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The art of the pork butcher

The “norcino” is a traditional and iconic figure of Umbrian and Italian cuisine. The term derives from the city of Norcia, in Umbria, famous for its tradition in the processing of cured meats. The norcino is the master butcher, the one who takes care of the slaughter of the pig and the production of a wide range of cured meats and sausages.

The figure of the butcher has deep roots in the history and culture of Italian peasants. Traditionally, the work of the pork butcher was closely linked to seasonality and the celebration of religious holidays, in particular the period of ploughing (November) and slaughtering of the pig (December). These periods represented crucial times for the farming community, when the pig was sacrificed to provide meat and cured meats that would be consumed during the winter.

The work of the pork butcher requires great skill and knowledge of the techniques of slaughtering, salting, curing and stuffing meat. Each part of the pig is used to produce a wide range of cured meats, including ham, spallette (shoulder ham), bacon, guanciale (cheek lard), salami, sausages, capocollo, and coppa. Each type of cured meat has its own method of preparation and seasoning, which can vary from area to area and from family to family, thus transmitting a heritage of culinary traditions handed down from generation to generation.

The pork butcher‘s work begins with the slaughter of the pig, a crucial moment that requires great skill and attention. After slaughtering, the butcher cuts the pig, separating the different parts of the body and selecting the best cuts for the production of cured meats. Once the meat has been cut, the butcher moves on to the salting phase. This process is crucial for preserving the meat and giving it flavor. The butcher carefully applies salt and spices to the meat, following ancient recipes and dosages that give the cured meats their characteristic taste and aroma. After salting, the meat is left to rest and mature for a period of time that can vary depending on the type of cured meat and local traditions. During this time, the meat develops its unique and distinctive flavors, slowly maturing until it reaches perfection.

Once the curing is complete, the meat is stuffed into natural or artificial casings, giving shape to cured meats such as sausages, salami, bacon and hams. This process requires great skill and precision, as the butcher must process the meat with care to achieve the right balance of flavors and textures. Finally, the cured meats are left to dry and mature further in specially equipped cellars or rooms, where the temperature and humidity conditions are carefully controlled to ensure perfect maturation.

The butcher’s work requires not only technical skill and knowledge of meat processing techniques, but also a deep understanding of traditions and local flavors. It is a work that is handed down from generation to generation, thus preserving an important Italian culinary and cultural heritage.

Today, despite the changes in the way of life and in food production, the butcher continues to keep alive the tradition of the processing of cured meats, especially in the Umbrian countryside, even if in some cases it can be flanked by modern machinery and production techniques. However, many artisanal butchers still maintain the ancient techniques and recipes passed down through the centuries, thus preserving an important piece of Italian cultural and gastronomic heritage.

Our fascinating cooking class will not be just a simple course, but an authentic artisanal butchery experience. We will begin our gastronomic journey by learning the secrets of the ancient art of cutting meat, we will learn how to distinguish the different cuts and how to select the best parts to obtain high-quality cured meats.

Once we have mastered the sectioning, we will dive into the salting phase, a crucial step to preserve and flavor the meat. We will learn the secrets of ancient recipes and learn how to dose salt precisely to obtain balanced and tasty flavors.

But our culinary journey does not stop there. We will continue with the grinding of the meat, an important phase that will allow us to create a variety of cured meats and sausages with unique and enveloping flavors. With the help of traditional and modern tools, we’ll discover how to turn meat into delicious meatballs, sausages, and other gastronomic delicacies.

Each step of our course will be guided by an expert butcher, together, we will explore the ancient and modern techniques of butchery, learning not only how to prepare delicious dishes, but also how to preserve an important culinary heritage for future generations. After completing our engaging butchery course, we’ll treat ourselves to a well-deserved culinary break with a delicious barbecue. We will bring together the meats that we have expertly processed during the course, preparing a banquet of flavors and aromas that will delight our senses.

We will light the fire and place our creations on the grills, from tender sausages to succulent steaks, passing through fragrant burgers and tasty meatballs. The crackling of the flames and the inviting scent of roasting meat will add a touch of magic to the atmosphere, as we prepare to enjoy the fruits of our labor. To accompany this gastronomic feast, there is nothing better than delicious Umbrian wines. From the fruity notes of Sagrantino to the fresh tones of Grechetto, we will be spoilt for choice to pair our dishes with the perfect wine. Raising our glasses, we will toast to the success of our course and the beauty of Umbrian cuisine, celebrating the art of good food and friendship. Sharing food, wine and laughter, we will end our day in company, enriched by the shared experiences and ready to take with us the flavors and memories of this unforgettable Umbrian culinary experience.

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