Italian Cured Meats: Speck
Definition: Hind leg of a pig, boned, cured, smoked, and aged.
Origin: Early 17th century.
Etymology: English word meaning "fat" or "blubber".
Curing Process: Speck comes from Alto Adige, Italy's northern-most province. The province is also known as Sudtirol, or South Tyrol. Since Speck is good both cured and smoked, it maintains a good balance between the heavily smoked meats in the north and the delicately cured meats in the south.
Unlike Prosciutto, Speck is boned before curing. The ham also undergoes a two-step curing process where it is dry cured for a few weeks then gently smoked at a low temperature. This allows for the meat to retain its sweetness but also gain hints of smokey flavor. The Speck will only be smoked hours at a time, over a period of six to nine months. This allows the smoke to penetrate the meat so that the flavor is balanced throughout the ham.
Use: Usually thinly sliced and served with bread, wine, or cheese. Speck can also be layered on sandwiches or used in sauces. It can be added in particular dishes for a smokey flavor similar to bacon.
Eat: Make sure the fat isn't yellow. Avoid Speck that smells unpleasant.
Taste: Full-bodied and chewy.