Anyone who knows me knows I like pork. That means I like pigs. I live in the Midwest region of the US and pigs are probably the most common farm animal in this part of the United States. Two states away from my home state is Iowa, the second largest pork producer in the United States. Two other Midwest states closely follow. But my fondness for pigs was taken to another level after taste traveling in Italy where it would be difficult to overstate Italy’s insatiable taste for pork. Salami is very Italian and almost always made with pork. Italian prosciutto is iconic and porchetta, a whole pig dusted with a seasoning of salt, herbs and spices, rolled or folded tightly shut, wrapped with twine and put in the oven or spit roasted is found at almost even festa and street market.
I’m fascinated by Italy’s heirloom breeds like the Tuscan Cinta Senese resurrected and raised by Raymond Lamothe at Azienda Agricola Casamonti near Castellini in Chianti (Siena). The Cinta Senese are named for the white “belt” (cinta) around their midsection. Raymond and his butchers transform the cured hams into prosciutto that rivals prosciutti from Parma or San Daniele. Once endangered, interest in this ancient breed (their gastro-history dates back to the Middle Age and Renaissance) was reignited by Raymond and we are the happy beneficiary of his efforts.
So when I heard about the Mora Romagnola pig, a breed from Romagna near Ravenna and Russi, with their dark brown-black coat (mora means “blackberry, mulberry or moor”) and almond shaped eyes – they had me at Oink. In 1949, there were around 22,000 examples of the breed, but 12 years ago, this number had been reduced to less than 15 and the breed nearly disappeared. Raised in a region known for wheat and flour, breeder Mario Lazzari and a group of dedicated estate pig farmers saw the beauty and benefit of preserving and protecting this culinary and cultural taste of Italy.