I have received a few emails asking me what the small animal I am holding in my arms in the photograph I used in the introduction to the blog is. It is not a mysterious creature, it is a 2 month old piglet of the Cinta Senese breed that we raise on our farm. Let me give you some background information on this animal.
The Cinta Senese is a very particular breed of pigs that risked extinction up to the end of the 1990’s. It owes its name to its black coat with a white sash (called a Cinta in Italian) that runs across its shoulders, sides and front legs. Medium in size (adult pigs run between 160-200 Kgs in weight), it has sturdy limbs, long ears that cover and protect its eyes from branches and a long snout with a very thick grout that allows it to dig in the dirt at ease. These characteristics allow it to live as a free range animal in the woodlands of Tuscany.
The breed is native to the Tuscan Region and in particular to the mountainous areas near Siena and dates back prior to the middle ages. A Cinta Senese is depicted in the fresco by Ambrogio Lorenzetti dating back to 1337 (called the Buon Governo) in the Palazzo Comunale in Siena’s Piazza del Campo. It was a popular farm animal probably due to its heartiness and easy adaptability to all types of outdoor habitats.
At my farm, Casamonti, near Castellina in Chianti, we were among the first group of breeders who decided to try to rescue the breed from the extinction list. I was one of the founding fathers and later President of the Consortium that was founded to protect the genetic heritage of the Cinta Senese breed. The Consortium’s purpose was to save the race and to promote and guarantee the origin and distribution of the products obtained from this spectacular breed of animals. The Consortium applies the most stringent breeding rules of any other similar breeding organization in Europe.
This breed is now off the endangered species list and its meat was recently awarded the D.O.P. classification from the European Community as a product of high quality tightly tied to tradition and is now listed among those culinary excellencies that render Tuscany and Italy so famous around the world.
The D.O.P. is classified as “Suino Cinto Toscano D.O.P. tipo Genetico Cinta Senese” and is reserved to the meat obtained from animals of pure Cinta Senese breed with certified origins that can only be raised in Tuscany and must be free range and fed with a combination of natural grazing and selected cereals, guaranteed as free from all genetic modifications.
The piglets are certified just after birth and provided with an ear tag that lists their genetic background. The fresh meats they provide are transformed into those products that are typical of Tuscan tradition, and they all carry a plastic band that certifies the product’s origin by the Consortium that controls the genetic heritage of the animals. This band allows you to trace the final product all the way back to the original animal it was produced from.
Casamonti’s Cinte Senesi are bred free range in the woodlands and their daily diet is integrated with specially formulated cereal mixtures that vary according to their stages of development, although, truth be said, they prefer digging for a root or eating a wild mushroom to the easy food provided for them.
When they reach two years of age, they are taken to the butchery and then the meat is transformed directly in the estate salumificio (laboratory) into the typical Tuscan products that include salami, finocchione, fresh sausage, seasoned pork loin, salt bacon, capocolli, cured lard, and the famous prosciutto. The products are cured in special rooms according to the length of time it takes them to be ready for consumption. This is a totally natural process, and in the case of the prosciutto, for example, can well last more than two years.
Casamonti, thanks to the high quality standards of its products, is quoted among the top best producers in Tuscany and has won various awards and recognitions and boasts fans and clients all across the world. Visits to the farm are organized on a daily basis with tasting of the wines and Cinta products. Just send an email to Anna Rita