By: Sara Grazia
It’s 6am, dark and bitterly cold on a Friday morning, I’m all rugged up in my woolen beanie, coat and the thickest gloves I own and I’m off to go and collect a pig! Today is the first day of a 4 day salami making and meat curing adventure that me, mamma and co. undertake every year. This has been something we’ve always done ever since I can remember. Back when I was younger, my parents reared their own pigs on the family farm. They were fattened up all year ready for a winter slaughter, something my father got the entire family involved in (and half the neighborhood).I don’t rear my own pigs now, it can get a little difficult in a little inner city Victorian terrace so I rely on local farmers to do the rearing for me.
By the time we reached the farm, it’s been a little over an hour, the sun has risen to display the most spectacular scenery. Outside its freezing cold and blowing a gale, but the farmyard still looks picturesque as the sun breaks through the tree line.
It’s going to be a busy and labour intensive morning, there is a 200kg lady pig to slaughter, clean and hang ready for processing. I was given this beautiful white pig as a birthday gift and I’m hoping the meats I’m planning on producing are going to delicious. After seeing the size of the animal, all my fears are quickly vanquished. My mind is racing coming up with other uses for the excess meat I wasn’t expecting to have (I was expecting approx. 170-180kg)
After the pig had been killed it was taken up to the farmhouse to be cleaned. First things first, all the hair had to be removed from this massive animal. Processing an entire animal isn't for everyone, although it's a wonderful part of the traditional salami making and meat curing process. This is the point where you can gauge the quality of the produce you will be making. It will give you a good indication of the animal’s health and size. As my parents would often say "happy pigs make good meat and good meat makes tasty sausages".
It took the best part of 2 hours (maybe even longer) to get my 200kg carcass all shaved, washed down and hung. Once she was clean on the outside, it was time to get started on the inside. This is a delicate process and all the internal organs need to be carefully removed and (ideally) not damaged in any way. Keeping with tradition, nothing goes to waste. Everything is carefully and meticulously removed and put into buckets and soaked. The intestines are thoroughly cleaned and put aside ready to use later on.
With the majority of the hard labour complete and the wind not losing any of it chill, it was time to get into the farm shed and have a little morning tea. At one end of the shed was a wonderful array of salami, prosciutto, capocollo and other meats hanging from the rafters. It was like being a child in a lolly shop. I walked up and down each row, squeezing and smelling the ones I thought ready to eat. It didn't take long before I found what we’d all be having for morning tea!
It was a spicy salami, Calabrian style - I took it town and over to the farmer and he put it through the slicer. There was also some homemade capocollo sliced up on the plate that he was very excited about us wanting to try. His excitement was not falsely represented, the meat was tender with a lovely blend of pepper and paprika.
Both the capocollo and the salami were laid out with homemade bread from the wood fire oven and wine. For those more game, there was grappa on the menu too. We all stood around a barrel of boiling water to keep nice and warm in the winter chill.
With our bellies full and fingers thawed, we sipped on Italian espresso before heading back into the wind to finish of preparing the carcass. The carcass was halved exposing a lovely thick layer of fat and really well marbled pink meat underneath. Signs of a healthy and happy pig.
Once halved it was much easier to see which parts would be used to make what. With the pig being so large, the amount of production practically doubled. The pancetta alone where half the size I am, and there are two! The capocollo looked they were going to weigh in at well over 4kg, which is quite a feat for only half a neck. There was a brief moment of panic quickly succumbed by joy. I’ve been holding onto a few new recipes I’ve been wanting to try since my last trip to Italy, and now with all this extra meat I’d be able to try out at least a couple of them.
Hanging from its hooks, the pig was over 71/2 feet long, there was no way it was going to fit into the van like that, so it was cut down a little more, we weight up each section, wrapped them tightly and then loaded the individual bits and pieces into the van.
It was time to say goodbye to the farmer and his wife and take the drive back towards town to hang the sections of meat at mammas overnight. It’s now time to rest up before another early start and the excitement of day 2. I’ll let you know how we got on on day 2 shortly, stay tuned.