In Carnia, a historical region in the Friulian Alps close to the Austrian border, every rural family traditionally reared a purcit, a pig, which was slaughtered between October and February. Some of the pork would be eaten fresh, while the rest would be used to make a series of cured meats and other salted or smoked products. Varhackara is a type of pesto that evolved out of this tradition as a way to make the most of the lard, and incorporates offcuts of salami, smoked speck, guanciale, pancetta and ossocollo.
The first documentary references to this product date back to the 13th century, and closely tie it to Timau, a tiny hamlet in the municipality of Paluzza and the last inhabited village before the Plöcken Pass, which leads to Austria. Timau’s historical identity is linked to the local language, which belongs to the family of South Bavarian dialects. Along with the village of Sauris, it belongs to a German-speaking enclave in Carnia, which formed after two groups of miners from the Carinthian valleys settled here, the first in around the year 1000, the other towards the end of the 13th century. These communities brought their gastronomic traditions with them, traditions that can still be seen in the local dishes today.
In the past, the lard was finely chopped with a knife, but today it is minced in a machine. The cured meat offcuts are diced and added to the lard. The mixture is then packed into glass jars, sometimes with the addition of aromatic herbs and nutmeg. Varhackara is eaten spread on bread or heated in a frying pan and served with raw or blanched vegetables, potato gnocchi or traditional cjarsons (ravioli filled with herbs or plums, ricotta and bitter cocoa).
Varhackara is produced in the coldest months, and can be stored all year
Timau hamlet, Paluzza municipality, But Valley, Carnia, Udine province, Friuli-Venezia Giulia region
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