The Italian gourmet cured and smoked ham Speck Alto Adige originated in the mountains and valleys on the south side of the Alps. Lightly smoked and cured in the open air, Speck Alto Adige owes its special character to the singular geographical location of Italy’s northernmost province of Alto Adige or South Tyrol, which borders Austria and Switzerland.
Following traditional methods handed down through generations, the producers of this unique Italian ham combine the Northern European method of preserving raw ham by smoking it, with the Mediterranean practice of outdoor curing. The pristine region’s ample sunshine and salubrious mountain air, combined with secret blends of spices and salt, impart a flavor found in no other ham in Italy, let alone the world.
Today, served with bread and wine, Speck Alto Adige is the star of Alpine appetizer and snack platters and a flavorful addition to many dishes, including new creations by leading Italian chefs.
Not all Specks are alike! Only pork hams processed in South Tyrol according to the ancient, original method are entitled to bear the name “Speck Alto Adige.” The name and the label are your assurance of quality and authenticity.
Strict controls established by the Consortium Speck Alto Adige and an independent agency require compliance with all five stages of production, from meat selection to the finished product. Not until those specifications are met can the ham rind be fire-branded with the seal “Alto Adige.”
An additional assurance of quality and authenticity comes from the European Union, which assigns its PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) mark to selected products that follow traditional methods and are produced in specific geographical areas. The green label Speck Alto Adige and the PGI seal guarantee buyers that they are acquiring an authentic, traditionally produced, lightly smoked, Alpine air-cured ham from South Tyrol, Italy.
The secret to an exceptional finished product is high-quality raw materials. For this reason, Speck Alto Adige producers use only lean, firm pork thighs from pigs raised on renowned, quality-controlled farms. They select the thighs according to established raw materials specifications and trim the meat following traditional methods. The thighs are branded with the date production begins as an inerasable guarantee and as a reference for later inspections.
After being flavored with a special blend of aromatic herbs and spices, including salt, pepper, juniper, rosemary and laurel, Speck hams are dry-corned or cured for three weeks at controlled temperatures. They are turned periodically so the corning permeates the meat. All producers impose a personal touch on their ham by using their own secret recipes handed down through the generations. Their only restriction is that the final salt content must not exceed 5 percent.
After dry-corning, the hams are exposed alternately to smoking and drying. The smoking phase is light, with the temperature never exceeding 20° C, and done over low-resin wood to provide a pleasantly mild flavor. Through this carefully controlled process, Speck acquires its inimitable, finely spiced aroma.
The smoked hams are hung to dry in rooms infused with the clean, fresh air of the South Tyrolean mountain valleys. The final weight of each ham defines its aging period, which usually lasts about 22 weeks. During that time, Speck hams lose part of their initial weight and acquire their characteristically firm consistency. The result is a cured and smoked ham that represents the best of Italy.