Peppa Pig in Umbria?
No, not quite.
Not a Peppa pig but Peppe‘s pig stars in this note.
When Peppe told me the December date for the transformation of his butchered pig into prosciutto, capocollo, sausages, salami, coppa and lard, I knew I’d be there.
At eighty-four, Peppe is the oldest of our rural neighbors to continue this winter ritual. And nowadays, a nearly-disappearing ritual: fewer are working the land (and raising pigs) and increasingly, Italians are becoming more health-conscious about pork consumption, the quantity of salt in their foods and so on…
On my way over to Peppe’s farm, what memories of times past and pig-slaughter time at our farmhouse.
When I arrived, the garage door was open and a huge soot-blackened copper cauldron with a battered improvised lid squatted outside the open garage door: I knew that the coppa would be simmering in the cauldron’s boiling water.
In the garage, Peppe’s daughter, Paola and her husband, Aleandro, were at work on the meat from the pig slaughtered the previous day.
Slicing pork with swift strokes, Paola turned to me with a smile and “Ciao, Anna” as I entered.
A blue plastic basin of pork meat-filled plastic bags – ready for the freezer – sat on a chair:
As Paola sliced and chopped, the pork meat was separated into two piles: one pile would be ground for ammazzafegato salami and the other for sausages.
Clearly, the pile on the right – with bits of darker meats – was for ammazzafegato salami. The name “liver-killer” indicates one of the ingredients: the pig liver (joining with pork meat and other organs)
Peppe was chopping garlic cloves…..
…… to put in a plastic cupful of his red wine: the garlicky wine would be used to season the salami, sausages and also the prosciutti and capocollo.
In a room off the garage, prosciutti, pancetta (bacon) and capocolli were laid out on wooden racks.
Peppe tenderly – almost reverently – poured wine into crevices in those fat prosciutti:
And then – just as tenderly – he rubbed the meats with lard and ground black pepper, patting affectionately the capocolli….
Peppe then packed those prosciutti generously in salt:
“They’ll stay here fifty days under salt and then ten days pressed under weight – before we hang them to age for at least a year,” Peppe explained after the salting:
And then we walked back to the stall where his aged prosciutti were hanging…
…..and below them, acorns spread out like a bumpy carpet.
I remember hours under our oak trees gathering acorns in November and December years ago. (Anyone raising pigs knows that acorn-fed ones will make the best prosciutti).
Every fall nowadays, Peppe spreads out nets under his oaks to capture acorns, where years ago he and his wife Gentile spent months of afternoons on their knees rapidly clawing acorn handfuls into gunny sacks (there was no money then for purchase of nets).
Peppe has gathered so many acorns that they cover the floors of three of his storerooms, wall-to-wall – including the room with the freezer and the steel canisters filled with their olive oil.
Back in the garage, .Aleandro was grinding pig fat for lard (Paola would use it to baste meats).
He then weighed the meats for the ammazzafegato salami and then for the sausages, for the salt used must be proportionate to the weight of the pork meat:
Paola then weighed the salt:
…and the grinding started for the ammazzafegato salami:
As it churned out of the grinder, Aleandro seemed to hug that ground meat as he gently drew it towards himself to form a pile:
He grinned as he added the garlic-seasoned wine to the ground meat:
And now, time for making the salami:
The pig intestines – already well-cleaned with the vinegar Peppe makes – would be the salami casings and were attached to the opening of another machine. Paola fed in the ground meat and Aleandro gripped the slowly- filling casings:
…..tying the meat-filled casings at intervals with strings to create individual salamis:
After tying the salamis, Aleandro used Peppe’s homemade, artisanal picchiarello (“object making little pricks”) to perforate the casings (for best aging of the meats):
Peppe gently carried the salami – each one almost cradled like a newborn – into his adjacent wine cellar for aging.
He laid them gently, side by side on a pristinely clean white sheet, telling me that “qui si riposano per tre giorni e poi, li appendiamo” (“here they rest for three days and then we hang them up”).
I noted such gentility, respect – almost a reverence – for all that Peppe, Paola and Aleandro handled during that day with them.
Peppe’s pig had also merited the same.
Read about Peppe and his wife Gentile (now ill)
Read more here about all our extraordinary rural friends
Read about visiting our rural friends, including Peppe
Read about Peppe’s astounding venture of hay-making
Read here many stories of our rural friends, rural life