In the II century B.C. Polibius notes how the majority of swine butchered in Italy and used in private use and for military food supplies came from the Plain of Padana, so rich in oak trees and acorns.
In Roman times several types of pork meat cold cuts were documented, all with different tastes and different types of casing. Later, the barbaric tribes of Celtic and Lombard descent contributed to make cold cuts one of the main culinary protagonists in their traditions.
Important iconographic documents have been found in the Parma Area dating from the Middle Ages. Sculptors from the period documented the butchering of swine to make cold cuts in the “cycles of months” or “zodiac” representations found in many Romanic churches. In the Fidenza and Parma cathedrals there are representations of the killing of a pig. In the Parma Baptistery the plaque of the zodiac sign of Aquarius shows salami left to dry next to a fire. This relationship has continued to develop up to modern times. In the 19th Century, twelve salami manufacturers were active in the Felino territory, and the importance of this processing work was such that the laws protecting public health became more and more numerous and restrictive, giving increasingly detailed descriptions of quality controls and prohibitions. At the beginning of 1900s these laws were important for the recognition of the Felino trademark as a symbol of wholesome goodness and quality of the salami produced in the area.
Moreover, a singular example of integration between the production and the use of salami in a farm owned by the Jesuit Fathers is documented, as the priests would usually offer their production of salami to important Roman prelates, since these cold cuts were considered to be of high value.
The butcher is the person who has the knowledge and the competence to kill swine. The word “norcino” derives from the town of Norcia in Umbria, since originally these workers came from that area, travelling in the winter season to reach all locations in Italy to butcher swine. The pig owes its name to Maia, the goddess of abundance and of money boxes, traditionally shaped like a small piglet. The butcher was a travelling professional who brought his tools with him, going from family to family, from farm to farm. Because of the great respect that the farming culture had for the figure of the pig, it was killed by means of a stiletto stroke to the heart, so that the animal would not suffer. The “coradòr” or heart knife, which can be seen next to the butcher’s basket, was used. Then, the pig was washed in boiling water, and moved on a cart or sled, an example of which can be seen in the center of the room. It was hung on a fork, shown on the left side of the room, and then it was cut in half, and later sectioned.
History has handed us the saying that “not one part of pork meat is wasted” and truly in the rural economy every part of the animal had its function, even the hair, which was used for the bristles of brushes. Anything which was left over, after the internal organs, the nails and the hair were taken away, was used to make another cold cut called cicciolata. Two examples of cicciolatapresses can be seen in the museum, one is located in the kitchen and the other in the following room in the exhibit.
with salt and seasoning, and wet with white wine. In the Salami of Felino pepper is used as well, a rare and expensive spice which tells us the commercial and gastronomic value given to this product throughout the centuries. After the seasoning, the mix was put into the stuffing machine and used to fill the casing. Salami had to quickly dry next to a fire or in another warm room. After a few days of drying, they were brought into the cellar to be dried. The processing took place during the coldest time of the year, since there were no other methods of food storage, the cold occurring in winter had to be taken advantage of.
And at last, we must remember that in the Parma dialect the pig had two names: when alive, it was called “gosé” and when it was dead it was called “al nimel”, the animal per excellence, which could insure the survival of a farming family even through the years of famine.
The visit to the museum ends appropriately with the sampling of a salami based menu at the charming restaurant in the Castle.