As part of my job, i have the opportunity to travel, find new foods and beverages as well as take a deep dive into foods I already know. This fall, I joined a press trip to Trentino-Alto Adige and learned more about Speck Alto Adige PGI, a dry-cured and lightly smoked ham from Northern Italy.
The region was originally conquered by the Romans in 15 BC. From the 9th century AD until 1919, the area was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. After World War I, the area was annexed by Italy. Today, it is an autonomous region of Italy, and its culture is a mix of Italian, German and Austrian cultures.
I was there to learn more about Speck Alto Adige PGI. The promotion is part of the EU-sponsored Uncommon Flavors of Europe. The two other products that are being promoted in addition to speck are Asiago PDO and Pecorino Romano PDO. Lucky us, we also got to spend a day in Asiago looking into Asiago PDO, a wonderful cheese from next door in the Asiago region that is also the perfect compliment to Speck.
Speck Alto Adige is a mix of Northern European and Mediterranean meat preservation techniques. Always made from pork thighs, the finished product is a bit darker than Italian prosciutto.
The thighs are then rubbed in each producer’s proprietary blend of local herbs and spices, giving the finished product a spicy, woodland note. Aging is done by combining the Mediterranean technique of air curing over a period of months and smoking, a traditional Northern European way of preservation. The result is a prosciutto that is lightly smoked.
Speck Alto Adige PGI is served thinly sliced or diced. Thinly sliced usually by knife and served slightly thicker than prosciutto, it is perfect for sandwiches, platters or cheese boards. When diced, it is perfect for cooking in eggs, pasta, potatoes or just about anyplace that you would use chopped ham.
One of the local specialties that both surprised and delighted me was the local specialty Knodels in German or Canederli in Italian. In English, it’s dumplings. Made with stale bread, they include finely-diced speck and fresh herbs. Served in broth, they are delicious and very similar to those served in Amish restaurants here in the States.
And, if you are looking for cheese pairings, Asiago PDO is the all-around winner.