If you’ve followed Slow Food for a while, you’ll know we fly the flag for natural products: be it cheese, bread, wine or charcuterie.
This is all the more true at Cheese, where we’ve been focusing on natural products since 2017.
But what is natural charcuterie, exactly?
THE ORIGINS OF CHARCUTERIE
Let’s go back to the origins of it all: the animals breeds and the practices used by the farmers.
There’s charcuterie made with meat from local, wild- or semi-wild native breeds, free to indulge in their natural behavior, who eat a varied diet of wild roots, green fodder, grain, barley, protein-packed legumes… on a farm that cares about animal well-being we get natural charcuterie, produced using only natural preservatives like salt, pepper, chili pepper, spices and smoke, and without the use of nitrites and nitrates.
On the other side of the coin there are industrialized farms where the animals are confined in cramped spaces, unable to move, play or explore. Their diet includes urea, silage, GM feed which facilitate their rapid (and unnaturally large) growth, as well as antibiotics, hormones, artificial stimulants. The products made with the meat of these sorry animals will then include starters, artificial colorants and preservatives, thickeners, caseinates, nitrites and nitrates which preserve the meat from microbial contamination and “improve” its consistency and appearance.
What environmental impacts do these two different systems have? Can animal well-being make a difference to the taste of the meat? And what should we keep in mind in order to look after our own health?
BETTER, HEALTHIER, FAIRER
There’s a lot of questions to answer. In terms of taste, we’ll try and give a comprehensive response through the Taste Workshops at Cheese.
The importance of animal welfare: wild-raised pigs – September 18
How much does animal welfare weigh on our food choices? Are there differences in the healthiness of the products we get from different systems? Is animal welfare among the elements which determine the naturalness of a product?
We present a workshop on cured meats produced with particular care for animal welfare in central and southern Italy.
- the charcuterie of Brigante Lucano, from Vaglio, Basilicata, who raises the traditional Lucano black pig with particular care for their diet: the animals graze freely in forests of oak and Mediterranean scrub where they feed on acorns, roots, leaves, wild herbs and berries.
- the charcuterie of Tenuta di Paganico from Tuscany, where Cinta Senese pigs and Maremmana cattle are raised. The farmers here take care of their animals using homeopathy, an alternative medicinal practice based on the observation of th needs of each individual animal.
- the charcuterie of the Nebrodi black pig, Slow Food Presidium. A small pig with dark coat (characteristic of native Italian pig breeds), the Nebrodi black pig is raised semi-wild in rangeland: food supplementation is only used in conjunction with births.
Natural is possible: alternative charcuterie
We all know charcuterie is not made just from pork. but what we might not know is the economy behind cured meats, why producers have chosen to make them the way they do; in short, the meaning of natural charcuterie.
Cured meats made with beef, lamb or goat meat often have the same goal of promoting pastoralism and marginal areas, creating an extra revenue stream beyond dairy products. Natural charcuterie made without nitrites and nitrates and only with natural preservatives like salt, pepper, chili pepper, spices and smoke are also healthier, as well as representing farming practices that are more respectful of animal welfare, and which are particularly mindful of the animals’ diet and growth.
In this workshop we’ll taste:
- Pitina, Slow Food Presidium from Friuli made with roe, goat or lamb
- Muscisca (cuts of dried meat) from Gargano Podolica Cattle, Slow Food Presidium
- Muscisca from Gargano Goat, Slow Food Presidium
It doesn’t finish there… The Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance and meat produced with respect for animal welfare
Beyond natural charcuterie, at Cheese 2021 there’s an importance space in our Taste Workshops reserved for lamb’s meat, produced using native breeds and with respect for animal welfare.
Two events of particular interest on this topic are:
- On September 17 Giovanni Caltagirone of 13 Comune interprets the meat of the Brogna sheep in sheep breeds of Veneto. In this workshop we’ll explore the nutritional and sensory characteristics of their meats, and the aromas and flavors of pastures. The chef also prepares an antipasto of cooked ham and smoked lamb with organic, fermented cabbage from Lessinia, acidic sheep milk ricotta, pomo decio apple and trentosso pear chutney, two ancient, local fruit varieties; and tortellini stuffed with creamed lamb with lavender butter.
- On September 19 Fabio Torchia of La Tana del Ghiro explores the possibilites offered by goat meat and transhumance in Calabria. Fabio presents a tasting which reflects the pastoral, religious and rural traditions of Calabria and nearby Basilicata: goat alla feraiola, a simple dish with a gourmet taste. The goat is one of the symbolic animals of the area, both for its meat and milk. In times past there wasn’t a farmer n the region who didn’t have at least one or two goats to provide milk for the family.
by Silvia Ceriani, firstname.lastname@example.org