Today, we’ll analyze a salame (singular for salami) as part of our “foodpedia,” a segment that offers insights on various products intended to protect consumers and guide them toward a practical and safe purchase. The name of today’s products is “Pitina.”
Farmers created Pitina in the rugged valleys in the province of Pordenone, Northwest Friuli Venezia Giulia. Pitina is a unique product that is halfway between a cured meat and a giant meatball (only in appearance). The intense wild flavors and the long history recognized the works with the coveted Indication of Protected Origin (IGP), issued by the European Union.
Made around the 15th Century, Pitina is enjoying a recent revival in the 20th Century. However, there are no doubts that the salame was created based on the necessity of preserving the scarce meat available during winter months. Pitina is obtained by deboning and shredding the flesh of chamois (goat), roe deer, sheep, or a goat that was sick or wounded and had to be slaughtered. The primary reason is to preserve the meat quickly and consumed later in the year during harsh winters.
Furthermore, its preparation does not require particular techniques and equipment and is often produced in the most isolated huts. In the past, the alpine shepherd used a wooden container called “pestadora” from pestare, the word associated with smashing something like pesto. The mixture is worked by hand while adding salt, pepper, garlic, and various alpine herbs. Occasionally, even a glass of red wine finds refuge in the mix. It is shaped into a slightly crushed meatball covered with cornmeal and placed in a unique room dedicated to the smoking period, mainly carried out with beech wood and juniper. The exterior color may take on a variable color from golden yellow to brown, based on the seasoning period’s length. The use of cornmeal is attributed to the fact that casings were not available or not considered.
The distinctive element of Pitina is in its savory and robust flavor with a pleasant aroma of smoke and mountain herbs, sometimes softened by the addition of pork or pork lard, a methodology introduced in modern times, to counteract the wild taste of the meat. When you cut into Pitina, you’ll witness a slight and very fine-grained texture with a variable color from bright red to intense burgundy. The outside is darker than the inside due to the oxidation process.
The cured meats go through an aging period of at least 30 days. The production season runs between September and June because sheep and goats roam in the pasture the year’s remaining time. A similar procedure is applied to preparing two other exciting variations with Peta and Petuccia, which differ fundamentally in appearance. For example, Peta is more substantial in size and aroma, but the two share identical flavors and structure.
Through time, Peta and Petuccia have undergone substantial changes to meet the most modern palates’ taste, whereas Pitina has substantially remained faithful to the original recipe.
At the end of the curing period, Pitina is excellent eaten naturally, cut into slices, just like salami. However, it is equally pleasant as an ingredient in many local recipes—like grilled Pitina, or seared in vinegar and served with polenta. Added to potato soup, for a rich enhancement or made al cao, a unique process of cooking Pitina in freshly milked cow’s milk.
Pitina is produced exclusively in three valleys in the province of Pordenone, lying between the Piave and the Tagliamento rivers. The alpine territory dominates the high western Friuli plain, in the municipalities of Andreis, Barcis, Cavasso Nuovo, Cimolais, Claut, Erto Casso, Frisanco, Maniago, Meduno, Montereale Valcellina.
Each of the three valleys boasts its particular beauty: Val Tramontina, for example, strikes for its enchanting and uncontaminated scenery, Valcellina looks like a deep and winding gorge carved among the rocks eroded by the icy alpine waters, while Val Colvera surprises with its splendid gorge with overhanging walls. I can end this writing by telling you that, as of now, we do not have Pitina in the USA, but the consortium has filed the necessary documents for acceptance by the USDA. I think we will be justly rewarded.