Winter meats

According to farming traditions, hogs are slaughtered during one specific time of year: winter. Naturally, this is based on reasons linked to a society with that has close ties with the seasons and with nature in general. First of all, cold winter weather demands more calories and fats, specifically from animal sources to make it easier to withstand low temperatures. And there is another reason: there is less work to do in the fields during winter, nature is taking her rest and farming activities slow down too. That is why butchering and processing meats (or cheeses) become the community’s main tasks.

So, November to March is the season of the “festivals”, and the preparation of processed meats, hams and related products.

The Cinta Senese

Tuscany boasts one of the oldest swine breeds in the world, Cinta Senese. The origins of Cinta Senese are quite ancient, they predate the white, northern European breeds such as Yorkshire and Landrace. There is a great deal of written and iconographic documentation on the Cinta Senese in Tuscany (the most famous is the fresco of Good Government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in Siena). This breed –  also known as cinto and considered the oldest autochthonous breed in Europe – enjoyed good company here in Italy at the beginning of the twentieth century, eating acorns and sprouts along with 21 other autochthonous breeds. However, the advent of industrialized farming and the demand for big animals with marked reproductive ability led most of them to extinction.

Even the Cinta Senese went through its own “dark ages” (from 1970 to 1980) and literally risked disappearing from our countryside. But, that didn’t happen thanks to the efforts of a group of breeders in the Val d’Orcia area. Today, thanks to the intervention of the Tuscan Regional Government there are now more than eighty farms breeding these hogs throughout Tuscany!

Breeders and butchers shops

This is the perfect time of year to taste still fresh Cinta Senese pork products. The meat from these hogs is ideal for tender, flavorful salami and other processed meats. Thanks to the fact that the fat is evenly distributed through the muscle fibers the meat stays tender and juicy even after cooking.

We suggest that you get in the car and drive out to the hills near Florence looking for the most beautiful Cinta farms where the animals graze in the half-wild state. And when you are tired of driving – or of tasting sausages, headcheese and ham offered by breeders who are proud of their excellent products – you can sit down in a country tavern and taste Cinta Senese pork that is prepared in the kitchens.

There are a couple of villages just 20 km from Florence (and you can even go by bus) that you have to visits: Greve with the Macelleria Fallorni and Panzano for the Macelleria Cecchini.

In the clear morning light, you will see almost wild landscapes with forests and hills dotted with the Medieval and Renaissance hamlets of Badia a Passignano and Montefioralle and farms that you can tour. Or, you can walk through the historic centers of these two villages and stop in at a butcher shop or norcineria for a morning snack to enjoy the flavor of these fine pork products prepared by skilled hands – along with unsalted Tuscan DPO (Protected Designation of Origin) bread.

The Macelleria Fallorni is practically an institution among all Florentines who love Cinta specialties. When you get there, ask for Sergio (third generation owner) who, in addition to giving you free tastes of his extraordinary pork products will be happy to give a short lesson on hog breeding and the characteristics of the various items. Believe me, this store is a small, gourmet paradise for non-vegetarians.:)

After having tasted Falorni’s cold cuts, you can stop at Fontodi, Giovanni Manetti’s legendary shop for a glass of Chianti Classico, or the dense, highly structured Flaccianello an extremely fine red wine that ages remarkable.

After tasting at Fontodi, you can buy a bottle and drink it over at Dario Cecchini’s – the poet butcher in Panzano. Dario is an amazing person, bursting with energy. At his place, for €10 you can enjoy a McDario, a Tuscan burger with roast potatoes and a glass of local wine (or the bottle you bring!). You absolutely can’t skip this before you go home.

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