The discovery of fifty thousand sets of animal bones, most of them pigs, from the 5th century B.C. in the area of Forcello shows that the Etruscans bred and ate the animal in the Oltrepò mantovano. It may even have been them who started local cured meats production.
There are two different kinds of pigs farmed in the area: the suino leggero (light pig) and the suino pesante (heavy pig). The suino leggero can weigh up to 100-120 kg and it is slaughtered at around six months. Its meat is lean and delicate. The suino pesante, and especially the pesante padano, can weigh up to 150-160 kg and is slaughtered at around ten months. The breeding of this type of pig is widespread in the Oltrepò mantovano, and its prized meat is used for fresh consumption, as well as in ham and charcuterie. It is because of this that the meat must reach a certain maturity in order to retain its juices, be free from odd tastes and smells, and have an appropriate fat content so as to allow the proper development of flavour during the cooking and curing processes.
maialata These were celebrations in the countryside in which the entire pig was prepared. This tradition is maintained in restaurants and holiday farms with meals based around different parts of the pig, including the bones!
There are an average of five pigs per person in the Oltrepò.
St. Anthony is often shown with a pig. It originally represented the evil that the Saint took away with his stick, but the pig was too good and popular imagination has changed its meaning. Now St. Anthony is the patron of all farmyard animals, farmers and even butchers!
You will need a fresh Mantuan salami to make the typical dish . One that has just been prepared and stuffed into an intestine, which is the thicker part of the gut due to its two layers with a thin layer of soft light that keeps its contents soft. The salami should be drained for a week to ensure that it contains no water, and then wrapped in baking paper – straw and leaves were once used – and baked for between an hour to an hour and a half: burning embers, ash , salami, ash and more embers. Beech wood is generally used for the fire . Other types of clean wood that make embers can be used. Poplar, for example, only makes ashes. When it is opened up and sliced, the meat is lean and tender and “gives out a scent that makes you want to sit down and eat immediately”. It is excellent served with some slices of polenta.
SALAME CON LA LINGUA Made from fatty and lean cuts of meat minced together with the tongue – which has already been salted or cut into cubes – hard fat, salt, pepper and spices: cloves, cinnamon, juniper, mace and bay.
COPPA Made from salted and seasoned pork loin, wrapped up in intestines.
PANCETTA Made from pork belly, consisting of alternate thin layers of fat and meat.
SALAMELLA A sausage made from a mixture of lean shoulder and fatty parts from the belly and ham. It is minced, salted and seasoned with garlic and pepper, then stuffed into cased and strung. It needs to be cooked.
SALAME MANTOVANO Made from coarsely chopped meat, flavoured with pepper and fresh garlic. It is stuffed into natural casings and aged from between two and six months, depending on the size.
GREPPOLE Made from melted pig fat, which is fried and salted, then flavoured with rosemary, bay and pepper. They have a crunchy texture, depending on how long they have been cooked.
COTECHINO Made from meat and fat taken from the snout and throat. It is seasoned with salt, pepper and spices.
GRAS PISTÀ Fresh lardo hand chopped and flavoured with parsley and garlic. Served with hot or grilled polenta.
PROSCIUTTO Made form the legs of the pesante padano pig. It is seasoned for twelve or thirteen months. It has a particularly sweet and delicate flavour.