From Pig To Panini


Porchetta is a savory, fatty, and moist boneless pork roast born of a rich Italian culinary tradition. Fully grown pigs weighing in at around 120 kg (250 lbs) are gutted, deboned, and stuffed with various seasonings that may include garlic, rosemary, fennel, and other herbs, as well as the liver and offal. These pigs are traditionally then slow roasted for as many as 6 hours on a spit over a wood burning oven which produces the typical moist meat and crisp skin. Porchetta is in fact of such importance, particularly in central Italy, that it was selected by the Italian Ministero delle Politiche Agricole, Alimentari e Forestali as a “prodotto agroalimentare traditional”, or a “traditional agricultural-alimentary product”, one of a list of traditional Italian foods held to have cultural relevance.

Porchetta, which obviously comes from the word porco, or pork, is traditional Italian Italian street food at its best, and is very rare found in a restaurant. Porchetta is best eaten simply sliced on fresh bread or crusty buns, or sliced on it’s own with a nice salad and glass of red wine. Porchetta is said to have originated in Lazio, and its history dates back to the Roman Empire. This is known because its processing methods are even mentioned in some works by scholars and artists as far back as 400 BC. Porchetta was even said to be the favorite dish of Emperor Nero, who was very famous for his refined palate. As far back as Roman times, the preparation and seasoning of the pig, including slow roasting it on a spit over a wood burning fire has remained the same as today. Unfortunately though, for the sake of convenience, many porchetta producers today are switching to gas ovens which really do not give the porchetta that unique flavor, and amazing crisp skin born from the wood fire.

Although we lived in Italy for 8 years back in the 1990′s, we really never paid too much attention to porchetta at the time. In Milano where we lived, there was always a porchetta truck at street markets, or at sporting events, but I think I could count on one hand how many times I tasted a porchetta panini. It simply was not that memorable at that time and place. Since we moved to Umbria however, where pork is king, we see porchetta trucks wherever we go, and it is difficult not to appreciate the effort that goes into producing really great porchetta. At the large market in Perugia each Saturday, you may see as many as 6 different porchetta trucks, but only 2 or 3 will have folks lined up in front because Umbrian folks know who sells the really good product. Porchetta is so beloved here in Umbria that there are many festivals held throughout the summer in its honor, including Porchettiamo in San Terenziano held each year.

When we first moved to Umbria we spent one very cold and rainy winter here and one of the ways we made life bearable was to indulge in a delicious porchetta panini, and we indulged a LOT. It really is embarrassing to look back to those months and think about how many porchetta paninis we really ate, but I think we tried at least half of the producers in Umbria. Time and time again as we tasted one panini after another, we always said that the porchetta from Antica Salumeria Granieri Amato was simply the best. It had the best flavor, great crisp skin, and the perfect combination of seasonings. We have learned to limit our porchetta consumption to once a week when we treat ourselves to one panini each from our favorite producer at the market in Deruta. Over the past couple of years, we have gotten to know this porchetta producing family and were excited when they invited us to come visit their shop to see how porchetta is actually made. Read more about our winter of “porchetta experimentation” in my post Perfect Porchetta.

Antica Salumeria Granieri Amato goes back as far as 1916 and in fact now has had four generations producing porchetta and traditional cured meats. We went over to their factory one morning last week to observe the entire process from pig to porchetta. The factory was as clean as an operating room, and we were taken step by step through the process of creating the perfect porchetta. The family chooses their pigs themselves, but has a butcher remove the insides for them before they arrive at the shop. The pigs are all stamped with a number and are tested to ensure they carry no diseases before they are butchered.
The family turns 15 to 20 pigs into porchetta each week, making some to order for folks, as well as selling some of the porchetta themselves from their truck. The pigs weigh in at about 120 kg when they arrive, which ends up to about 90kg once the bones are removed. Apart from the bones, as much of the pig as possible is used, and they even clean and roast the feet (zampone) and tripe to be sold as well. Although I have never tasted roasted pig feet myself, we were told they are a specialty in our area, and that people drive from all over to buy the roasted zampone.

A Warning: I am posting step by step photos of the process used to create porchetta from start to finish. For those who may be squeamish or uncomfortable with these type of photos you may not want to view them. I feel however it is important to know where your food comes from and what is done to it before it arrives on your table, and since porchetta is such a beloved product here in central Italy I wanted to share the process.
 

The refrigerated locker where the butchered pigs are stored.

 

The deboning table. The spine, ribs, and leg bones are removed within minutes after years of practice.

 

The prep room where the pigs are deboned, stuffed, tied and prepared for roasting.

 

A whole pig stuffed with seasonings and liver waiting to be rolled & tied.

 

The rolled & tied pigs are attached to a pulley to be lifted onto roasting racks.

 

Father Giovanni & son Alessandro moving the prepped pig to the rack.

 

Pellegrino completes the final stage of prepping is to burn off any residual hair.

 

Three whole pigs and two half are lined up and ready to be put into the oven.
Each of the two ovens holds 5 pigs at a time.

 

The oven is lighted and fed outdoors until it has reached the proper temperature.
The interior of the oven is made from volcanic bricks.

 

Giovanni & Alessandro with one roasted porchetta.

 

Roasting the porchetta in the summer heat is not an easy task!
Giovanni & Pellegrino admire the finished product.

 

One perfectly roasted porchetta ready for slicing.

 

And we get to taste the porchetta. DELICIOUS!

 

The family Granieri is also famous for their cured pork products which we also got to taste.

 

The Granieri family porchetta truck at the Deruta market.

 

Ahhhh, the perfect porchetta panini!

 
Deborah Mele
May 2011

 

 

19 Responses to “Puglia Seafood Excursion 2012”

  1. 1
    Joe K — October 16, 2012 @ 6:15 am

    Thanks for the last trip of the season to Puglia and the great photos. Made me want to head over to the dock and then to the kitchen to make orecchiette.

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  2. 2
    Marilyn — October 16, 2012 @ 6:29 am

    It looks absolutely beautiful! You are blessed to be able to enjoy it.
    Marilyn

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  3. 3
    Marilyn Brown — October 16, 2012 @ 7:39 am

    Wow! Making me so jealous again. Beautiful pictures. Thanks so much.

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  4. 4
    Pamela — October 16, 2012 @ 8:30 am

    Thank you, Deborah, for allowing all of us to live in Italy through your wonderful pictures and writings. Have you learned to speak more Italian since we saw you 2 years ago? I am still trying to become more fluent. Stay well and enjoy the last few days in Umbria.

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  5. 5
    Randy — October 16, 2012 @ 8:32 am

    Thanks for this terrific entry on Puglia. I’m currently planning a trip to Italy (my sixth) for October 2013 and Puglia has been on my list for a while. Your expose has solidified for me that I need to go!!

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  6. 6
    Linda Kastenbaum — October 16, 2012 @ 8:44 am

    What a fabulous trip! Puglia is beautiful! Wonderful photos!

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  7. 7
    Rosemary Morsani — October 16, 2012 @ 10:16 am

    You made me feel like I was there. I could even taste that delicious food. Thank you

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  8. 8
    Germaine James — October 16, 2012 @ 10:26 am

    love looking at your pictures, the atmosphere in Europe is total different then the States, so many thing I miss going to the market, going here they call it International Market its OK but it looks like Mexico and Japan not what I would call International, I try to have both worlds but the atmosphere is different, so the inside of my home and my yard is my get away,so your recipes and photos is another way for me to try and get away, thanks so much in sharing

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  9. 9
    Elaine E — October 16, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

    Hello from Canada.
    Thanks so much for the lovely site Deborah. I have only recently found it and am so glad I did. I love wandering my way around it!
    It was so nice to see the picture of you hugging the olive tree! Now I have a better idea of who is writing all these super recipes!

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    Deborah Reply:

    Thanks for stopping by IFF Elaine!

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  10. 10
    Elisa Whittington — October 16, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

    How very Lovely! What a fabulous trip. Thank You so much for sharing your blessed life and adventures with us, Deborah. If I’m ever able to make a trip to Italy, I’m coming here to IFF for notes beforehand! My dream would be to stay at your lovely farmhouse for a few weeks, enjoy your lovely food and take a few drives to explore what you’ve shared with us here. By the way…… I’m getting ready to prepare your pumpkin tiramisu today with fresh roasted pumpkin from the garden! Can’t wait! Our local grocery here in Montana doesn’t typically carry many of the ingredients I need for gourmet cooking, but I’ve been training them! They ordered some mascarpone and some lady fingers for me especially for this recipe. My neighbors anxiously await trying your tiramisu tonight!

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    Deborah Reply:

    Hope you enjoy the tiramisu. We’d love to see you here in Umbria!

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  11. 11
    Laurell — October 17, 2012 @ 1:56 am

    I came home yesterday from a wonderful trip with friends to Puglia and Abruzzi. I have so many photos of the food we enjoyed. Thanks.

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  12. 12
    Susan — October 17, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

    just spent a week riding my bicycle through Puglia and visited the same towns that you visited….without the rain! Riding through the countryside, seeing the thousands of olive trees, staying in masserias and dining on the finest seafood ever was just amazing. And who can forget the freshpicked produce and delicious primativo wine.

    thank you for these recipies and the photos…keeps my trip close to my heart and onto my table.

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  13. 13
    Joann@ The Italian Next Door — October 24, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

    Deborah, how you tease us with all these beautiful pictures!! You are so fortunate! Seeing all the beautiful places and the delicious looking food only convinces me more that I just have to get to my beloved Italy some day! Thank you so much for sharing with all of us!

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    Deborah Reply:

    Thanks Joann, Italy truly is an amazing country.

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  14. 14
    Pasqualina Coppola — October 25, 2012 @ 4:32 pm

    Hi Deborah:

    these photos took me back to my childhood, when my grandparents moved back to their home town in Manfredonia ( FG ) and we were also living in Italy. We’d visit on the weekends, and nonna would be making orecchiette, or homemade cannoli. Nonno, instead would leave in the morning to get to the fish market, and bring home some freshly caught fish or octopus!

    I was able to take my family back there 3 years ago, and we stayed in Vieste for a week. My children want to know why we don’t live there year round!

    Wonderful website, I am glad my friend turned me on to you!

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  15. 15
    Susan Nelson — February 21, 2014 @ 12:51 am

    I, too, adore all kinds of seafood. This is one area I have yet to really explore. The turqoise sea, beaches, and ancient olive trees are gorgeous. Nice photos, tempting post!

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  16. 16
    Suzanne A. — January 15, 2015 @ 11:25 am

    I shared this with my mother, siblings and all my cousins. My grandfather was an Ostuni! From your 2012 and 2014 trip description and photos, we have decided to go in 2015. When is the best time to travel? We would like to walk in your shoes, so kindly feel free to further recommend additional hotels, eateries and travel representatives to assist us in our plans.

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