For those of you who know Porchetta you need no further words of introduction; but for the likes of me, some description is necessary. I had heard the word Porchetta and knew it to be meat of some sort but I had no idea that is was meat of the sort that melts in your mouth leaving you with a lingering craving for just a wee bit more. Tender juicy pork on the inside and sinful, much maligned crackling on the outside. Unlike the masses in North America, Italians understand that just a bit will not kill you – it’s just that you keep wanting a wee bit more… and further to that the Italians have not worked for the past 20 odd years at making their pork leaner!
While in Fano, planning our cooking retreats we had the pleasure of visiting real live Porchetta makers Mario and his wife, Nazaria of Porchetta da Mario. They graciously welcomed us into their workshop in Cartoceto, near Fano and took us through the process of preparing the wee piggy ( hardly) for the oven.
They start with an 85 kilo pig which is then butchered, spiced and tightly wired around a rotisserie pole.
Once the pig has been butchered, a mixture of garlic, wild fennel (finocchio), olive oil, salt and pepper are mixed and slathered all over.A rotisserie pole is then placed in the middle of the pig and the process of wiring it to this pole commences. Really quite a feat of strength as the pictures below show. It takes two of them to hold the pig and then they use wire to fasten it tightly. I didn’t include the one which really shows Mario grimacing as he tries to tighten the wire (have to keep the cook looking good).
Next, is probably the toughest part of the creating this amazing meal – lifting the 85kg piggy onto the roasting pit.
As you can see from the picture not all the fat stays in the Porchetta! Once the wee piggy is secured, she is smeared with some fat, the skin is knifed (punctured) to make sure it doesn’t burst and then the beast is put into an extremely hot computerized oven which monitors the rotations and the various temperatures while roasting for about 5 hours.
The Porchetta is then taken to market, as in this little piggy went to market the very next day! People line up ordering slices for lunch and dinner, or slices in crusty Italian rolls all with thick pieces of crackling which truly melts in your mouth. Mario was very generous in cutting us thick slices resplendent with big hunks of crackling the like of which I have never seen.
When in Fano make sure to visit the market and taste the Porchetta da Mario. If you visit Cartoceto, the home of Porchetta da Mario you can also feast on the view of olive groves. Should you not find Fano or Mario, look for the line ups in many of the markets throughout Italy and take a leap of faith and devour some Porchetta and crackling.
Should you want to make Porchetta at home, it may not have the same finocchio flavour but you can at least get yourself some crackling. Check out recipes at:
Epicures or create your own.
If you are local and live in Victoria, Vancouver or Seattle then head on down to Meat and Bread as they serve a pretty mean Porchetta!