Porchetta, traditionally prepared, a dying tradition
Italy is known for its delicious food. Every region and certainly also Umbria has its own authentic culinary traditions and recipes. The secret to good food is mainly the high-quality products that Italians use for cooking. But certainly also in the fact that in Italy most food is still prepared manually. The recipes are passed on from generation to generation. Nowhere is the pasta as delicious as at home with mom.
However, the 'progress' does not stand still here either and the younger generation has less time to prepare everything themselves. The food industry has responded well to this and nowadays you can also buy most 'traditional' products in the supermarket. One of those traditional products from the Umbria region is the porchetta. Rolled pork cooked in the oven with herbs in it. You can see one or more porchetta carts at every market, but who still prepares his porchetta himself?
The food industry
Franco Zazzarini from Montegiove is one of the few traditional porchetta makers in Italy. The food industry can produce the porchetta for a much lower cost price and therefore it is unfortunately becoming a dying profession. According to him, none of all those porchetta carts that we see everywhere in Umbria, are still porchetta themselves.
Franco says that he spoke to a young, recently graduated chef years ago, recently hired at a company that makes porchetta. Full of enthusiasm he starts his first day at work. After all, he has learned a fantastic recipe at school that he would like to share with his superiors. However, in no uncertain terms, he is told that he must above all forget everything he has learned at school. Nothing is expected from him other than strictly following the procedures he has just received ...
Fortunately, Franco still makes his porchetta in the traditional way. It is the passion of his life. Just like playing guitar by the way. He likes to talk about it and shows us how the entire process works.
His pigs come from a small natural but non-organic breeding farm in S. Elena, near Marsciano. He selects them there himself.
Franco places high demands on the feed that the breeder uses. After all, he explains, the food that the pigs eat has consequences for the taste and structure of the meat. His pigs are only slaughtered after 12 months at the earliest. Then the pig has grown in a natural way and the meat is nice and firm. After 12 months, according to Franco, the remains of the antibiotics have disappeared with which newborn piglets are treated as standard. He also thinks it is important that his pigs suffer as little stress as possible when they are slaughtered. For that reason, he has chosen a breeding farm that is close to a slaughterhouse.
Five pigs a week
Every week, about 5 to 7 pigs are delivered to him, which he himself completely boneless. And 4 days a week he prepares his now famous porchetta, with which he is also on the market 4 days a week. He used to do that 7 days a week, but that has become too heavy for him, he says.
Today he takes two half pigs from the cold store, each weighing around 70 kg. Earlier this week they were completely boned by Franco. He places one half on the work surface and starts making cuts in the thicker pieces of the pig. Herbs will be added later, he explains. Franco then distributes finely chopped green garlic over the pig and into the incised pieces. He rubs the whole pig with a layer of coarse sea salt mixed with Tellicherry pepper from India, and over it comes a mixture of rosemary and fennel. The unique centuries-old family recipe of the Zazzarinis tells Franco. According to him, it is about the balance between the sweetness of the fennel and the acid of the rosemary. Finally he adds the boiled liver, kidneys, meat from the legs, tongue, ears and the pig's heart, sews half the pig and turns it all over. As the very last act, he makes small incisions everywhere in the pig's skin with a knife. This is necessary because the skin of a pig is not breathing. Otherwise the skin would tear open in the oven.
In the wood oven
When the second half pig is also ready, Franco fires up his two wood ovens. Then it takes another 2 hours for the pigs to get in, because the temperature in the ovens must be around 200 degrees. He then closes the ovens and lets them cook slowly for about 7 hours.
When we ask how he measures the temperature, Franco starts to laugh. "I do everything based on my experience and my feelings."
Generation after generation
After all, Franco has already learned the trade as a very small boy from his grandfather and his father. He proudly says that his grandfather Napoleone already worked as a 'norcino' and made porchetta with which he went to Fabro once a month to sell it.
There is a difference between a 'norcino' and a 'porchettaio'. A 'norcino' is traditionally someone who kills a pig and processes the pork into products such as prosciutto (ham), salsiccia (ice cream cones), salami, capocollo (head meat) and of course porchetta (a kind of fricandeau). In the past, every rural family had a pig that had to be slaughtered at the end of the year. For that occasion a 'norcino' came along.
A 'porchettaio' only processes the pig into porchetta. Franco is traditionally both. However, he has always worked alone in his own company. That is why he says 'Norcineria' on the facade.
Nowadays he limits himself to making and selling porchetta.
Have you become curious and do you want to taste Franco's porchetta? A nice porchetta sandwich if it's at a market nearby. Or just buy a few ounces to eat with your dinner. You can ask us where it is on the market on which day.