This is a story about my local butchers, or where I buy meat when I do buy meat. I should start out by saying, I supppose, that I do not buy meat nearly as much as I used to, and have actually looked back on a week and realized that I had eaten as a vegetarian (not a vegan, mind you), and did not miss the meat. But when I want sausage, or pork chops, or beef fillet (now that I know how to cook it) or some other meat, I go to see Stefano and Michele Ciancimino, two brothers who work out of an unpreposessing store front near Pollo Doc and Lillo and Loredonna's Ortafruitica. That is my friend Vincenzo witht he white cain who happened to be walking past when I took the picture. He used to work in America, and sometimes I go to his house to help him read his mail and respond to requests from his pension system. I wrote about him once before, and the huge picnic he invited me to.
Their meat is always the freshest. I know, because when I was here for only a short period of time, I went there to get some sausage and they told me that I really should not buy it that day, but come back the next day when it was fresh made. They have always treated me with respect, and always tried to meet my strange demands. When Fran and I decided we wanted thicker Italian sausage, they made it thicker for us (and soon enough, we saw other people asking them for the same thing, however the craze for thick Italian sausage has run its course).
When I want ground beef, I point out the pieces of beef I want ground. Then we usually have a
discussion of what I will use it for, and then it will be ground to order. The same of course with ground veal and ground pork. They also make their own salami, and hang it up in the store to cure. You can see from the pieces of paper hanging from it that people have reserved some of it in advance. I always try to have a few links of it in the house, as it makes a nice antipasto with cheese and olives, and is also good to snack on sometimes.
In terms of the sausage and its freshness, I had to laugh when a friend from Sigonella came here, and for a bar b que he brought some Italian sausage made in America. I asked him why he got it when they have fresh Italian sausage here, and he told me that with American Italian sausage at least he knew what was in it. I looked at the ingredients. Pork, water, a few spices, and about six chemicals that I do not know what they do for better or worse, used as preservatives, color enhancers, etc etc. Here, the list is shorter. That piece of pork ground and stuffed into that piece of casing with just a pinch of spice mixed in. Period. No water. No chemicals.
Thursday is the day they get their meat deliveries, and start cutting for the weekend business. They usually get two to four sides of beef in a week, and four to six sides of pork. Most of it is locally grown, and I have joked with people that not only can I find out what farm it was grown on, but they can tell me the name of the animal as well.
They also get a quarter of beef Florentine, which is the premier beef grown in Italy, in the Tuscany area, for those who really like beef. It is good beef, but I must admit, I seem to be slowly losing my taste for beef. (although a nice beef stew or beef barley soup in the winter sure is nice).
First they carve up the beef into manageable pieces, then the veal, and finally the pork. When the pork is finally cut into parts, they start grinding parts of the pork for sausage. They reported that they make between 100 and 200 kilos of sausage per week (220 to 440 pounds of sausage per week). And this is a small two man operation.
Stefano and Michele learned their trade from their father, and unfortunately, neither of them has sons or daughters who seem interested in learning the trade. But then as Fran said many times, Sicily is like America in the 1950's, and small butcher shops may soon become a thing of the past. Indeed, Stefano and Michele told me that there used to be 40 butcher shops in Sciacca, and already the number is down to less than 20.
I can only hope that they will continue to do the wonderful business they do as long as I am here and as long as I want to eat meat.