di chianti.. is at Dario's in Chianti. not far from me.

    But I see others now making some and selling it in jars.

    It is not rendered... and fabulous..

    Sopressa and Sopressata, head cheese... wherever you go... names change!

  4. Soooooo interesting! I never thought about using pigs feet this way. Prepared in such an authentic way, all these must taste great! :D Thanks for sharing.

  5. So, did you say you wanted to try my kitchen out when you came to Venice, yes? I thought you did. Well, OK. Feel free to bring along some Burro (I'll make the tagliatelle!) ;-)

  6. i have to stop reading your blog because I covet what you have, what you do and where you live.


    and I assume you speak Italian, so I covet that too.

  7. Thanks Darlamay for stopping by!
    I do speak ITalian, have been here since 1984... although I also had a cousin, who lived in Venice for 30 years, and never really spoke Italian, she was more of an expat.

    Venxiananan. jut figured out you signin name! cute!
    Always loved those venetion Z's...
    Not sure about dragging lard about from Cannes to London to Venice..that may have to be a lard specific trip!

  8. Unbelievable post, Diva!

    My mother took a look and she said it brought back so many memories of when she was in a little girl in Italy.

    We cure pork here (usually at around this time of year). We make sausages and salami.

    But you're post is incredible ... it should be in every food book that has a section on pork!


  9. What is funny is that I had to stop myself as I had wat too much information for one posting!

    I will be doing more, taking a pork break!

  10. Diva---Yummmy...pig is my favorite food of all time. My mom tried to become a vegetarian, but stopped because of the bacon, pork rib and sausage cravings!


  11. ChrisV4:06 PM

    My dream is that some day I will read a news item that they've discovered the more pork one eats, the better it is for one's health and that bacon is a cure for some, up until now, incurable diseases.

    I am loving your pork postings. Always been my favorite meat to eat. Once as a child, we were out to dinner and my father said order whatever we want. Everyone else was ordering steak. I went for the ham.

  12. Great post, Diva. I've been sick, so I've fallen behind in my blog reading. We did similar things with our pig's feet, yet came up with marvelously different results. I'm not keen on the name "feet cheese", though. How about Trotter Sopressata? Has a nice ring to it! I like the sound of the seasonings you used and the thought of eating it cold with mostarda.