Wednesday, April 12, 2006

IACP- Saint's Preserve Us - Part two- Porco Maiale From Pig to Pork Tuscany

In Tuscany I am very lucky to be able to buy almost any pig part I may need to follow the Nose to Tail philosophy.

Living in a land where war raged for years, food is a treasured item, those remembering when there was none. Animals are raised and killed with respect and love as they will, tomorrow, be on the table and, still for farmers, provide nourishment and sustain them through the winter.
Although war no longer rages on Italian territory, the raising of animals for food and hunting are part of everyday life. The role of the Norcino, or pork butcher, is still needed. When one has pigs, a norcino is called in for the killing and preparation of the salami, prosciutto and spalla to be aged for the winter.

Grocery stores are quickly replacing the local markets as women go to work to supplement the family income and leave the kitchens armed by patient and loving grandmothers always ready to cook and feed the family.

The markets are home to traditions. Being a butcher is still an honored art, beginning young, apprenticing, training to finally know the animal and handle knife. When shopping at the market, there are no plastic wrappers with meat in styrafoam trays, but rather sides of beef, waiting to be cut by the master butcher.

Shopping requires a large act of faith.

One must establish a relationship with the butcher and place your family's happiness in his hands. The recipes is explained to the butcher and he chooses the correct cut for the dish.
Often also giving recipes and recommendations on how to cook it, for how long and what to serve on the side. Perhaps, suggesting a better cut, or recipe for a piece of meat that inspires him that day.

In speaking with Fergus, he stated we should all " Hug our butchers".
I always try to repay the service I recieve from my butchers, by commenting in a loud voice at the fabulous piece of meat I recieved the day before, or how great the new recipes was they gave me.. of course a bag of cookies goes a long way too!

Carpe Diem is the mantra for the market, let the seasons, the harvest and the masters guide you to subliminal bliss. I prefer to shop first then plan my menu later instead of the traditional plan first theory. Use what is the best in season, the price will be lower, and you need to do simpler recipes as it is at it's peak.

My personal mantra is to spend more time shopping and less time cooking. Following the instructions of my market masters I cannot make a mistake!
Ingredients are the most important part of a recipe, not the recipe itself.
High quality meat needs no other sauce than olive oil and salt... of course good oil and good salt on good meat.

Americans spend more money on personal property than food... Italians more on food.

I believe that the people that raise our food for us are intitled to make a decent living, and selling lower quality food requires cutting corners, using antibiotics, hormones, steroids and other things I cannot pronounce to save money on the raising of animals..

Pay more for higher the long run, your health will benifit from it as well as your lifestyle!

Let's raise the bar for all of less meat if you must.. but eat better meat!

Near me is a local farmer, starting a new service, e-breeding. You can adopt a pig online and contribute to how it is being fed and support your local farmer. In the end, you recieve fabulous pork raised with organic foods and the best of care!

Explore the cheaper cuts of meat, not all of us want pig's ear salad, or blood sausage everyday, but with good cooking techniques, slow stewing and the double cooking techniques often used to flavor meat, you will be surprised at the variety of parts you will adore!

Viva Pork Belly and Pig Cheeks!


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