Last month we went to visit brother and sister Candido and Clotilde Passamonti who make charcuterie in Le Marche. We felt very guilty that it was 4 years since our last visit so, side stepping an earlier resolution never to fly Ryan Air again we got on a plane to Ancona, arriving (surprisingly painlessly) in bleaching Mediterranean sunshine. Soon we were driving through a patchwork of brown, wintery fields that belied the warm heat of the sun.
We were on the road to Monte Vidon Combatte, a village 10kms from the Adriatic coast at Pedaso. Neither of us could remember the way but it was Saturday and, by resolutely following the locals, we found ourselves outside the Passamonti’s butchers shop. Inside Candido and Clotilde’s mum Linda – barely taller than the display fridge – was energetically serving customers, using a terrifying looking electric saw to cut ribs and separate chops. I could hardly look so we went next door to where Candido and Clotilde were making ciauscolo, the traditional spreading salami with fresh garlic and orange peel. Clotilde held the casing onto the nozzle of the mincing machine while Candido carefully guided the salami mix inside to ensure no air got in that would make the salami rancid.
Their shop and curing rooms are in a large 18th century building part of which used to be a convent. Everything in the ground floor kitchen is stainless steel or pristine white tiling but up on the first floor 2 simple brick rooms are used for curing. In one a fire in a large open fireplace helps to dry and lightly smoke the meat for 48 hours for the smaller salamis and 3-4 months for the prosciutti. Next to it a large basket is filled with branches of bay and juniper. These are put on the fire to make the smoke more aromatic. While we were chatting someone came in with a paper bag from the bakers. Bread rolls were roughly sliced to accompany our little put me on: salame all’anice with fennel seeds, fegatino with liver and ciauscolo. We loved the salame lardellato made from loin and shoulder studded with cubes of back fat and seasoned with black pepper. There was a lot of it in our suitcase on the way home.
We flew back the next day but that night stayed at I Piceni, a restaurant with rooms in Ortezzano. Chef Giampiero brought out our antipasto, a ‘misto di salumi Passamonti’ and we told him where we had been that day ‘Ahhh’ he says, ‘Candido and Clotilde make exceptional salumi. Did you try the guanciale? Did you try the prosciutto? What about the fegatelli… ‘and he disappears back into to the kitchen muttering about charcuterie. The Passamonti’s renown is widespread and deservedly so.