Speck is a distinctly flavored, smoked, cured ham that merges the Northern European and Mediterranean flavors and traditions.
True Speck comes from Italy’s northern-most province of Alto Adige, also known as Südtirol or South Tyrol. Speck is the region’s most treasured food product.
It’s made from the hind leg of a pig, but the leg is deboned before undergoing a two-part curing process.
First, it’s rubbed with a blend of spices and salt-cured in the Mediterranean style for two to three weeks. The spice blend is a well-kept secret, but usually includes black pepper, bay, garlic, and distinctively, juniper berries.
Then it’s gently smoked in the central European tradition. The smoking is done using low-resin wood at a carefully controlled low temperature to ensure that the meat remains sweet and takes on a mildly smoky flavor.
It’s also done gradually, a few hours at a time over a period of several months. This lets the smoky flavor penetrate beyond the outer layer and fully into the meat.
Finally, it is hung to age in the crisp Alpine air, which adds yet another layer of flavor as the atmosphere of South Tyrol literally, circulates around the meat for nearly six months.
The end product is a cured meat that is lighter than the heavily smoked hams found north of the alps, but more robust than the Mediterranean-influenced prosciutto made further south.
Some suggested ways to use it: