The pig. Where would we be without this generous animal? The diverse flavors created by the, in my opinion, underappreciated swine, are precious to life. I do not want to think about living in a world without prosciutto, mortadella, or guanciale, to name a few. So I won’t. Instead in this series of blogs, I will take the time to revere this creature who has added much to cuisine around the world. “Moi?” (cue Miss Piggy’s voice). Si, tu! Come, let’s get piggy with it.
As you may have heard, Casa Mia is expanding to Northern Italy this year. We are beyond excited and look forward to bringing our clients, and their palates, great joy with these experiences. It seemed only right to report back on the salumi scene in these new areas so let’s start there, shall we? Allow me to introduce you to my new friend, sopressa.
What is sopressa?
Sopressa. No, not soppressata – one less syllable, one less P, S and T. However, these two salumi are in fact cousins. Sopressa is purposely named differently to distinguish it from the other soppressata salami, which are instead typical of Southern Italy. Sopressa is a beautifully balanced pork log that I happened across at a wine tasting at a gorgeous vineyard in Valpolicella. The way that this aged meat paired with these wines was nothing short of a dream. Once again, I digress. Sopressa, one of the gems of Northern Italy!
Where does it come from?
Sopressa hails from the Veneto region in Northeast Italy. There are many recipes that surround this particular gift of the pig which include various spices, herbs, and in some cases, red wine. However there is one such sopressa, the famous one, that is protected under Italian Law – the Soprèssa Vicentina D.O.P. This particular sopressa is produced only in the province of Vincenza. The environment that is created by the specific geographic harmony between the little Dolomites, the Asiago Plateau and the Berici Hills has allowed for the elevation of this sopressa to D.O.P. status. Of course with D.O.P. designation, this salumi must follow the rules and regulations otherwise, it is NOT worthy of the name. I did not have the opportunity to taste this one, but I will be back to check that off my pig list.
How is sopressa made?
Sopressa is made primarily form the shoulder, leg, and neck of the mighty pig. These portions are ground up and to this mixture, spices and herbs such as cinnamon, cloves, and rosemary are added. Naturally garlic finds its way into this mixture as well, yet in an understated and delicate way. Sopressa can be made spicy as well with the addition of hot peppers and other recipes also call for the addition of red wine. Sopressa truly is an expression of its maker.
Once the ingredients are initially blended together, they are then allowed to rest, to age for a few days. After such time this process is repeated; mixing, adding more spices, herbs, wine, then it rests again to age. This is practiced over a few weeks before the mixture is hand pressed into the log shape. This is done initially to rid the sopressa of any air pockets that would be detrimental to its aging. The mixture is then stuffed into natural casings and allowed to air dry.
What’s in a name?
By now we know the Italians are clever and utilize words very well. The word “pressare” in Italian translates “to press.” If you read the preceding paragraph then this should all make sense to you. Enough said.
How do you use sopressa?
Obviously this delight deserves its rightful place on the charcuterie board with cheese from the same area – what grows together goes together. However, there are other ways to enjoy this gem. If you happen upon some fresh, still warm, bread in the morning, top it with sopressa and consider yourself a golden god for the day. Try slicing it up and placing it on warm polenta or white beans and rosemary for lunch or a light(ish) dinner. You cannot really go wrong here.
The “I Ham What I Ham” blog series has quickly become a favorite of mine. Salumi is a way of life in Italy. It is a staple in every region and clearly speaks to the regionality of food in this beautiful country. Thank God we are expanding north, or I would not have know that this particular delicacy, sopressa, existed.
Please keep an eye out for our upcoming experiences in the North! We look forward to bringing you to Italy to explore your palate in the delicious world of salumi!