The History of Norcineria (and a Peek Inside our Umbria Cooking Vacation)

November 4, 2021  |  By Liz SanFilippo Hall
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Norcineria is quite particular to the medieval town of Norcia, one of our best Umbria cooking vacation destinations. It’s the term used to describe delicacies made from pigs, and the practice of salting and curing of meats. It’s clearly not the only place in Italy that partakes in this practice, but it has quite the history in the area surrounding this charming small town.

NorciaThe practice of preserving pork in the region dates all the way back to the 12th century when the Jews arrived in Valnerina, which is a valley in Umbria. Since they couldn’t consume the pork themselves, they turned into a business instead, finding ways to preserve the delicious cuts of meat. Over the course of the following centuries, through the 17th century, associations and brotherhoods sprang up around Italy dedicated to crafting new meat products (not just pork-related). That’s why, as you’ll discover during an Umbria cooking vacation, you’ll find all sorts of meat specialties in the different regions of Italy.

The happy pigs of UmbriaIn Umbria, it was Norcia that was home to so many of these delicacies, so much so that the term “norcineria” was put into practice and is still considered, to this day, to be a specialty of the inhabitants of Norcia. The term “norcino” also refers to a butcher, and a culinary tour of the area’s meats often features capoccolli, loins, bacon, pork cheeks… and the list could go on!

So what else makes the meat here so special? The pigs are mainly fed acorns, which results in a tastier meat, and the meat is often flavored in other ways, such as with salt, pepper, garlic, and marinated with wine. The pigs, as one norcino says, are also happier. Proof of that according to him? Their tails are straight rather than curly.

A butcher shop in ItalyPlus they do come when called but the norcino, which you can see when you visit the pig farm during our Food Lover’s Paradise in Norcia Umbria cooking vacation.

Pork isn’t the only highly regarded meat in this part of Italy — chianina beef from the local cows is also a favorite — but it clearly has an important place in Umbria’s gastronomy. During our Umbria cooking vaction, take part in four hands-on cooking classes, tour the lesser known part of Umbria, dine in traditional restaurants, as well as a Michelin-rated one. As the name of the tour implies, Norcia is a foodie heaven.

By Liz Hall

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