Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The “Cinta senese”: Queen of the Italian pigs

There are 155 “Cinta senese” (Senese pig) farms in Tuscany (186 in Italy), mostly concentrated to the provinces of Siena (76), Arezzo (23), Grosseto (13), Florence (12) and Livorno (11). Most of them are very young companies with a low average age.

The zootechnic sector in Italy is expanding very quickly and the “Cinta senese” pig sector is one of the examples to confirm this trend: the numbers of sows and have increased from 123 in 1998 to 1137 in 2004 and the boars have increased from 25 to 258 during the same period!
It’s legitimate to say that the Cinta senese is one of the most requested porcine races in the world and of course the race that represents the authentic “made in Tuscany”. This race has very antique origins and you can find examples of these animals in very old paintings, in the fresco “Good Government” by Ambrogio Lorenzetti for example, on display at the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, there is a farmer walking with his Senese pig held by a leash. This special kind of pig is also visible in paintings by Bartoli di Fredi – on display at the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Siena –, in the Cappella di Casanova di Ama in Chianti, in un medical manual from the fourteenth century on display at the Biblioteca degli Intronati in Siena and also in a more recent painting by Giovanni Fattori.

The Cinta Senese is the forefather of all the Tuscan pigs. It is almost savage and very resistant to bad weather, for these reasons it represented a secure food reserve for the farmers and their families. This type of swine grows very slowly (the slaughtering age is never less than 12 months) and this is one of the reasons to why farmers, in the past, abandoned this race in favour of races which grow much faster. The pigs are raised half wild feeding in the woods and on pasture hills and fields. They are immediately recognisable thanks to its large white “belt” around the neck on the black body, they have a short and thin bristle, a pointed nose, sloping ears and a slanting, robust back.
The fragrant pork is optimal for cooking but it’s mainly used for the production of various kinds of tasty cold cuts. Classical are the “prosciutto alla spalla” (shoulder ham) and the “salami al lardo e il capocollo” (salami of lard and top neck); typical Tuscan products of the highest quality that you just can’t resist.
Today each Cinta senese swine is registered in a geanologic register and the Tuscan Region has applied for a PDO denomination in order to protect it from imitations; don’t forget to pay attention to the label!

For more information: Consorzio di tutela della Cinta Senese: Via Camollia, 86 – Siena – (Italy)

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