The first documents that mention processing of Speck in Alto Adige date back to the 12th century, and include regulations for butchers and the accounts registers of Tyrolese princes residing in Merano.
It was initially produced to preserve meat, and was intended to be eaten in the family. Conservation was based on salting and smoking. The former (which prevented the growth of germs through dehydration) was and still is the typical process adopted for hams in the Mediterranean area. Smoking (exposure to wood smoke with a low resin content) is, instead, the preferred meat preservation system in Northern Europe.
Alto Adige, situated in a geographical position where the northern and Mediterranean culture converge with the additional of particular climatic conditions, has merged the two methods. Hence, Speck Alto Adige PGI is produced according to the traditional rule “little salt, little smoke and a lot of air,” which basically consists of moderate salting and in alternating cold smoke and fresh air.
Speck Alto Adige PGI is a deboned, trimmed raw ham that is lightly smoked and seasoned for 22 weeks. Unmistakeable in terms of aspect, fragrance and flavour, it owes its special features to the traditional processing method, which is handed down from father to son, and protected by the European Union. The code of production basically envisages light smoking (with smoke temperature below 20°C), mean seasoning period of 22 weeks, and salt content that is not in excess of 5%.
Compliance with code of production requires the finished product to be fire branded and have the label with the words “Speck Alto Adige PGI” in Italian and in German, along with the “Südtirol” symbol.
The first factor that determines the excellent flavour of Speck obviously concerns the choice of high quality raw materials, which are followed by branding with the start date of production and mixing of fragrances. Within a framework that complies with strict rules, the individual manufacturer can personalise the product by deciding, based on secret recipes that are handed down from father to son, about the spices to be added and the doses. Hence, Speck Alto Adige acquires a personal touch from time to time. Every piece is unique.
The speck hams are then coated with salt and a special mixture of spices, and dry-salted for three weeks in a cool environment. After salting, the speck hams are alternatively exposed to light smoking and to the cool air of the mountain valleys of Alto Adige. Only then does speck acquire its unmistakeable fragrance.
This is followed by seasoning in dedicated rooms with the pure cool mountain air, constantly monitoring humidity and temperature.