There are products intimately linked to the territory and to the population that inhabits it, born of ancient traditions that still survive today, almost unchanged. The South Tyrolean speck is one of these products. It is easy to define it: speck is a boneless, spicy, smoked and seasoned pork leg. However, each of these steps must be performed in a workmanlike manner so that the mark of the sausage can be stamped on the meat Protection Consortium which, for over twenty years, identifies it as Speck dell'Alto Adige Igp.
An ancient history
Like many typical products, speck comes from the need to be able to consume a food, in this case pork, even months after slaughtering the animal. The technique originates in the farms of Dolomiti: small self-sufficient microcosms where the farmers cultivated and raised all that was necessary for their livelihood. Next to cows and chickens, pigs were never missing, animals that were not expensive to maintain and of which, as is well known, every part can be exploited. Salting, spicing and smoking were the easiest way to keep the cuts for a long time, especially the prized part of the leg. Thus, each family had its own recipe and its secret ingredients. The extra touch was given by the surrounding environment, the fresh alpine air, the microclimate that was created in the cellars and, not least, the woods collected in the woods, in particular those of Beech tree, little resinous and ideal for obtaining a delicate smoke, but effective for conservation.
A modern product
Even today, the inhabitants of the valleys often slaughter their animals and produce their meats in a traditional way (not only bacon, but also other cuts, such as belly and back). They are joined by the industrial sausage factories that still maintain i traditional procedures, only updated with the help of modern technologies. Faithful to the dictates of the Consortium, they produce for local and national markets, but also for foreign ones (especially Austria and Germany). A visit to one of these establishments, such as the one in Soprabolzano (BZ) which is part of the group Citterio (here we work the classic Tagliofresco and the Speck Bio), confirms that the production process does not differ much from what the farmers of these areas did 100 or more years ago.
The basic rules
The selection of the raw material is fundamental. To respect the criteria of the Consortium, open and boneless pork legs, which are called "baffe", must respect precise values concerning thepig breeding, the ratio between fat and lean, even the pH of the meat (which, if too high, would compromise drying). Once trimmed according to a traditional technique, the thighs come salted and corned using a "tanning" that can vary from one producer to another but generally includes pepper, laurel, juniper, coriander, rosemary, garlic and other aromas such as pimento (also called peppercorn or Jamaica pepper) and marjoram.
After a first rest (it takes even 3 weeks for the tanning to penetrate well into the meat), and a second passage of a few weeks in special refrigerated rooms, it is time forcold smoking, 5 days during which the smoke of beech wood, which never exceeds 20 °, aromatizes and contributes to the preservation process. Finally, it's time for seasoning which, according to the initial weight of the baffe, can last from 18-20 weeks up to over 30. In this phase, a natural layer of mold is formed on the outside of the speck that rounds off the taste and is removed at the end of the seasoning.
On the table and in the kitchen
The cycle is complete: the speck is ready to be sold whole, in slices or in slices. In the case of slices, the typical cut is the counter-fiber one that allows to obtain slices with a right amount of fat, which is essential to balance and sweeten the flavor of the salami. Thus presented, it is the protagonist of the typical South Tyrolean snack with Schuttelbrot (low and crunchy rye bread) and red wine, while the classic slices, cut in the sense of the fiber, make up cutting boards with valerian, pickles, black bread and horseradish sauce.
The cubes are inevitable in the dough of the dumplings, the large spherical bread dumplings with chives and parsley that can be enjoyed in broth or simply seasoned with butter and sage. Lastly, strips and matches are perfect in barley soups and risottos: whether combined with the sautéed or added at the end of cooking, cut very finely, so that the fat melts in contact with the heat of the dish and the speck releases all its scents, remaining soft. As tradition wants.
Francesca Romana Mezzadri
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