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Seeking timeless flavours

Tuscany has been renowned for its cold cuts for thousands of years. Just to give an example: the great Pliny the Elder had mentioned them in Naturalis Historia in 77 BC, praising their flavour. Since then they have become one of the most famous Tuscan specialties in Italy and abroad.

Tuscan cold cuts go extremely well with our Tuscan unsalted bread, but, when they are properly made, they can also make for an incredible stuffing for focaccia bread, piadina flat bread and any type of bread.

Piece of Tuscan Soprassata - 450g

Piece of Tuscan Soprassata - 450g

Soprassata, a cold cut similar to head cheese, originally comes from the region of Tuscany and, in particular, the area around the city of Arezzo, even if it has now gained popularity across the whole country. This cold cut was originally produced in the first months of the year, when pigs used to be slaughtered; it had to be eaten rather quickly since it could not keep as long as other cured meats. To this day it still must be consumed within two weeks more or less. Soprassata is made by cooking pork cuts such as the head, the tongue and the rind, which are left to boil for around three hours. Scarpaccia cured meats, a family company operating in the middle of Casentino, only uses Italian pork and seasons the meat with salt, pepper, aromas and spices, lemon and parsley, such as tradition dictates.     What’s typical about soprassata is the manufacturing technique, developed over years of experience, as well as its ingredients. That is why we have chosen Scarpaccia cured meats: this company exclusively selects prime-quality meat and makes its cold cuts by hand. The manufacturing process plays an important role: as a matter of fact, only by skilfully cooking the ingredients, can they mix and solidify properly. Once it has been filled in jute, soprassata is left to cool down. Soprassata by Scarpaccia cured meats has a cylindrical form and its colour goes from deep pink to gray. It has a rather intense flavour and a strong scent of spices, which makes it a really extraordinary cold cut. It is a must on Tuscan antipasto platters, but it is also excellent on a slice of bread or in a salad.
7,90€

Piece of "Sbriciolona" (fennel seed salami) - 450g

This traditional Tuscan cold cut is called Sbriciolona and is made from pork meat seasoned with fennel seeds. It is named after both its incredible taste (finocchio meaning fennel in Italian) and its soft texture that “crumbles” (sbriciolare meaning to crumble in Italian). The Sbriciolona salami by I Salumi di Scarpaccia is on everyone’s lips. It is prepared and tied by hand, and its soft meat and fragrant fennel seeds make this cold cut one-of-a-kind! This salami is made exclusively from Italian pork meat, namely only coarsely minced meat from the pig shoulder and belly. Slice it up and enjoy it in a sandwich or dice it up and see how dangerously tempting it looks on a starter platter. ​​​​​​​ It can be paired with: Grilled polenta Tuscan fresh pecorino cheese
10,90€
Piece of "Sbriciolona" (fennel seed salami) - 450g

The brands we selected

Interesting facts

Which are the most famous Tuscan cold cuts? Today we are not going to talk about Tuscan dry-cured ham; no, I haven’t gone crazy, but I would like to dedicate this article to those cold cuts and cured meats belonging to the ‘peasant food’ tradition and which are still tied to traditions and customs of my region.

Soprassata, pork jowl, salami and capocollo used to be made at Christmas time or in the first months of the year, when pigs were slaughtered. It was a ritual, a party, a celebration of bounty; cold cuts were made with almost magical skills, without anything going to waste. Sadly, it is difficult to find producers which still offer timeless ancient flavours, but we kept on looking and ended up finding some!

The secret behind a good cold cut is finding the right balance between meat cuts and spices. The natural sapidity of meat, especially that of fat, must be enhanced and that’s why butchery is an actual art: being able to properly season a cold cut is not a job for everybody. Spices have always been an essential part of cold cuts, even in ancient times; spices were also added to hide the mediocre flavour of meat.

Soprassata

It is the cold cut with the most ‘peasant’ origins among our selection of cured meats. The meat cuts might be ‘peasant’, but the flavour is rich, perhaps we could say even unique thanks to its consistency and well-balanced aromas. This cold cut has peasant origins, since it was originally produced to use up all those pork cuts which butchers and delicatessen owners would otherwise throw away. We are talking about the head (that’s why this cold cut is called Capaccia in Casentino - from ‘capa’ head - and coppa di testa - headcheese - in other parts of Italy), tongue, rind and sometimes tail. Do you know howsoprassata is made?

We have already mentioned which pork cuts are used: they are all thoroughly cleaned (pork brain and eyes are not used for the soprassata) and they are left to boil for a long time. Then they are roughly minced and all the hard bits are discarded. Afterwards, everything is mixed very well with salt, pepper, a little bit of garlic, parsley (not everyone likes to use it) and lemon or orange zest.

The sausage mixture is then filled into a bag made of jute or white canvas and closed very tightly, so that in the following days the wet and gelatinous part comes out, while the sausage inside the bag becomes more compact. The key to success is the cooking process which usually lasts three hours.

In the past, this cold cut used to rest between wooden planks, which gave it a more flattened form; nowadays, soprassata is usually made in a regular and cylindrical shape. Another difference between this cold cut in the past and today is the colour: it would be best to steer clear of bright red soprassata which should actually be pinkish grey.

How to eat soprassata? I asked ‘how’ to eat it on purpose, because the way we cut this typical Tuscan cold cut has an impact on the flavour.

It tastes exceptional cut into thin slices in a salad or baked on a bread slice with some mozzarella: a mouth-watering unique bruschetta! Or you can dice it up and serve on a classic Tuscan starter platter. We also love it thick-sliced as filling of focaccia bread.

Pork jowl

Pork jowl has several names in Italian: guanciale or gota, which is how we call it in Tuscany. Either way, we are still talking about the same cut: the pork cheek. Let’s do a little comparison: what’s the difference between pork jowl, pork belly (pancetta) and pork fatback?

First of all, they are all obtained from different pork cuts. Pork jowl comes from a meat cut with no muscle movement, unlike the abdomen. That’s why pork jowl is much tenderer than pork belly. Another difference lies in the fat and lean part percentage: in the pork fatback there is obviously a prevailing fat percentage; in the pork belly the lean and the fat parts are more or less balanced, also depending on how the cold cut is sliced.

Pork jowl has a rounder shape than the unrolled pork belly and pork fatback; it is delicious thinly sliced and served on a cold cut platter. For instance, we love fried eggs served with a slice of crunchy pork jowl cooked in a pan. Or it can also be used to make incredible sauces, such as Amatriciana or Carbonara.

Capocollo

This cold cut used to be made at Christmas time to have it ready by Easter. In Tuscany and Umbria it is a must to pair it with traditional Easter cheese bread.

This cold cut is made with one of the ‘most refined’ pork cuts, we could say. As the Italian name suggests, it is obtained from the higher part of the pork neck, from which only the lean parts are taken and trimmed down to obtained the typical cylinder form.

After the salting process, it is left to age for two months in cool cellars, during which the capocollo develops its aromas. In Tuscany we like to slice it thin and serve with pecorino cheese as a starter. We know for a fact that its perfect combination is with little balls of fried dough.

Tuscan salami

Finally, it’s the turn of Tuscan salami: this very ancient salami is luckily still handmade by many manufacturers who jealously guard the recipe. Fresh meat lean cuts are used, coming from the shoulder and neck, along with cubes of fat of varying dimensions. Spices - and sometimes red wine - are added to the mixture which is then left to age.

The aging period depends on weight: small salamis age for at least two months, while the bigger ones - weighing sometimes up to two kilos - are left to age in cool rooms up to one year. Big salamis also undergo an additional treatment after four months of aging, when semiprocessed fat is massaged on the salami.

This salami - the main protagonist of snacks in the countryside - is not really used as a recipe ingredient. Its unique flavour should be savoured on its own, maybe with fresh figs at the end of the summer or with legumes in the winter - in any case, with sweet flavours which can balance the delightful sapidity of Tuscan salami.