The history of the cured meats of the Marche is tied in with the sharecroppers, who would use almost every part of the pig in one way or the other. The animals were fed with great care and were raised on mash and acorns. Careful attention to this aspect is still given today, and is one of the main reasons the meat is of such fine quality. The animals were butchered in winter when food from other farming activities was scarce and the cold temperatures would preserve the meat.
The custom of not wasting any part of the animal and the need to use even the lard in every way possible resulted in two typical types of cured meats: Fabriano salami and Ciauscolo. The former, which belongs to the larded salami category,was already present on Chamber of Commerce market price lists in the XVII and XVIII centuries with a price higher than that of prosciutto. In a letter dating back a century and a half, Giuseppe Garibaldi, then in Caprera, expressed gratitude for a gift of a low-fat pork compound he had received from which all fat and nerves had been removed before it was pounded and 120 bits of lard added, 24 of
which were cubed. It was then seasoned with salt and black pepper and stuffed into a stretch of intestinal casing from the same animal. Production of this type of salami is on the upswing again, especially in the Valle dell’Esino.
Ciauscolo is particularly popular in the south of the Marche, where it is made by grinding the lard and then mixing it in with the meat to make a smooth paste that can be easily spread onto bread. This process is used especially in the upper Marche and the inland areas around Fermo and Ascoli Piceno, where the percentage of fat tends to be higher. Aside from the technique, which calls for 2 to 3 passages through increasingly small screens, the choice of meat is also very important. It must include the shoulder, ham, belly, loin and, of course, the lard.White wine, garlic and pepper are added after which it is stuffed into its casing.
Other products which bear witness to the tradition of using the entire animal are coppa di testa, mazzafegato, fegatelli and salsiccia matta. The first of these is made with a blend of ingredients (the head, rind, bones, ears and tail) and should really be sampled to appreciate just how good it is. To make mazzafegato, pork liver is ground together with pork fat and some lean meat. Salt, pepper, fennel flowers and, as an optional, some orange rind are added. This mixture is then blended and stuffed into the casing and left to dry in the warmth and smoke of the fireplace. The tradition of these products has remained popular among the sausage-makers in the north of the Marche, the area of Ascoli and in neighbouring areas of Umbria.
Fegatelli are made using roughly cubed pork liver seasoned with salt, pepper and fennel flowers, then wrapped in juniper or bay leaves and stuffed into the netting that encases the pigs intestine.
In the traditional processing of the pork, the Salsiccia matta was the last to be made because it used up all the parts not used in the previous types of salami, that is, the bloodier parts: the lungs and kidneys, intestines, nerves, and tongue. In short, everything but the liver. Roughly mixed, it was seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and other flavourings depending on the area and its local traditions.
Other popular cured meats include lonza, lonzino, capocollo, porchetta and pancetta arrotolata, but when it comes to salamis made in the Marche, the list of varieties and types is practically endless.What they do all have in common, however, is their supreme quality. One of the most noble of the cured meats is Carpegna prosciutto, which in 1996 earned its designation as a DOP, or Protected Designation of Origin, product. Although the production zone is limited to the immediate Carpegna area, its consumption knows no boundaries as it is enjoyed all over the world. A special prosciutto flavoured with garlic, pepper, rosemary, bay leaves, salt, sugar and cooked wine native to the Montefeltro area may be less known but it is certainly no less interesting.
Text was taken up and elaborated by the pubblication “Made in Marche – 0km flavours and quality shopping”