Some months ago Judy Witts Francini posted on FB that she had gone to pick up some Cinta Senese pig products from a “farm” near Castellina in Chianti, I knew we had to go as we would be in Chianti in May! If you have never tried Cinta Senese prosciutto…well, you are missing out on some awesome prosciutto! My very first sampling at Macelleria Falorni in Greve in Chianti seven years ago and I was hooked! Products and food like this are not the reason we keep going back to Italy…or is it? Hmmm….The pigs are classified as D.O.P. (protected designation of origin) a classification that is reserved for the meat obtained from pure Cinta Senese breed with certified origins that can only be raised in Tuscany. They must be free range and eat a diet based on natural grazing and selected cereals that are guaranteed G.M.O. The Consortium for the Defence of Suino Cinto Toscano, controls the genetic heritage of the animals. An old breed, native to Chianti that probably dates back prior to the middle ages, were nearly extinct. There is good news, as they are now off the endangered species list.
Judy forwarded the “Azienda Agricola Casamonti” contact information and I contacted Raymond immediately to find out about visiting the farm to do a bit of sampling. I emailed him before we left Rome for Tuscany to set up a date. I have to say, my husband was not thrilled about the prospect but I was and don’t we want to do different things on this trip?
Off to Casamonti! It’s in the country so a bit of a dirt road was involved but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. Not sure what we were expecting, perhaps a few sips of wine and a couple of slices of some of their Cinta Senese salumi and we’d be off…not so fast! Anna Rita, Raymond’s wife was our gracious host, took us on a tour, filling us in on the history of the pigs and how they are raised, where they age the salumi, then where they bottle their olive oil. Once we saw that oil and then tasted it, there was no way we were leaving without a bottle to take home even though we promised ourselves we would not be dragging home olive oil because “we get great oil from a farm in Umbria every year, so we just don’t need to”. Right…
Anna Rita announced “it’s time for lunch” fantastic: sausage on greens, prosciutto, copacollo and salami with both garlic scapes and sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, a sampling of homemade toppings on crostini, penne with a delicious tomato sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes that Anna Rita preserves every year, all accompanied by their own delicious wines L’Elogio di Casamonti, a delicious young fresh blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Malvasia and Trebbiano, a Chianti Classico C.O.C.G., a pure Sangiovese and then the Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. Riserva also made from Sangiovese grapes, there wasn’t one we did not like! Isn’t life grand? Next a gorgeous fresh goat cheese drizzled with 25 year old balsamic vinegar! Tiramisu is one of those ubiquitous desserts that turns up just about everywhere and it does wear a bit thin! Not this version, it was absolutely wonderful. What more could you ask for, a fabulous lunch in a fantastic stone loggia along with Gerry, the cat. So…not only olive oil but two bottles of the Chianti Classico for drinking in Chianti and a bottle of the Riserva to take home! We will have to drink the other two because we are heading to a favourite winery in a few days and there is not a doubt that we will be buying their wines too! And we are only allowed two each to bring home! Good thing really or we would never be able to lift the luggage!
And then to top off our visit, we wandered down the dirt road to visit the pigs. A couple even came up to the fence to greet us!
P.S.: The person who was not terrible keen on visiting Casamonti later told me “of our four trips to Tuscany, this has to be one of the best days!”
Note: I read that place in San Francisco called “The Front Porch Farm” imported some Cinta Senese pigs a few years ago from Tuscany. They many not be “the real deal” Cinta Senese as they are not raised in Tuscany and if you are not planning a trip to Tuscany, this might give you a little taste of Tuscany you may not otherwise be able to sample! Their website says they will have products available for sale in 2014…if you are in the Bay area you might want to look them up!