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Prosciutto di cinta senese

Categories: Product of the week

A rich, intense ham from an ancient breed of pig

When it comes to gastronomy, the Italians excel at many things—wine, pasta, coffee, cheese—but high on the list is its delicious and regionally distinctive cured meats. Prosciutto di cinta senese is a case in point.

“There are many types of regional air-dried Italian hams, Parma ham being the most famous, and most are made in a similar way,” Philip Crouch, owner of The Parma Ham and Mozzarella Stand, explains. “They are butchered, salted and left to hang for any time up to three years. What makes the prosciutto di cinta senese special is the breed of pig it comes from.”

The cinta senese pig, which translates literally as ‘belted from Siena’ in reference to the ‘belt’ of lighter hair round its middle, is an ancient breed of pig and the only Tuscan native to survive extinction, thanks to its presence in the Slow Food Ark of Taste and the local farmers that work tirelessly to protect it.

Trusted butchers
“We get most of ours from Guido Nenna’s farm in the town of Rivalto, Chianni,” Philip continues. They’ve been breeding cinta senese pigs since 1994, and use only trusted local butchers who use “minimal chemicals” and work strictly to DOP production regulations to “allow secure traceability of the finished product of our Cinta,” writes Guido.

The pigs are allowed to roam freely on open pastures and in woodlands, grazing on oak and holm oak acorns and herbs, lending the meat a distinct flavour. “It’s very rich and intense—much stronger than the sweeter, milder Parma ham, and much darker in colour,” says Philip. “It has quite a high fat content, but that’s what makes it special.”

Slaughtered at three years old—“a relatively long maturation period; they’re not intensively reared”—the meat is then cured naturally and aged for anything between 12 months and two years, before being delivered direct to Borough.

Beautifully cut
“Hams can either be boned and cut on the slicer, or placed whole on a stand and cut manually with a knife. We choose to do it by hand: it’s a special ham and quite expensive, and Andrea Orsini on the stall is a specialist in the field,” says Philip with pride. “He’s from Pisa and he cuts it beautifully.”

When it comes to serving this special Italian charcuterie, we’re reluctant to put it on a plate with anything overpowering, but a full-bodied red wine, advises ham-slicer-come-sommelier Andrea, provides the perfect pairing—naturally. “I would suggest serving it with a glass of chianti classico, which is made from the indigenous Tuscan sangiovese piccolo grape, from Borough Wines.” We also suggest some crusty ciabatta from Bread Ahead, a hunk of Italian cheese—and a spot in the sunshine to enjoy it in.­