Native Italian Ham - Everything You Need to Know About Speck

Everything You Need To Know About Speck
Speck is a smoked, dry-cured ham from the north-Italian region called Alto Adige. This Tastessence post discusses the methods of preparing this Italian specialty along with a few easy-to-cook recipes.
Tastessence Staff
Last Updated: Mar 10, 2018
food
Did You Know?
The European Union awards the designation P.G.I (protected geographical indication) to select products that are manufactured according to traditional methods in a certain region. The ham produced in compliance with traditional methods in South Tyrol has been conferred this designation since the year 1996. Hence, "Speck Alto Adige P.G.I." is considered to be premium-quality speck having the authentic aromatic flavor.
Speck is a lightly-smoked, cured ham native to South Tyrol (Alto Adige in Italian), a mountainous region in northern Italy located on the southern side of the Alps. This region also shares its border with Switzerland and Austria. The Alpine and Mediterranean climatic conditions for outdoor curing, combined with the traditional Northern European smoking methods add a distinct flavor to Speck Alto Adige. As a result, this unique Italian ham has been classified as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) product.
How is Speck Made?
Speck is produced in four different phases as explained below. Each and every stage of production has to strictly adhere to the quality standards, which are time and again inspected by the Speck Alto Adige Consortium.
Phase I: Raw Material Selection
Selecting the raw material is a crucial step since it lays the foundation for acquiring the hallmark of a true specialty. The South Tyrol speck producers take special care of the pigs' diet and monitor their health regularly. They produce the ham exclusively from lean, full-meat thighs of pigs that meet the high quality standards. Also, the pieces are cut according to the traditional methods.
Phase II: Seasoning
After the ham is produced from raw materials, it is subjected to marination in cool rooms for up to 3 weeks. The seasoning ingredients may include juniper berries, rosemary, oregano, bay leaves, garlic, coriander, cumin, etc., along with the standard ingredients, salt and pepper. The seasoning which is used, is usually a strictly guarded secret recipe, and it is handed down from generation to generation. This characteristic gives a unique value to the Tyrolean speck.

As the hams are marinated, they are turned several times to allow the flavor of the spices to penetrate the meat. The frequency of turning the meat depends upon the speck producer's individual recipe. However, special care is taken to ensure that the meat does not contain more than 5% salt by the end of the marination period.
Phase III: Smoking
The unique method of smoking of the meat is a key factor that contributes to the flavor of the speck. The speck producers follow the traditional way of smoking based on the principle of using little smoke and lots of fresh mountain air. The hams are lightly smoked over low-resin wood such as beechwood at a temperature, not more than 20 degrees Celsius. This low-temperature smoking method allows the smoke to penetrate the meat as opposed to high temperatures, which may clog the pores of the meat. The hams are light-smoked for a while, and then exposed to the fresh mountain air. Both the process of smoking and air-drying are carried on until the meat starts emanating a unique flavorful aroma.
Phase IV: Curing
This is the ultimate phase that gives a finishing touch to the exotic flavor of the Speck Alto Adige. The hams are left to hang in rooms imbued with the fresh air of the surrounding Tyrolean mountain valleys for a period of about 22 weeks. This process helps cure and mature the meat into a gourmet specialty. During this phase, an edible layer of aroma-enhancing mold grows on the dried meat. This indicates that the speck thus matured, is of premium quality. The mold on the outside prevents excess drying of the meat and ensures that the flavors from both the seasonings and the smoke, are evenly distributed on the inside. The mold is washed off after the meat is completely cured. The finished product has a firm consistency and a characteristic flavor.
Nutritional Facts
Since speck is high in protein, it becomes an excellent source of amino acids, and therefore, a healthy alternative to eggs, meat, and fish. The following table provides data about the nutritional value of Speck Alto Adige.
Speck Alto Adige: Values per 100 g
  • Calories :- 335.31 kcal
  • Total lipid (fat) :- 23.30 g
  • Saturated Fat :-7.2 g
  • Carbohydrates :-0.5 g
  • Dietary Fiber :-0 g
  • Protein :-31.37 g
  • Sodium :-14874.0 mg/kg
Source: Consorzio Tutela Speck Alto Adige 2006
Easy Recipes
Speck-flavored Bread Dumplings
Speck flavored bread dumplings
Ingredients
  • White bread (diced), 200 g
  • Speck Alto Adige (diced), 100 g
  • Flour, 40 g
  • Eggs, 3
  • Onions (braised), 50 g
  • Parsley (finely chopped) , 1 tbsp.
  • Salt to taste
Method
  • Mix together the diced bread, speck, flour, and braised onions.
  • Add finely chopped parsley and salt to taste.
  • Add eggs and mix well.
  • Set the mixture aside for 10 minutes.
  • Shape the dumplings and cook for 8-10 minutes in salted water.
  • Serve hot with the sauce of your choice.
Farmer's Omelet with Speck
Farmer's Omelet with Speck
Ingredients
  • Speck Alto Adige (cut in stripes), 60 g
  • Eggs, 6
  • Milk cream, 2 tbsp.
  • Onions (cut in rings), 50 g
  • Butter, 2 tbsp.
  • Alpine or Fontina cheese, 60 g
  • Champignon mushrooms (quartered), 160 g
  • Lemon juice, 2 tbsp.
  • Chervil, 8 leaves
  • Salt and pepper
Method
  • Lightly saute the mushrooms with butter and add lemon juice over the top. Season with salt and pepper and keep aside.
  • Beat the eggs together with milk cream and salt in a mixing bowl.
  • Put some butter in a non-stick fry pan, and braise the speck and onions.
  • Pour the beaten-egg mixture into the pan and add the cheese.
  • Shape the mixture into an oval omelet, allowing it to set slowly.
  • Garnish with fried mushrooms and chervil, and serve hot.
Speck can be used just as you use any other ham in your food preparations. Regardless of the way you prepare speck, it will always add a distinct flavor to your recipes.