Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Butcher, wine tasting and Chinta Senese farm

It's been a while since I wrote but a lot has happened!! Yesterday we woke up early and headed to the butcher to get the primest cuts of meat before the other Italians. Alan, David, Dad and I drove to the nearest town and found the macelleria-- They had a couple cases full of amazing meats! Huge steaks, different involtini, chickens, cow tongues, rabbits, and also a selection of salume and formaggi. We asked for two bistecce fiorentina and they pulled out a whole rack of meat and asked how thick we wanted them cut- the female butcher cut us 2 HUGE steaks about 2 inches thick. Pictures are coming!!! We also got a whole rabbit for dinner one night and a whole chicken (head and feet included- whole means whole!) to make homemade chicken broth with. While we were there a girl came in, said something to one of the butchers, and he went outside only to come back in with a huge lamb!! It was beautiful and just another example of the amazing food in Italy. Everything is grown, raised, harvested, butchered and prepared locally which is something we definitely lack in America. It is one of the many, many fantastic things about this beautiful country. We made it home in time for a quick breakfast- frittata, salume, and mozarella di bufalo. Our driver, Sylvia, arrived and we hit the road in a classy Mercedes van (way better than ours!). She drove us to a winery, Castellare, where we tried a few different Chiantis of different years. It always amazes me how the wines can vary so much from year to year although they come from the same winery, contain the same blends, and are grown in the exact same vineyard. We even got a chance to try the 2008 Chianti which, although young, tasted wonderful. Dad purchased a bottle and we were on our way again! After another hour long drive we reached the farm where we would be receiving our tour. As we pulled up we saw the pigs on the side of the road- they were huge and black with a white collar around their stomach, front legs and neck. We later learned this is a sign of their pure breed and the pigs with the perfect markings are kept for breeding. We walked up to the house where we were greeted by 2 beautiful weimeraners (one of which is a truffle hunter!!!!). The owner of the farm, Danielo, came out to greet us. He led us through his back yard, full of olive trees, to where the pigs were kept. While we were walking, 2 cats began to follow us. David leaned down to scratch one and when he stood up to walk away, it attempted to claw its way up his back!!!! Danielo laughed and told us (rather told Sylvia who translated for us) that he likes to ride on shoulders. He then picked the cat up, set him on his shoulders and continued on his way. What did I say about shoulder cats??? Kaya needs more intense training is all. The cats followed us all around the farm. Anyway, as soon as we exited the yard through a gate Danielo started yelling diamo(his version of andiamo, let's go- a drawn out version "dee-yaaa-mooo"). The pigs actually starting running towards him!!!! It was quite a sight to see. He led us to a small shack where he pulled out a bucket of food. By this time, after all Danielo's "diamos," 13 or so pigs had crowded by the fence, snorting up a storm. He proceeded to scoop some feed and throw it into the crowd of pigs who instantly began fighting. Then he told us all about Chinta Senese. They are a certain breed of pig that almost died out from existence. The government then sanctioned the raising of the pigs but with very high standards- there are regulations regarding the amount of acres allotted to pigs and the food they are given. The pigs mostly eat free range but can also be given food which can only be organically grown plants like corn, svelte, wheat etc. The pigs aren't given any soy. They must be raised humanely. Such a difference from the US where the pigs are kept in kennels and fed corn and animal byproducts, and loaded up with antibiotics and hormones. And boy were those pigs happy!! On the farm they had about 300 pigs. There was a part allotted for the breeding pigs which are about 13 females to one male. They are only allowed to reproduce twice a year. The pigs are sent off to a "laboratory," where they are butchered and the meat is then cured for various periods of time. During the explanation, Danielo suddenly was distracted by something. We all turned around to see an ENORMOUS pig waddling (literally) his way over to us. It was the male!!! Danielo took special care to bring food over to him and made sure none of the other pigs ate it. Gotta keep the big man happy- he's a busy pig with 13 ladies to attend to! After that we went to a pen where the babies were kept. They had just been separated from their parents and when Danielo picked one up it's shrieking instantly alerted the mother who came up to their dividing fence. How cute! Danielo says the chinta senese are a very smart breed. The babies were soooo cute! There were probably about 50 of them in the pen and they all came running out when we walked up. I got the best pictures :) We then went and saw the "sausage" pigs. Not nearly all of them came running when Danielo called but it still seemed like an amazing amount. Time to eat!!! Danielo took us into his home- so cool- and we sat down at his kitchen table in front of an incredible spread of salume. On our plate we had ghanciale, which Danielo referred to as poesia, poetry, salume, and salume with fennel. Danielo's son Niccolo toasted us some bread on their open kitchen fire, poured rich olive oil on top, and we all sat down to enjoy the meal together with a bottle of chianti. The salume was HEAVENLY. Poesia, indeed. They also served us some homemade ribollita which was fantastic and interestingly enough varied from the ribollita we made 2 days previously. Just as Giovennella taught us, ribollita can be made with anything on hand or whatever is preferred. We ended up enjoying ourselves so much that we sat at that table for a couple of hours, conversing in Italian and English and just enjoying the great food, wine and company. Danielo's sons were both very friendly and we were astonished to hear they were 15 and 19- they were huge!!!! Niccolo and David talked about wrestling and Niccolo asked "is it like WWF?" Very cute :) It is fun to see the cultural differences but also to see that we are all very similar in the end. We had a really great day and left with well wishes and promises to meet again. We got home early in the afternoon and all had a chance to relax for a nice change. Alan and David started the chicken broth. What a sight to see, a chicken head floating among the celery and carrots!! The boys went outside and threw around some frisbee discs while the ladies cuddled under blankets to catch up on some reading. It wasn't long before we cracked open some wine and started the fire! We started our dinner with caprese, roasted peppers, and huge, green olives. Then we grilled our gigantic bisteccas, some zucchini and raddichio and enjoyed it with a nice green salad. The evening was thoroughly enjoyable and the wine kept flowing. After dinner we headed back out by the fire and enjoyed the beautiful evening. We busted out the Vin Santo and Montenegro and started a game of Monopoly which of course was not finished by the night's end. That game lasts forever!! Alan was of course winning by the time we all went to bed. Another wonderful day in Italia. Today was Firenze-- returing home :) Ma, sono stanco. I will write tomorrow!! xxo.

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