Rarely does a geographic area have such a strong link with a product as the Upper Vastese does with ventricina. In the past, the cured meat was prepared with pork from black or red pigs, but these days the more common white pigs are used. Once the animal has been slaughtered, the finest cuts (thighs, loin, shoulder) are set aside and carefully deboned and trimmed, removing the hardest, most fibrous parts (those adhering to the bones), then cut into small pieces of 2 or 3 centimeters across. These are left to rest overnight, then seasoned with salt and mild ground chili pepper in equal quantities, and sometimes with wild fennel and a sprinkling of pepper. The chili comes from small, sweet, red peppers from Altino, which are dried for a few days before being selected, opened, cleaned and crushed in a mortar. It takes around 12 quintals of fresh chilies to make 1 quintal of the ground powder. The pork mixture is then stuffed into a pig’s bladder, which is carefully pressed to remove any air. The resulting ball, weighing 1 or 2 kilos, is placed in a net, tied closed with string and hung up to dry in a room with a lit hearth for at least seven or eight days. After drying, the ventricina is left to cure in a cool, well-ventilated room. After three months, the exterior is cleaned from mold and coated with lard, which protects the salami from insect attacks and temperature swings.
One pig can be used to make around three fairly large ventricinas. In the past, each family would cut into them only during significant times of rural life, like the harvest or during grape picking.
The ventricina is consumed after seven or eight months of aging. In its area of production, it is at times cut into chunks and used in ragù, but is most commonly eaten sliced thickly with a knife. The interior has an red-orange color, particularly around the pieces of fat, and a fragrant aroma that comes from the long aging and characteristic spicing. At times, citrusy notes can be detected, which come from the custom of washing the bladders for the casings in orange and lemon water. On the palate, the ventricina is primarily spicy, but the heat does not overwhelm the flavor of the meat and any other spices used.
Produced all year round, except during the hottest periods, and aged for an average of 120 days.