This lard is produced only in Colonnata, a very small village with a few hundreds inhabitants, located on a cliff between the famous marble quarries of Carrara, in Tuscany.
In my teens I used to admire the fantastic view of the quarries of the Apuane Alpes while swimming in the sea of Carrara.
I don't particularly like meat, in fact I'm almost vegetarian, but in my opinion this organic lard is the best piece of charcuterie you can taste in Italy, provided you try the original made in Colonnata.
Lardo di Colonnata has a fragrant and scented aroma, with a delicate slightly sweet taste, enriched by the spices and aromatic herbs used in the aging process.
It is consumed without rind and salt residues, in very thin slices over fresh bread, warm or grilled. Sliced tomatoes and onions are an ideal complement to this sort of bruschetta.
Lardo di Colonnata can be used in a variety of dishes including fish and meat. In fact a few trattorie in Colonnata offer menus entirely based on this organic lard, from starters to pasta, mains, even icecream!
(I personally wouldn't try this, but they say it's amazing)
The salt from the rind is great for seasoning roasts and grilled meat, while the rind can be grilled or boiled to use in bean salads or soups.
How it is made
As soon as the pork is slaughtered the lard is sliced and laid inside tubs made of Carrara marble, with alternated layers of seasoning including sea salt, black pepper, rosemary, garlic, coriander and others.
No other ingredients, additives or preservatives are used.
The European regulator on food health has for long time threatened to ban of Lardo di Colonnata. The idea of raw pork lard matured inside marble tubs for over six months with absolutely no preservatives did not appeal to the EU inspectors on food hygiene.
But how do not take into account that people have been eating this lard for thousands of years with absolutely no documented or known problems?
This dilemma was solved after years of debates and court hearings. It was finally proven that the salt used in the process draws all the water out of the lard, making impossible for any bacteria to grow. In addition the dehydrated lard is being impregnated by the oils from the aromatic herbs and spices, which provide the characteristic scent and unique flavour. We will then be able to taste this amazing product for many years to come.
How to recognise the original Lardo di Colonnata
Nowadays a lot of counterfeit lard is sold around the world as original Lardo di Colonnata where in fact it's not.
The way to be sure you purchase the original product is to look for the IGPmark (Indication of Protected Geography) from the European Union.
If you are lucky enough to be in Colonnata, then you can buy cheaper non-certified lard and be confident about its authenticity, even without the IGP mark. However, you still need to trust the seller about the date of production.
Lardo di Colonnata is the symbol of centuries of history and a close bond with the local territory.
The history of this product is mixed with legend and myths, such as that of Michelangelo hoarding on the local lard while visiting Colonnata to choose the best marble blocks.
The origins of Colonnata are related to a colony of slaves from Ancient Rome sent to Carrara to work at the quarries. These ancient workers from Rome gradually mixed with the local mountain population.
Since that ancient time lard has always been the food of quarrymen, usually consumed with only bread and fresh tomatoes. The quarries have been the life of Colonnata until the late 1950s, when the men started to move to the factories in the nearby city of Massa. Today, only about 300 people live in Colonnata.
Nonetheless, the tradition of lard production has been passed from generation to generation, and today only a few families in Colonnata are full time producers of lard.
Every year in August the 'festival of the lard' is held in Colonnata, if you are around Tuscany at that time this is the best opportunity to taste this organic lard in a variety of dishes.
Sounds good wish it was available locally