Ciccioli

Somehow it didn’t seem that life could get much better. I was in class touring food producers in the Italian region of Emilia Romagna. This is the land of Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (balsamic vinegar), lambrusco and ciccioli. Ciccioli? Well, this particular food can be a bit off-putting. Let me tell you a little about it.

We were at the “Cicciolo D’oro” association for demonstrations on pig butchering, salumi making, pasta making, and to enjoy a meal with the members of this association. A half of pig lay on the stainless steel table when we arrived and we were introduced to the men who would break this down into parts for making salumi and other meat items and to the women who would show us how to make pasta. Some of this was review for me as I had a similar pig experience in Minneapolis and we had been taught how to make pasta the evening before, but there was one new addition…ciccioli.

Ciccioli begins as a big section of the pig’s back fat. The fat is cut into cubes. The cubes are then taken outside and dropped into a very large pot over a very large flame where they are melted and then rendered for a couple of hours.

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When the cubes get golden brown they are scooped out of the pot into a large cloth where they are wrung out by two men twisting the cloth around the fried fat and then the contents is sprinkled with a salt and seasoning mixture.

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Then the golden cubes are put into a metal cylinder press with large holes, a metal disk is placed over them and they are pressed down, another layer of fat cubes is added, another metal disk, and it is repeated one more time. Then the top is put on the press and the entire contents are pressed down squeezing out all of the liquid fat and leaving only the browned ghosts of the fried fat cubes behind.

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The four “cakes” formed by this press are broken up into pieces and served.

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The whole idea of what you are eating is pretty disgusting. But, if it is so disgusting why is it that the package of ciccioli they presented each of us at the end of the evening is gone? Entirely eaten! It has something to do with the taste combination of crispy, salted, seasoned pork fat that is irrestible. Healthy? I’m guessing that it isn’t but that’s what walking 6 km to school every day is for.

Ciccioli, a new food to be looking for.

Ciao!