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This Little Piggy Went to Italy

The workshop topic was the butchery of pigs applied in a kitchen.  If one knows what to look for and you have access to the proper equipment, curing your own meats and making own sausages can be a reality.  However, there are many details to take into account; fat percentages, use of nitrates, casing choices and temperature control are just a few.

If you want a perfect cake buying the right ingredients is key.  Real rum will taste better than imitation flavoring.  High quality flour will give you the best texture.  Real butter over margarine will add a whole new level of richness.  Somehow though people forget to consider what their meat is eating.  The better the animal’s diet, the better it will taste.  Massimo Spigaroli stressed this concept during the seminar.

Kitchens nowadays seem torn between traditionalist views and modern thinking, but in Chef Spigaroli’s own words “being modern requires going back.”  Massimo Spigaroli crafts cured meats that taste of meat, not salt, a very difficult balance.  Every choice made by his hands has a reason behind it.  For instance, natural casings in lieu of synthetic ones allow casings to shrink with the meat as it cures.  These are cleaned and then sanitized with vinegar.

Observing Chef Massimo Spigaroli impart his knowledge I noticed his hands unconsciously massage the pork in front of him, acting out muscle memory reflexes.  He walked us through the process of making a proper culatello.  He “washed” the pork with wine and garlic, two natural disinfectants that also provide a subtle layer of flavor.  His proportion of salt (22g per kilo of meat) was calculated to maximize flavor and texture without actually making a salty end product.  Sewn into an inflated bladder and cured for 12 months, the culatello was spectacular.

Each meat was paired with sweet bread.  Some of the doughs were enriched with butter and eggs; others prepared with brewer’s yeast.  I found this unusual serving choice to be quite refreshing.  Almost all of the recipes involved garlic and red wine in some manner, almost like a signature.  Hand mixed salami, wine washed culaltello and nutmeg scented cotechino graced our taste buds with a diverse array of textures and depth of flavor.  A whirlwind of information and a pork lover’s paradise.  I enjoyed this workshop a great deal and hope to learn from Chef Spigaroli again.

Stay tuned!

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