Some time ago I went out for dinner with some relatives in Italy. We went to a local “agriturismo” which is a farm house resort with a restaurant which will only serve food that has been mainly made on the premises. By Italian law an agriturismo will serve foods prepared from raw materials produced on the farm or at least locally.
We enjoyed the food very much and afterwards we asked to visit their cantina, which is the cellar where they keep their salami, hams and wines to serve to their customers. They will slaughter a pig every week so all the meat they serve will be very fresh. Fresh cured meat tastes different to one that’s slightly older. Both are very nice but they have a different texture altogether. The fresh one will just melt in your mouth.
The classic Italian cantina is just like this one. In rural areas there are still many farmers who would rear a pig, slaughter it and make cured meats to store in their cellar which is a cool and dark place where you hang up the meat so that it will keep well for a long time.
What you see here hanging up below is the Italian pancetta known as “Italian bacon” which originates from the belly portion of the pig but unlike bacon it is not smoked but cured using various spices, salt and pepper. There are different types of pancetta and they differ from region to region. Pancetta is cured just enough to allow for some moisture to remain then it is hang up to rest for up to two weeks in a cool cantina.
One of the most popular pasta sauces made with pancetta is the Carbonara . So tasty!
Salami is made from mince, fat, spices, salt and pepper. Freshly made salami can be cooked with vinegar and this is a very popular dish in Friuli Venezia Giulia.
And this is soppressa which is similar to a salame, traditionally made in Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia; it uses the shoulder and the leg of the pork and red wine to flavour it (along with spices, salt and pepper). It is also aged for longer, up to a year.
So would you like to come and visit a cantina? Italians will often give you a taste of the meat along with a generous glass of red wine.. Definitely worth it!