The second butcher we visited in Italy was Simone Ceccotti who was based in Lari. We first learnt in-depth how he salted, aged, deboned and sliced his prosciutto. This little butcher’s shop was at the top of the hill in a picturesque village. After a speedy pit-stop in the local café for a double espresso at the bar we crossed the road and made our way through the all the customers in this busy little shop. Following a passageway towards the back of the building we arrived in the most beautifully lit preparation and curing room. Surrounded by hanging meat, all at different stages in the drying and ageing process, it was Aladdin’s cave for carnivores and a photographer’s dream.
One by one he carefully lifted down each leg of meat and inspected them for any hard bits that needed trimming back. Carefully they would be cut off, and then the exposed meat would be resealed with copious amounts of freshly ground black pepper – giving the meat its lovely aged, dusty coating – and preventing it spoiling from being exposed to the air.
It was the fegatelli that really caught my attention (after the ridiculously good looking Italian butcher). Faggots are not something I’ve ever had a desire to eat, to cook or to really think about. Neither would I say that liver is something I ever order in a restaurant or buy to cook with. The fresh pig liver was brought out for us to see in all its glossy, red, shining glory. It was beautiful. And it was huge. With the pig having been slaughtered just the day before, it was glistening with freshness. Quite the opposite to what I thought might have been my gut reaction, upon seeing it being sliced and leaving a bloody trail in its wake, I was mesmerized by the vibrancy of it. It seemed the most natural thing to begin to bundle it up, ready to cook and eat it.
This happened more than once, and situations where I expected to be slightly squeamish or repulsed turned into some of the most satisfying and wholesome experiences. ‘Wholesome’ gets bandied around a fair bit, but knowing you’re eating an animal that has been cared for, and is then treated with an equal level of respect once it’s slaughtered is supremely satisfying. You begin to appreciate every mouthful. It is just like the butcher who carefully trims his meat, making sure he only cuts and discards what is really necessary, minimising waste and maximising his profit. It has all begun with a respect for the animal.
We made two types of faggots. The first was minced up into meatball style and wrapped in caul fat. We had a go at making these and they were very easy to do. The caul fat clung onto the meat and wrapped around on itself with no issue.
Below are the fegatelli before they were cooked.
The second was a piece of pork sandwiched between two pieces of liver and some bay leaves as you can see in the header picture on this post. These we tied up into little bundles before cooking.
Since posting these pictures on Instagram, I have received interesting variations on these recipes. In South Africa for example they are called ‘skilpaaitjies’ meaning tortoise. You can see how with the caul fat wrapped around them they look like tortoise shells. Cypriot sheftalia – caul fat sausage is another. Caul fat is a fantastic way of wrapping meat, without the hassle of casings. It also doesn’t have the grim smell that you often get with natural sausage casings!
The caul fat renders away as you cook, giving the faggots or sausages moisture and flavour. There will definitely be more posts coming up about using up offal and other parts of the animal that have fallen out of fashion - particularly when it comes to buying and preparing it at home.