The star of patronal festivals and markets, private events and public ceremonies, the porchetta (roast suckling pig) from Colledara comes from a long tradition handed down in a few families, who have made of it a culinary art and a profession. Once necessary for the survival of rural populations, through a careful preparation and a simple and essential seasoning the pork becomes, in the heat of the ovens, a delicious and tasty dish, coated in a crispy golden crust that enhances the taste and the tender texture.
Colledara, a village nestled in the valley of the Mavone River along the road that leads to the shrine of Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, is the homeland of porchetta , an ancient dish made by roasting suckling pig after careful preparation. The oral tradition, supported by evidence and historical data, traces this practice back to the second half of the nineteenth century, when the porchetta was made by many families using artisanal methods, and then sold at fairs and at the festive events of the area.
According to the old people’s stories, the porchetta from Colledara originated in the hamlet of Collecastino, a few kilometres away from the town. Among its warehouses and ancient ovens, the local peasants experimented with the cooking of pigs which had been reared domestically, grazing in the pastures with the sheep. There was Patù, from the Sguazzunë family, with his sons John and Alborino Mucciarelli; there was also lu Scirë, Enrico Catalogna, with his family members and descendants. They were all farmers and skilled butchers, experts in the preparation of pork meat.
At the time the pigs were cooked in a wood oven; a domestic practice, which is, in some cases, still in force. The means at disposal for all the processing steps were few, and the country people tried to do their best with the little they had. It is said that in order to see whether the oven had reached the right temperature, lu Scirë, used to stick his whole arm in, while Oliviero Antenucci recalls the use of a wooden straw to prick the hot meat and ascertain how long it still needed to cook based on the colour and the consistency of the residual liquid that gathered on the inside. The boned pork was sewn around acacia wood poles, resting on grills so that the fat dripped into large ceramic bowls coming from the nearby village of Castelli, making the meat leaner.
The porchettai (the skilled cooks of porchetta) of the past used to go to the fairs and the patronal festivals on foot or in wagons; sometimes the women carried baskets filled with pork on their heads and, if they did not sell it all at the fair, on their way back they stopped to sell it door-to-door at all the houses and tried to take home as little meat as possible. One of the greatest problems of that time was, in fact, the conservation; in the absence of refrigerators, the porchetta was left outdoors, where it was cooler, in a container covered with a net to protect it from insects, in which it could be kept for up to a week. In the 1950s, together with local carpenters, the porchettai developed a particular showcase with display cabinets and drawers , which was used for taking the pork to the markets of the surrounding area and carrying all the accessories needed for the sale; according to the memories of Oliviero Antenucci the single disadvantage was that the meat couldn’t breathe properly, especially during hot weather, so the porchettai were obliged to turn it constantly to prevent it from spoiling. It was an era of pioneers and experimenters, who helped to perfect the craftsmanship of this art.
WATCH THE VIDEO
The Evolution of Materials
Oliviero Antenucci shows an old photo and talks about the evolution of the production materials.
Collecastino di Colledara (TE), December 29th 2012.
Filming by Annunziata Taraschi,
Don Nicola Jobbi Study Centre Archive /Bambun.
Transmission and conservation
Since the second half of the twentieth century, the porchetta from Colledara has undergone a progressive expansion, enjoying an unstoppable success and an exponential improvement of the technologies used for its production, while at the same time maintaining intact the original recipe, based on four essential phases: boning, seasoning and stuffing, tying and finally cooking. The knowledge about the procedural methods that mark each stage of preparation is accompanied by the transmission of the practices of farming and butchery, beginning with the salting of the meat and finishing with the delicate art of carving the roast pork, which is crucial for presenting to customers a high-quality product.
In Colledara there are nine craftsmen that are still at work, each with their own factory and their own van:
Giampaolo Mercuri, Peppino D’Alberto, the Pallotta Brothers, Adriano Antenucci, the Mercuri Brothers, Gianni De Sanctis, the Di Gennaro Brothers, Lucio Di Stefano and Nicolino Mercuri. Therefore, there has been the transmission, updated with modern technology, of the practice of the itinerant sale of porchetta in the contexts of celebrations, both public and private, such as markets and fairs, the patronal festivals of saints or birthdays, weddings, communions and other special occasions.
The pigs are bred in open spaces by the certified companies of the territory, while a popular festival has promoted and safeguarded the production of the porchetta from Colledara for nearly two decades, also thanks to the publicity campaigns run by the “Masters of Porchetta from Colledara” Association; for example a significant photo exhibition, coordinated by Mariateresa Di Odoardo, and the research regarding the photographic images of the history of the local porchetta since the first half of the twentieth century.
Through the European project Réseau Tramontana, at the end of 2012 the anthropologist Annunziata Taraschi interviewed the elderly manufacturer Oliviero Antenucci, helping to increase the existing documentation.