The typical preserved ham or Speck of Alto Adige has always played a fundamental part in the diet of the people of this mountainous area, yet it was only fairly recently that companies really begin to produce the meat on a large commercial scale. For this reason a rich variety of recipes and preparations are still very much alive, all based on family tradition and well kept secrets.
Although on first appearance speck seems a raw product, rather like uncooked bacon, it is one of the classic examples of conserved meat from the Alto Adige region.
Only if it is prepared with the closest care and attention will a manufacturer in the area receive the brand seal 'Süd Tirol' or 'Alto Adige' for his product.
The ingredients are essentially the same but the choice of spices, herbs and salt used during the fumigating process makes all the difference.
If any rules can be observed in its production, we can note the following: no excess rind, lean but firm meat, conserve in a sack of jute. The maturing period must be at least five months long depending on weight.
The meat must be dried, but not pressed, and aired in cool wooden rooms where the temperature remains below twenty degrees centigrade.
The finished product should be served in slices although the more traditional way is to serve it whole, on the bone, and allow each person at the table to cut their own piece.
It is still possible to purchase speck made the very traditional way by small farmholders. For example, you will find a store or two in Bolzano in and around the main market, but to sustain this important economic reality for the region most of the raw pork, shall we say, is imported from eastern Europe to be prepared and seasoned locally.
To sample the best speck head to the annual May Speckfest, one of the most original festivals in Alto Adige. It is a celebration of all things speck, naturally, and only speck with the mark of quality 'Speck Alto Adige IGP' is present.
The purpose of this feast is to acquaint people with various traditions concerning this product and its regions of origin.
The feast’s date was not chosen accidentally. In the past the slaughtering occurred at Christmas time, and after a ripening process of fife months the Speck was ready for further preparation and final eating.
As well as speck the festival features asparagus from Terlano, apples from the Val di Non, homemade Alpine butter and the spectacular 'Ranggi' or 'Tirolese struggle'.
The festival takes place in Bolzano and Piazza Walther in mid May.
The Consortium for Speck Alto Adige - www.speck.it