As in the past, pig farming is hardly the main breeding farm in Mugello today, even if every farm has always raised at least one pig for family consumption. The meat was mostly used to produce tasty Tuscan cold meats: prosciutto, salami, finocchiona, rigatino, lombo, capocollo, lard, sausages and soprassata. This tradition continues on today. Excellent cold meats are ever available, as well as delicious cuts of meat for cooking tasty recipes: from pork roast to pork liver, from pork chops with fennel seeds to roasted sausages.
Cinto Toscano is the name given to pork meat that comes from a traditional pure-bred pig that has been reared in the Tuscan countryside for centuries. The bright red meat is tender and juicy with low infra and intramuscular fat content. It cooks well in a variety of ways but is mostly used to produce a variety of cold meats: prosciutto, bacon, rigatino, and different types of salami.
The Cinto Toscano is a medium sized pig with black skin that is covered in sparse black bristles, and which has a whitey-pink belt (in fact, a cinta) around its middle, shoulders, shoulder blades and front legs. Its snout is slightly elongated compared to that of other pigs - surely the result of the more natural lifestyle, which would certainly not be suitable for other pig species bred indoors and raised on fodder - and the tail, which ends in a tuft of bristles, is almost always uncoiled. The Cinto forages in woods and/or on barren grounds where cereal and fodder have been strewn. Its diet is, therefore, mostly made up of tubers, roots and the other natural products of grassy fields. The Cinto’s excellent sense of smell and its strong snout help it find these foods by foraging in marshy areas and in upturned ground. Its ears are small and directed frontward and down to protect its eyes from the thorn bushes and bush wood under which they often graze.
For some years now breeders and butchers have come together in a Consortium to protect the name and quality of Cinto Toscano pork and have asked that it be given a special DOP (protected origin) status. Although this status has yet to be granted by the European community, the meat has been awarded a Protezione transitoria nazionale (national transitory protected status), which allows consumers to buy quality meat that is produced exclusively with pure-bred Cinta Senese animals raised in the wild or semi-wild. It is the first step to gaining the much deserved DOP status.
The Cinta Senese breed has extremely ancient, but rather uncertain, roots. We first find testimony of its existence in the Buon Governo fresco, dated 1338, by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, which is found in the Palazzo Comunale in Siena. From the moment it was introduced into the Senese territory, this pig became widely appreciated for its robust stamina and its ability to be reared in a wild state. Until 1950, almost every farm house had at least one Cinta pig to rear, and from which they then made cold meats.
In the ‘50s “white” pig breeds, which are not suited to being reared in a wild state, but which are surely more prolific and ready for butchering at just 6 months of age, were introduced. The Cinta, on the other hand, must be reared for over a year before it is ready to be butchered. In the past few years, starting at the end of the 70’s with a campaign to save the breed from extinction, there has been a rising interest in bringing back the purity of the Cinta Senese. It is highly sought after for its pork and is the symbol of a farming technique that totally respects nature.
The Cinto Toscano DOP Prosciutto
Cinto prosciutto is intense red meat with low infra and intramuscular fat content, and firm white sub skin fat with light pink lines running through it.
The quality of the Cinto prosciutto, which has fine tasting meat – less salty than Tuscan prosciutto, with a touch of wild game to it, and an oily yet firm fat - is definitely due to the fact that these pigs are reared in a wild state and live on tubers, roots and acorns, especially the sweeter common oak and the bitter Holm oak acorns.
These provide the animal with nourishment through most of the year.
How it is produced
Cinto prosciutto is made exclusively from the meat of Cinto Toscano DOP butchered at 12-15 months. After trimming, the prosciutto is salted on wood boards, then desalted, set in a cold-storage room and peppered. It is matured on characteristic wooden shelves.
Cinto Toscano DOP Pork Salami
The casing of this weighty salami - 500 grams to 2 kilos in size - is made of genuine entrails. The salami is hard and dark red with a strong aroma.
How it is produced
Cinto Toscano DOP certified pork, from animals butchered at 12-15 months, is used to make this delicacy. The lean meat, which is minced finely, and the fat, in cubes, are mixed together with salt, grains of pepper, red wine, garlic and sugar. The mixture is then stuffed into pig or beef entrails. The salami is matured from 20 days to 12 months depending on the size. After a period of 4 months, the bigger salamis are rubbed down with treated fat. This helps prolong the maturing stage and therefore intensify the taste.
Where it is produced
Numerous breeders in Mugello are members of the Consorzio di Tutela del Suino Cinto Toscano DOP (an association for the conservation of the product), and produce certified pork, but only one uses Cinto Toscano to produce the traditional prosciutto, salami, finocchiona, rigatino, lombo, capocollo, lard, sausage and soprassata.