Alessandro is a fourth-generation salami producer. In his workshop in Casalalta, he continues the ancient tradition of smoke cured meats
by Filippo Benedetti Valentini
Today, just as a century ago. That’s how you make the high-quality sausages and porchetta at Antica Salumeria Granieri Amato. We‘re in the small town of Casalalta, in Umbria. It’s a natural paradise where the green hills trail off into the distance. Here Alessandro Granieri continues his family’s traditional methods for making porchetta and aged salami, just as they have for four generations.
Alessandro’s grandfather, Amato, started the company. While still very young, Amato learned the difficult art from his father. Together, in the early 1900s, they would bring porchetta from town to town on the back of a donkey. After having traveled twenty or thirty kilometers, they would lay the porchetta out on a table and sell it as a sandwich wrapped in fig leaves. It was always a festive occasion.
Today we call it “street food”. Alessandro, who works with his father Giovanni, travels the country in a van. Sometimes they go as far as Germany, Belgium, Spain. But the products they carry are the same ones their forefathers sold. You can taste their porchetta in their kiosk in Piazza Matteotti in Perugia. Its meat is delicate and white. The crust is perfectly golden, crunchy and tastes like dried hay. Beneath the pork rind there is no excess fat because it dissolves during cooking and penetrates the leaner parts, giving them just the right juiciness and tenderness. These qualities rely on the way it’s cooked – in a large wood oven lit with holm oak and strawberry tree wood – and the quality of the pigs themselves. Fed only with natural grains and cereals, they never weigh more than 90 kilos in order to avoid toughening of the meat. The intense aromas come from spices which, together with boiled pork livers, are put inside the meat to flavor it during slow-cooking: salt, black pepper, garlic and freshly withered rosemary. Then there is wild fennel, which Alessandro gathers himself. This porchetta sandwich is exceptional when accompanied by a glass of Sangiovese red or Trappist beer.
Then there is the salami, which is prepared using the ancient methods of curing and smoking. Choice cuts of meat are salted and garnished with garlic, pepper, laurel, coriander and juniper. No additives or preservatives. At the end of the salting process they are washed with red wine and hung in the drying room, where a grate emits dense smoke which helps age the salami and gives it a smoky aftertaste. This is how the “classic” products are made (prosciutto, sausages, flank and belly cuts), but also the “unique” products like the lean, salted filet and the Sagrantino salami, a true delicacy. Among the rich aromas and tastes, you’ll discover a vademecum of Umbria’s gastronomical history at Antica Salumeria Granieri.