A lesser-known air-dried pork salume from the mountains of Reggio Emilia
“Lonzino is probably one of the simplest types of cured pork, but it is still a delicious one,” says Ewa from behind the stall at Bianca e Mora as she starts to carve some very thin slices. “It is pork loin which has been cured and air dried. It is a basic recipe, but the simplicity of the process means that the ingredients of the cure have been adapted in some parts of Italy to reflect the tastes in the local area, and the herbs and spices available to them.”
As with all simple foods, there is nowhere to hide when making lonzino as the quality of the pork, balance of the cure and the skill used when drying the meat are all on show. “Our lonzino is made high in the mountains of Reggio Emilia and the ingredients are salt, pepper and their secret mix of aromatic herbs and spices,” Ewa explains.
“I think one of the areas where the skill of the makers comes through is in the air-drying process. This lonzino is dried for 80 days, which is quite a long time. This allows the time for the flavours to really develop, but it needs to be very carefully managed—it is not just a case of leaving it hanging in an airy barn and coming back in three months’ time.”
A real art
Air-curing meat is a real art: the right balance of temperature, humidity and air movement has to be maintained, each one of which may need to change as the process progresses. It is not so much simply drying the meat; more like cooking it with air.
“The finished lonzino has a delicate but unmistakable, slightly spicy aroma, and a soft, savoury taste with a slight tang at the end. It is a bit pinker in colour than some cured meats,” Ewa continues. “And it has a thin layer of fat on the outer part. Whatever you do, don’t take this off—it really adds to the experience when you eat it. It has a lovely tender texture and because it is made from the loin of pork, it is a very lean product, which is what makes that layer of fat important.”
When it comes to serving, Ewa suggests adding it to a charcuterie board where it will sit nicely, adding a contrast to some of the more robust cured meats. “This does not mean that the flavour will get swamped—those months of drying impart a definite flavour. If you have not tried it before, I would also suggest serving it with some fresh goat’s cheese, rocket and cherry tomatoes. It is a wonderful combination,” this stall holder says smiling.
“The thing is, while it is a lovely product, it is not widely known throughout Italy so it is a real discovery.” So next time you entertain Italian friends, you might just be able to introduce them to a delicious part of their own culinary heritage.