Home | Valente and DiRenzo Family History - From Our Correspondent in Geneva (Angelo Abiuso)
Meat curing in a farmhouse in Piana delle Noci, Gambatesa
In my godfather's farmhouse in the Plain of Walnuts. This is still going on in Gambatesa. But they use a secondary kitchen for doing this, except for old people like my grandmother.
All this is from the annual slaughter of a single pig, and it is for a single family (husband and wife and their children at home). Of course they will give some of this to their children who are married and to friends.
Top left in the photograph: Parts of prosciutto crudo ("cured ham" in contrast to prosciutto cotto, "cooked ham") -- small pieces, because it is easier to dry; they are wrapped in a membrane from inside the pig, and this protects the meat from flies.
In the middle of the photograph: inside the net is an entire prosciutto (The cloth keeps flies away, because otherwise they would lay their eggs on the meat), which is the whole leg and half-bottom of the pig. It is too big to dry in the air, so they put it in the middle of a box of salt to dry it for forty days after they kill the pig, and afterwards they hang it in the air to dry. It takes 5-6 months. But it's quite complicated and hard to do; often it happens that it rots and the whole piece turns bad.
To the right: the side of the pig's neck, guanciale (in dialect: u vrucalar[e]).
To the left of the window there are groups of tomatoes. And next to the tomatoes, it is either copechina or sopresatta.
The first on the left: u capecoll[e] or brascioll[e] (You can't tell which until you open it).
The cheese is made from cow's milk. It takes one to two months if it is wanted soft, or if it is wanted hard to grate: 6 months. You can keep this cheese for one year. It's not difficult to make. You need the rennet from the stomach of a young cow (calf). It is easy to do. [Related page: The Cheese of Gambatesa]
Next to the cheese is a piece of dried meat, just salted meat. And to its right is lardo (animal fat) from the shoulder to the buttocks of the pig.
To the top right, the sausage dressed in white is from the store.
Right to left: the two in white nets are cappacola. The rest are pancetta ("cured bacon"): their red color comes from peppers; one pepper is sweet, the other hot. The peppers are dried in the oven and then made into a powder; this powder is put around the meat. Sweet peppers are used by some families (my mother's family used the sweet), the hot by others.
The decorative plate on the wall is marked "Calabria". The scene is of a woman at a fountain filling a pitcher while holding another, while a man sits smoking a pipe.
In the old days meat from the pig, and maybe an old chicken, were the only meat poor people ever saw, and they did not see much of that either. Poorer families, families who did not have their own pig, used to buy shares in a single pig, and when it was slaughtered they each received some of it. In some places in Italy there is a saying, Chi si sposa sta contento per un giorno, ma chi ammazza un porco sta contento per un anno. ("Who marries is happy for a day, but who kills a pig is happy for a year.")
Photographs by Angelo Abiuso, 21 February 2014.
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Last revised: 26 December 2015 : 2015-12-26 by Robert [Wesley] Angelo
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