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Norcia - Pork Heaven

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March 11, 2015 / Italian / By
Anna

Warning here - vegetarians, animal rights activists and people of certain religious persuasions, better look away now.


The town of Norcia (Roman Nursia), perched on the western slopes of the Appenine mountain range in Italy’s Umbria region, has a number of claims to fame, chief amongst which is being the home to Italian style cured pig-meat. That’s right; if the Norcians are to be believed, salami, coppe (also called capicola), pancetta, guanciale, sopressata et al - all originated in Norcia (or ancient Nursia). Throughout Italy, any specialist butchery that sells only cured pork products is called a norcineria - the Italian equivalent of the French charcuterie.

In a recent episode of BBC’s “Italy Unpacked - Series 2, Episode 2”, Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli rhapsodised over the Norcian countryside’s rich soil, which is used to free-range raise Norcia’s pig population. “If I were a pig,” said Locatelli, pointing to the beautiful countryside, “I would want to be a pig here!”

So pig heaven; a short, but blissful life in the fields, but it does inevitably lead to the butcher’s block. Hopefully, in the spirit of Douglas Adams’s “Restaurant at the End of the Universe”, all done in the best possible traditions of humanity.

As you stroll through this small, but delightful town, there’s no doubting (as you can see from the head picture in this article) what the area’s main raison d’être is. Shop keepers will call you in to sample their wares. Deals abound - one salami (deer/cervo, or wild boar/cingiale) for €5; two salami of any flavour for €9 and so on. Cojoni di Mulo? Don’t worry: they’re not real testicles, nor do they come from mule-meat. It’s only the shape of the sausage that gives them their name. You can see all this and more here.

 

But the pig-meat industry isn’t Norcia’s only claim to fame. It’s also the birthplace of Saint Benedict, a revered Christian saint and founder of the Order of the Benedictine monks. His statue occupies stage centre in the town’s main piazza. Even better, in recent years, the Benedictine monks in Norcia have revived their ancient craft of brewing beer. So along with your lunch, which will undoubtedly feature either hot or cured pork dishes, you can also sample a Norcian beer - chiara (a clear, lager style beer) or scura, (a rich dark chocolatey beer that is especially good in winter).

Better make sure you have a sober driver to get you back down the mountain though, because these beers are strong - they have an alcohol content around 10%. That which makes them so nice to drink also makes them dangerous - especially if you are used to standard 4.5 - 5% beers. It’s probably best to treat them like wine; one glass, rather than one whole bottle. And do eat something alongside.

If you are staying in Norcia for lunch, do try a dish made with Castellucio lentils. These green lentils are grown further up the mountain road in the upland plains surrounding the small town of Castellucio and are prized all over Italy for their uniqueness of flavour.  



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Country: Italy

Province/State: Umbria

City: Norcia

Address: N/A

Zip/Post Code: N/A

Location Tips: N/A

Phone: N/A

Website:N/A

Price Guide:N/A (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
$ = street food, fast food,etc
$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

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