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Reaching Self-Sufficiency: One Pig at a Time

When the Mascheroni Stianti family, proprietors of Castello di Volpaia in the heart of Chianti Classico, decided to return its ancient walled village to its roots of self-sufficiency a few years ago, they were well on the way to reaching that goal. The family had already revitalized the village’s vineyards, winery and frantoio, as well planted gardens and procured chickens. Running water was available. The next step was to source meat.

In early 2006, the Mascheroni Stiantis purchased a Cinta Senese—an Italian heirloom pig that is a hybrid between a wild boar and a cultivated English breed. Cinta Senese pigs are valued for their peculiar fat, which tends to be abundant but light and flavorful. It’s used for many purposes, including lardo and filling in sausages. It has a higher oleic content, which makes it healthier than other pork fat. The meat also tends to be more delicious because of the fat, so it’s used for fresh cuts, as well as cured meats, such as salumi, prosciutto and guanciale.

The Cinta Senese originally lived in the forests and hills of Sienna, but made their way to Chianti in the early 20th century. The animals quickly became a staple in the Chianti diet. As demand for their meat grew, the pigs faced extinction. Today, their numbers are increasing and several organizations have been formed to safeguard the breed.

The Mascheroni Stiantis named their pig Zulmira and set their sites on raising her until November when they would slaughter her in celebration of the end of harvest.

But, these plans went awry when Annalisa Mascheroni Stianti, wife of Volpaia proprietor Nicolo Mascheroni Stianti, developed affection for Zulmira. By mid-year Zulmira was given a pardon and that year no pig feast occurred.

In 2007 and again this year, the Mascheroni Stiantis purchased a Cinta Senese for the sole purpose of providing meat. They have plans to increase the number of pigs they raise each year, with the possibility of breeding the animals as well. Now they can tackle the next step in self-sufficiency: providing their own energy with solar panels scheduled for installation in 2009.

As for the 260-pound Zulmira, she is all pet. She lives in a large pen in the woods near the village of Volpaia and eats mainly what she finds in the woods, including chestnuts, acorns, olives and grass, as well as some occasional leftover vegetables from the winery’s cooking school and Giovanella Stianti Mascheroni’s personal kitchen. She often joins the family and visitors on walks and responds when she is called.

“She’s smarter than a dog,” Nicolo Mascheroni Stianti says. “Whenever we call her name, she comes running. Which is good, except she loves to roll in the mud and she thinks nothing of running to you full of mud and joy.”

December 29, 2008
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Reaching Self-Sufficiency: One Pig at a Time