When I was a child every Saturday we would go to San Gimignano to visit my grandfather. We would arrive in the afternoon and spend the time walking up and down along the town alleys and small streets to greet friends and relatives, so there was no time to get make up something special for dinner, it was often a quick and easy meal.
Mum and aunt Silvana would stop by Erminio, the grocery store that sold a bit of everything, and buy one or two packs of freshly sliced cold cuts. In their brown paper shopping bag there was usually soft and delicate cooked ham for me and my cousin, but also the cook pork shoulder, the Milanese salami, or the crumbly finocchiona, soppressata and sometimes buristo. At home my granddad would cut thick slices of bread and make small pieces for us, our dinner with a few slices of ham and some salad.
Though, we’re not just talking about everyday life and childhood memories, cured meats are also a key ingredient of the food culture of a country, defining its characteristics based on preferences for spices, types of curing – salt or smoke depending on availability – and cuts of meat. It is also an interesting cross-cultural element, since you can easily find extremely local and typical Tuscan salami that are almost identical to Czech, English or French cured.
The Italian Table Talk project kicks off the new year with a really tasty theme, salumi, cold cuts. January is the month when pigs are traditionally slaughtered and tons of fresh sausages are produced, while the most valuable pieces are salted and cured for months, even years. Emiko will describe us of one of the most typical Tuscan products, lardo di Colonnata, Valeria is cooking a fantastic bowl of spaghetti alla gricia with guanciale and Jasmine approaches the topic from a different and extremely interesting perspective, that of the Jewish traditions.
As it happens every time I need first-hand information on fresh and cured meat and local traditions, I visited Luciano, the local butcher, the one that gives you a good slice of meat – Chianina, strictly Chianina, do not mention him the Argentine Angus – a beautifully marbled piece of meat for the broth or the stew, local salami and free-range chickens raised nearby. I arrived full of curiosity, and as always he captured my with his witty talks while cutting as T-bone steak and pounding a chicken breast.
The most typical cold cut of Colle Val d’Elsa is the boiled cheek: usually the pork cheek is cured just as bacon to make what is called guanciale, so good with pasta, but in my town it is instead typically boiled and then seasoned with salt, pepper, minced garlic and nutmeg. Apparently they can guess your geographical origins when you ask for boiled cheek, because it is made just in Colle Val d’Elsa, you go ten kilometers further and they will look at you in bewilderment if you ask a butcher for boiled cheek.
Along with the boiled cheek you can find another well rooted salami with a good temper, the buristo. Its name has a German origin and actually sounds similar to the word wurst. Buristo is very popular in Siena and the surrounding areas, is a rustic sausage obtained by processing parts of the pig’s head, boiling them with lemon, orange peel, sage, garlic, salt and pepper, then mixing them with blood and fat. You can also find buristo with pine nuts and raisins inside, just another version of the basic recipe. I am perfectly aware that this description may depict buristo not exactly as an appetizing food, but as a child, taught by my grandfather Remigio, I never disdained a slice of buristo with some crusty bread. That’s how you grow up in Tuscany.
I’ve always eaten the buristo as it is, with a slice of Tuscan bread, until Luciano explained me how to cook it with care, describing a typical desìna – as the farmers used to call lunch years ago – that was often enjoyed also as for breakfast.
First of all, just heat up a non sticking pan and lay the slice of buristo on it when scorching, or throw in a handful of cubed buristo. It will melt slightly, spoon it over the bread and enjoy the richness that the heat brings out, just don’t be too picky and skeptical, I am aware it is not the most photogenic food you can imagine. Then, to turn it from appetizer to lunch, just add two eggs…
- 2 slices of buristo (use any cured meat you love)
- 2 free range eggs
- A dash of extra virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Tuscan bread
- Brush with a dash of extra virgin olive oil the bottom of a non stick frying pan and when hot add the sliced buristo.
- When the buristo sizzles, crack the eggs open and pour the white eggs into the pan. Keep the yolks aside inside the shells, just pay attention not to break them.
- Cover the pan with a lid and let the egg whites coagulate: when white and well cooked, slightly crisp on the edges, gently add the egg yolks and let them cook just as long as you like. I like it slightly veiled, yet completely liquid inside.
- Remove from heat, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and enjoy with tons of Tuscan bread.
Not to lose a single post by the Italian Table talk girls, these are our Social Accounts:
- Emiko, her blog is Emikodavies.com, @emikodavies on Twitter, and her Pinterest
- Valeria, her blog is Life Love Food, @valerianecchio on Twitter, her FB Page and her Pinterest
- Jasmine, her blog is Labna.it, @labna on Twitter, her FB page and her Pinterest
- Juls, my twitter @Julskitchen, FB page and Pinterest
I’ve found that there are similar version to buristo in the Czech, English (Black Pudding), French (Le Boudin noir) and German (Blutwurst, Rotwurst e Schwarzwurst) tradition: have you ever tried them? Which is your favourite product of your local charcuterie? Just let us know! The hashtag to follow the conversation on Italian Table talk on Twitter is #ITabletalk (easy, isn’t it?).