Category Archives: Cinta Senese

Hog wild

By Vivian Farmer


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Three month old piglet born after a wild boar broke into the enclosures for heritage breed Cinta Senese sows at Spannocchia. A straight tail and upright ears distinguishes the piglet from the pure Cinta Senese, though it has a white “belt” around its shoulders, characteristic of the Cinta Senese breed. Photo by Nadav Soroker 

CHIUSDINO, Italy–Wild boar meat, in stews and pasta dishes in Tuscany, has been used as a component of the region’s hearty cooking for centuries. However, this meat source is destroying land and disrupting the ecosystem. Intermixing of boars and local pigs add to the problem and now the scrappy creatures have taken over the area around the Spannocchia farm.

Randall Stratton, a trustee of the Spannocchia Foundation and co-owner/general manager of the Spannocchia farm has watched as the boar population has grown over the past 20 years. Today, boar aren’t afraid to come right onto the property of Spannocchia.

“At 2:30 in the morning, I looked out my window and 15 feet from me was a boar rooting up my lawn,” Stratton said.

But boars destroy the agriculture of the area as well. Boars are strong and will push under or through fences. The farm has been unable to grow cereal crops for two years now because of the invasive boar species, Stratton said.

In the 1920s and 30s different strains of boar were introduced into Italy, Stratton said, because they were bigger and repopulated more quickly than the indigenous species. These new boar interbred with domestic pigs, the offspring of which were able to produce twice the amount of piglets twice as often, Stratton said. This explosive growth hasn’t been restrained by natural predators.

“Wolves and men were the natural predators,” Stratton said. Wolves prefer to hunt docile sheep, a common animal raised in the area, rather than wild boar. That leaves men, but because of local politics, and because the farm is on a nature preserve, no one is allowed to hunt in the area.

“To not have any hunting at all is unnatural,” Stratton said.

Besides eating the cereal crops, the boar have worked into the fruit orchard, eaten the fruit, broken the branches off of the trees and have rooted around the swimming pool looking for worms and bugs.

For now there is no solution to the boar problem and Spannocchia continues to protect its gardens with strong fences.




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Filed under Chiusdino, Cinta Senese, heritage meats, MU Journalism Abroad, Science ad Agricultual Journalism, Spannocchia

Nose to tail

By Elizabeth Johnsonimage-2

CHIUSDINO, Italy– The diagram started as a rough outline. Just a snout, two little ears, a big belly supported by four legs and a corkscrew tail. Looking at this sketch, many would see just that. A sketch of a pig. But here at Spannocchia, this sketch represents much more.

One by one, each part of the pig was circled and labeled. The face, the neck, the back, the lower belly and the hind legs. Each of these parts produces six very different, but equally delicious, meats. Today, our group of food writers had the pleasure of tasting each one.
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Jessica Haden, director of intern education for Spannocchia, encouraged us to feel and smell each piece of salumi, before we took our first bites. We started with the lardo, not to be confused with lard. This piece comes from the back fat of the pig. Pure white in color and tender, on a hot day this piece just seems to melt in your mouth.

Next came the pancetta. A piece taken from the lower belly that closely resembles an American breakfast staple. But unlike bacon, pancetta is neither smoked nor served in the early morning hours. Instead, it is peppered and cured to perfection – very different from the bacon back home, but just as tasty.

Then there was the capocollo. This is meat taken from the neck of the pig and enhanced with natural herb flavors.

Finally we arrived at everyone’s favorite part – prosciutto. The perfect combination of sweet and salty taken from the hind leg of the pig. The wonderful flavor of prosciutto and its longer curing process is reflected in its higher price.

The last two meats we tried, salame and soppressata, are on the more affordable end of the spectrum. They were mostly made up of leftover parts, such as the cheeks and smaller pieces of fat, and topped off with a peppery kick.

From nose to tail, each part was surprisingly delicious.

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This little pig went to Siena

By: Chloe Castleberry
SIENA, Italy–Bacon, salami, and prosciutto are all very delicious types of meat that come from the pig, but what many people don’t realize (or want to think about) is the process that that makes these meats that we so love to eat. At Spannocchia, about 75 pigs are slaughtered a year, in the winter, fall, and spring, at the age of two years old, unlike many commercial pork operations that slaughter pigs at six months old. Most of the breeding sows at Spannocchia have two litters a year, and gestate for just under four months.

The Cinta Senese, a heritage breed found in the Siena province, has been in this region for well over a thousand years.This type of pig resembles a wild boar more than a domesticated pig. It has a long snout, long legs, and long ears used for foraging. And, the breed has a distinctive belt-like (cinta) white marking around the shoulders.

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Living the quality life

By Christine Jackson

SPANNOCCHIA, Siena – If this trip has taught us anything (and it certainly has), it’s to better consider where our food comes from.

We’ve travelled Tuscany tasting products made by people who truly care about food and sustainable living. They do the best they can to grow and produce foods that not only taste good, but are responsible. They use products that are good for people and work in sustainable ways. It’s a more difficult, but the end result is worth it.

Giovanni Fabbri uses ancient grains and old ways of producing pasta. He makes far less in a year than major producers do, but he makes a better product that’s better for you.

Not far away at Pruneti Olive Oil Company, new and constantly evolving machinery produces olive oil without heat. The cold press technique gets less oil from the fruits, but the oil has better flavor and more nutritional value.

Are you sensing a theme here? I am. Quality, not quantity, is what makes things special here.

Now, sitting at a table at Spannocchia, a farm estate in the hills of Siena, we’re closer to our food than ever. Across the yard is a wall, and below that a vegetable garden that supplies fresh produce for the meals here. Up a winding gravel road, the piglets and sows we visited earlier are probably still roaming around and trying to beat the heat in their mud puddles. The bottles of olive oil on the tables are from Sicily, but only because 2014 was rough on the grove of trees you pass on the way to the front door. Bottles of the same wine that fills our glasses at lunch and dinner sit in the storeroom around the corner, waiting to be labeled, while a season of red wine waits a while longer in the huge metal vats.

Nobody here is producing massive amounts of food. But they’re producing everything at a high quality and preserving a culture and way of life far more satisfying than any convenience. Those pigs at the top of the hill were once endangered, but now have a population in the ten thousands. Other estates have been broken up and turned into resorts, but instead Spannocchia remains mostly intact and continues to produce while also educating lucky visitors like ourselves.

This is a life I’ve never found romantic like some people do. I want to live in a big city, and I’m not what you would call outdoorsy. But I’m starting to see the appeal of a place like this. Everything tastes better, and everyone loves what they do. It’s not a bad way to live.

Not everyone can do it, of course. The world has to be fed, and no one has figured out how to produce the highest quality and the highest quantity at the same time. But it may be worth the few extra dollars here and there to invest in these people, their products and the quality of the food you eat. And even if it isn’t for you, know that there is a difference.

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Cinta Senese hogs thrive at Spannocchia

Jessica Vaughn

CHIUSDINO, Italy- Black and white belted Cinta Senese hogs roam the flower-dotted fields of Spannocchia, an agritourism farm near Siena, Italy, in summertime. The heritage breed was brought back from near extinction in the 1980s by the efforts of the current owners of the estate and other interested parties. These hogs are raised organically until they are two years of age, and then used to produce the farm’s regionally-famous prosciutto products.

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Cinta Senese: a pig of many flavors

Kaitlynn Martin

CHIUSDINO, Italy- In a cool basement of Tenuto di Spannochia under a red brick archway, hind legs of Cinta Senese hogs sway. Hooves pointing toward the ceiling are tied tightly with rope. The thick thighs are stamped in red ink, indicating quality and authenticity of the chilled, drying meat.

In Italy it is tradition to use all parts of the pig. This includes not only the fat from the belly, back and head, but also the brain, eyes, blood and other organs. To Americans who love their meat, but usually not cooked any less than medium-rare, the uncooked delicacy of prosciutto and other meats may sound unsettling.

I found plated before me on a round white dish a sensory experience that if I had been at home, I would not have tried. Six meats, all from different parts of a Cinta Senese hog, decoratively circled the plate. Each thin slice of meat ranged in colors of pure cream whites, translucent light reds and grainy browns, sure to offer a signature taste with each unique bite. As a red (and fully-cooked) meat-loving American, I was pleasantly surprised by the flavors of these meats that I would usually turn away from in disgust.

Lardo: Fat from the back of a pig. The fat is cut with skin intact to form a barrier to keep in flavor. Afterwards, the fat is put in a brine of juniper, rosemary and bay to create a salty flavor and smooth texture that melts in your mouth.

Rigatino: This is also known as pancetta and comes from the belly of the pig. It is most similar to bacon found in America. Rigatino is cured with salt and pepper and then hung to dry for three to four months.

Prosciutto: This is prized throughout all of Italy and comes in many variations depending on the type of pig. The cured meat originates from the back leg of the pig and is massaged with salt and left to dry out in cool enclosures. Prosciutto is often paired with fresh cantaloupe or cuts of pecorino cheese.

Cappicollo: “Collo” is neck in Italian, and that is exactly where this meat comes from- the neck muscle of the pig to be exact. Wild fennel is used to season the meat and provides a nutty, spicy flavor.

Salame: Lean pieces of meat ground up and added with cubed fat from other parts of the pig. Salame is then seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and wine and cased in a lining of pig intestines. The combination of meat and fat provides a range of texture and flavors not typical to the thin slices of salami in America.

Soppressato: A mixture of kidneys, head, ears and skin of a pig. The soppressato has an aroma of winter, highlighted by cinnamon and nutmeg. This meat is made right after the pig is slaughtered, which by tradition is done in the winter. Before refrigeration this timing helped keep the meat from spoiling.

The meat of the Cinta Senese pig, clockwise from top center: lardo, rigatino, prosciutto, cappicollo, salame and soppressato.

The meat of the Cinta Senese pig, clockwise from top center: lardo, rigatino, prosciutto, cappicollo, salame and soppressato.

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