Pino Tomini Foresti opened Dolce Vita Fine Foods with his wife, Pia, in 1978 after migrating from Calabria in southwest Italy in 1972. Almost 40 years later, the seventh-generation butcher knows his culatello from his capocollo (not to mention every cure and cut in between) — but do you? Tomini Foresti has the low-down on 10 of Italy’s most essential cured meats.
“Making guanciale — cured pork cheek — is quite simple, but the cheeks should be whole, large, and thick to get the best result. They’re coated with salt and black pepper, then they’re left for 10 days before being hung for at least two to three months. The white ribbons of fat and strips of meat, together with the peppery coating, create an amazing scent. If you love guanciale, you eat it by the slice — but it’s also renowned for its use in carbonara.”
2. Capocollo (Coppa)
“Capocollo, also known as coppa, is made with trimmed and boned pig’s neck. These are then covered with sea salt, pepper, and the likes of cloves and nutmeg, and are then left for about 10 days. Our capocollo is hung to dry and cure for a minimum of four months; that gives it enough time to develop perfume — a little bit musky, a little bit spicy — and a beautiful natural marbling, which makes for a creamy texture on the tongue.”
“Unfortunately mortadella’s reputation has been undermined by large processors — but the good stuff is made simply using quality pork. The meat is ground into a paste and thick hand-diced pieces of pork fat are added along with salt, pepper, and spices. The mixture is then put into casings, tied off, and baked at a low temperature. This meat is best sliced paper thin and eaten with provolone and bread.”
“You can find pancetta — or Italian-style bacon — rolled or as pancetta stessa, which is the traditional flat pancetta. To make it, pork belly is salted, rubbed with herbs, then hung to cure for a minimum of two to three months. Unlike most bacon, it’s not smoked, so it’s much milder. It can be enjoyed sliced on its own, diced and fried in pasta, or, my favorite way, with bread and endless stracchino cheese.”
“Culatello, also known as the king of prosciutto, is made from the best section of a boned pig’s leg — the rump. The slow-curing gives this cold cut its combination of sweetness and salt. We hang ours for a minimum of 24 to 36 months, and move it between controlled temperatures and humidity to replicate the town of Zibello, where culatello originated.”
“Without a doubt, the most popular charcuterie meat is made from beef. The texture and grain of girello (a choice round cut of meat), or silverside (a cut of beef from the hindquarters), is perfect for bresaola, which is salted and rubbed with spices before it’s hung for at least four months. During this time, the beef develops a deep flavor with rich, earthy notes, and a slight sweetness. The outside is very dark and it’s not until it’s cut that a bright red color is revealed. I love to have bresaola thinly sliced with a drizzle of olive oil and some Parmigiano-Reggiano.”
“Made from pig legs, prosciutto is ham dry-cured on the bone for three months. The legs are then boned and the meat pressed into a heart shape. They’re rubbed with salt, lard, and pepper, then hung for 18 to 24 months (or 36 for a special reserve cure). A great prosciutto should be supple, sweet, and pink-red in color. The most famous examples are from Parma and San Daniele.”
“This spicy salami paste originated in Spilinga in Calabria. I grew up spreading it on bread, and I’ve tried it almost every way you can think of — except in my coffee. We make it by mincing pork meat and fat into a paste with salt, pepper, and dried chilli. That goes into natural casings that are hung for up to six months. Chefs are getting very creative with ‘nduja. Some use it in risotto, while others use it on a pizza.”
“Lardo is cured pork back fat. Don’t let that scare you, though — you’ll fall in love with its creamy texture and buttery taste. Trimmed and squared off, the fat is rubbed with salt and aromatic herbs and spices like rosemary, then left to infuse (we leave ours for six months). Place thin slices on toasted bread and watch it melt like butter.”
“Various cuts of pork meat, rind, and fat make up this larger-style sausage, commonly made and eaten during the cold months. We like pork rind in our mix, too — it gives the cotechino a lovely coarse texture and stickiness. The mix is put in casings and left in the fridge for a couple of days to set. To serve, it’s always boiled slowly and often served with lentils. We used to have cotechino with lentils on New Year’s Day — my mum said it’d bring us luck for the whole year ahead.”
This post was written by Maggie Scardifield. For more, check out our sister site, Gourmet Traveller.