Capofreddo is the head cheese we make from our Cinta Senese pigs every winter. Unlike our salt cured salumi products (salami, gota, rigatino, spalla and prosciutto), capofreddo belongs to the cooked salumi family which includes mortadella and buristo, or blood sausage. Because it is not cured or aged capofreddo is ready a day or two after it is made. It is enjoyed in the winter months when the pigs are traditionally killed in Italy. One of my favourite ways to enjoy this treat is to place a very thin slice under a serving of risotto. The capofreddo melts into the rice, a match made in heaven. A thick slice between two peices of Tuscan bread along with a glass of Chianti Classico and a few salt cured olives make a simple but delicious lunch. Cut into small cubes and tossed with chick peas, mandarin orange segments, black pepper and some new extra virgin olive oil it is transformed into a sophisticated antipasto. One of our friends tells the amusing story of an embarassing incident involving a capofreddo panino he remembers from his school days. His mother had packed him one for his lunch. At noon he unwrapped the sandwich and began to eat when his teeth hit something hard. He feared he had broken his tooth, but on what? Reaching into his mouth he pulled out a pigs tooth!
To make capofreddo the pigs head is boiled for many hours until it is very tender. It is cut up into small peices and seasoned. We use orange and lemon peel, parsley, black pepper and a dash of the famous Tuscan droghe, a spice mixture that includes cinnamom, cloves, fennel seed and pollen, star anice, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. The mixture stuffed into casings with some of the cooking liquid and left to dry overnight in a cool place. The cooking liquid gels as it cools, binding the salumi. Capofreddo is winter food and there is nothing quite like the smell of pork, citrus and spice that wafts through the room as we slice open the first one. As it melts deliciously on my tongue I am reminded once again that we have reached the end of the annual cycle with our Cinta Senese pigs. We have given them a good life at La Petraia. Now they are providing us with this amazing gift of sustenance. The remainder of our salumi products will be rolled out one by one over the coming year as they mature but mostly these are reserved for our guests. Capofreddo, on the other hand, is our personal reward for a job well done.