The beginning of December has brought with it the first nip in the air, and also some seasonal comforts including Carlo Pieri’s soppressata.
Only made between November and March, this brawn (also known as head cheese or formaggio di testa) uses the head, tongue and rind of the pig, which are boiled in water for up to five hours before being mixed with garlic, orange and lemon peel, cinnamon and nutmeg, then stuffed into cases and chilled until set.
Many regions of Italy have their own styles of this traditional winter dish. The version typical of Marche includes olives and almonds while in Piedmont brawn is made with pine nuts and peperoncino; this is thickly cut and served warm on a bed of roasted onions as a main course. The citrus in Carlo Pieri’s brawn is particular to Tuscany, where it is served thinly sliced with bread.
From the Asti province in Piedmont comes our other special, Mauro and Chiara Cassetta’s salame rustico. Due to its damp climate this region is known for its small salami, and the rustico is the largest the sibling butchers make. Weighing 1kg and cured for five months, it is seasoned with garlic and the local barbera wine, which is also used in their popular salame al barbaresco.
The Cassettas also use honey to aid the fermentation of their salame. While a sugar is traditionally added to feed the lactic acid-producing bacteria early in the process that will fight off bad bacteria as the salame dries, honey is very unusual.