Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Norcia: The Place for Sausage!

Imagine a town known for its...sausages! You might think it would be located in Germany where brats rule, but no. It’s Norcia (pronounced Nor-cha), Italy in the province of Perugia. This small town with a population of under 5,000 is located in southeastern Umbria in a wide plain at adjacent to the Sibillini Mountain range. I remember entering the historic section of Norcia through ancient walls dating back to the 14th century. One thing I noticed immediately is that historic Norcia is almost flat…a rarity in Umbrian towns that are known for being hilly.

Beyond those ancient walls, it’s all about food... artisan food. When you visit, expect to see tempting cheeses, truffles, lentils, beans, but especially be ready to see-smell-taste pork products...fresh sausage, dry sausage, prosciuttos, hams, and salamis.

Norcia is in a lovely area welcoming hikers for its clean air and beautiful scenery. It also has the reputation of being the pork capital of Italy!

The butchers in Norcia are famous for being the best in Italy. These types of pork products have been named after Norcia. In Italian, a store selling pork products is called a norcineria.

In a norcineria, you'll also find Coglioni di Mulo (mule balls)! Fear not! That's not what they really are. These sausages were given this name because of their resemblance to mule testicles. They're actually made from lean pork meat with lard in the center.

Hunting is big around Norcia, especially for wild boar (cinghiale). For this reason, Norcia's sausages and hams are made from mostly wild boar and pork.

While walking around town, we came upon a hunter's car and in the back was one unfortunate cinghiale ready for butchering.

Each norcineria uses its own recipe for sausage, some passed down from generation to generation. Store owners will help you select the type and flavor sausage you'll like best.

Many of the norcinerias decorate their shops with stuffed baby cinghiale (wild boar). If you’re like me, seeing the stuffed baby cinghiales will sadden you. Eating the delicious pork products, however, will make your stomach smile.

Taste the various sausages. See how they differ. Decide which you like best.  I assure you, you'll end up leaving Norcia with a grocery bag full of sausage for savoring with a glass of Italian wine as you enjoy an Italian sunset. Pick up a few local cheeses and a loaf of bread while you're at it. What a perfect end to a perfect day in Umbria.

- Nina Spitzer

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