It’s cold, snowy, yes it’s winter. The holidays have passed and we look forward to events that occur in the winter…Valentine’s Day, Mardi gras, Groundhog Day (just kidding) and what we call in my family “Il Porco”. Every year my father takes the trip to the farm and chooses his pig. His purchased pig is prepared by cutting it up in four parts. That’s the easy part. The hard part begins at home. You might be thinking of piglet that is served over hot coals seen at pig roasts with an apple in its mouth. Thinking maybe pork chops or baby back ribs? Not the case with my family.
This baby weighed in at 680lbs! The pig is the only animal that every part of it can be eaten, well I guess you could eat every part of any animal but it’s the pig that has the parts that appears to show up everyone including high end restaurants. The members got to work slicing and cleaning and slicing and cleaning some more.
Sausages were made which are dry cured and turned into sopressata. They made capicolla. They made things that would make you turn into a vegetarian or to some make you want even more!
Since we are Calabrese the technique that spawns from our ancient old traditions include the frittole, which is the layer of fat and skin that is boiled in my grandmother’s ancient vat (cadara – forgive the spelling) My father took the vat back to the States from Italy. It has to be over 80 years old.
They make something called (gelatina – gelatin made from vinegar) which stores bits of pig’s feet, ears, and snout. They make (salamore) which is the lard from the pig which is served baked between fresh bread. Family would argue over who got the tail and others saved the pig cheeks (guanciale) for the real flavor in pasta carbornara. You see? Nothing is wasted.
This annual tradition is one that is very near and dear to my family especially my father. He invites family and friends over to celebrate and share the bounty. I videotaped and photographed the three day process. I can’t say I jumped in to help but I saw the amount of work it takes to put on this production.
So many stories went around that day and listening I heard that some families in my parent’s hometown of Calabria still do this…the younger generation. I asked if it was tradition that made them do it.
In fact tradition is one factor what amazed is the other reason that with one pig you can practically feed your family for a year.
This reminded me of stories told by my mother; when they were growing up in the poverty stricken times in Calabria, if you “made the pig” it was like you were rich.
Amazing after so many years these traditions are still alive, especially in my home. It’s not about survival anymore it’s about tradition. Knowing about your heritage is one thing, keeping it alive is another!
On a final note we had a really young member involved in the process, a seventeen year old. I’d bet if anyone is going to keep this tradition alive it will be Giuseppe 🙂