The Cinta Senese Pig Breed

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pig-cinta-seneseThe “Cinta Senese” is a traditional breed of pig marked with a characteristic white stripe, or belt, “cinta” in Italian, from its withers to its forelegs. The breed has a centuries long history in the region as a cheap source of protein for Tuscan farmers. An extremely hardy animal, it was always bred in a semi-wild state, feeding almost entirely on what grew in the woods, rarely denting the pockets of the farmers. The Cinta Senese was forgotten during the 1950s when pigs with a more rapid growth rate were favored, and as reduced to very small numbers. It reappeared on the market a few years ago thanks to a group of dedicated Tuscan breeders, some of whom have united in the association “Compagnia della Cinta” based at the agricultural estate of Massanera. Because of its free-roaming life, Cinta Senese grows much more slowly than its farmed cousins. Its meat, however, is far tastier. The fat, which literally melts in the mouth, confers a particular aroma to the leaner meat unlike any other animal fat, and sometimes you can even recognize traces of the scents of the fruits which the animals have fed on. As is true for pigs, all parts of the Cinta are used. Particularly excellent products are the soppressata or soprassata, made from the boiled head and rind; the salame, finocchiona, and sbriciolona, all made from a judicious mixture of different parts of pig. The difference in flavor compared to those products made using pigs reared in sties can be appreciated even more in the purer products: prosciutto, spalla or shoulder lard, pancetta or bacon, guancia or cheek, capocollo and in the filetto or lonzino. It is a few years now that the Compagnia della Cinta has been marketing these delicacies through its consortium, and guarantees them with its own registered mark.
Whenever you have the chance to taste this wonderful meat, take advantage. You will probably need to be in or around Siena to have this opportunity, another reason to make your next trip to Tuscany