Porchetta: a sacred Umbrian practice

This article is the result of the collaboration between SapereFood and Umbra Institute, an Italian branch of some US colleges and universities based in Perugia. After an in-depth analysis of the agri-food sector and journalistic writing techniques, the Umbra Institute students visited some important companies in the region, telling their experience in the field and contributing to spreading the food quality of Umbria abroad.

by Dodi Allocca

Cheerful is one of many words to describe Giuliano Cariani. With an irresistible smile and a dynamic enthusiasm, it doesn’t take long to sense his passion for pigs and of course, porchetta. For the past twenty years, Giuliano has transformed his father’s pig business into a thriving porchetta producer and protector of Umbrian heritage. Today, the firm hand-produces twenty to thirty porchette a day, providing meat for food trucks throughout Umbria.

The transformation of the Cariani family business came at an important point in Umbria’s history. As the region modernized and people migrated from rural areas to cities, the culinary tradition of porchetta was threatened. At this time, Giuliano Cariani, prepared to inherit his father’s pig business, decided to take the business in a new direction. He and his father had cultivated deep relationships with local porchetta producers, and one day Giuliano decided that he could process them into porchetta for the food trucks. Excited to have this labor taken off of their hands, the porchetta producers started sharing recipes and teaching Giuliano the traditional craft of processing and roasting pigs.

Porchetta production requires specialized labor. A butcher that process the pork must have a strong understanding and connection with each pig and mastering these skills takes training. The men that work at Cariani have years of experience, and can prepare a pig – deboning, seasoning, and sewing the pristine meat into a porchetta roll – in about thirty minutes. Watching these men work is mesmerizing. They remove each bone with strength and care, effortlessly transforming the pig into porchetta. The skill and knowledge that these workers have cannot be imitated by a machine, and has been passed down through generations.

Pigs, are deeply ingrained in Umbrian culture and are not only at the center of their diets but the center of their heritage. Today, Giuliano and his employees are protecting this heritage. Cariani, with their modernized porchetta business, not only produces porchetta for many vendors throughout the region, but they are preserving the culinary history of their region.

In speaking with Giuliano, one can immediately sense his passion and enthusiasm for his career and family business. For him, porchetta is more than just a way of life, it is a flavor, a sapore of his home. Giuliano’s enthusiasm is merited. The Cariani porchetta, when served cold on bread, is something to be cherished. Its varied texture, from the crispy fatty skin to the savory seasoned meat, sets it apart from other styles of pork. He mixes salt, Indian pepper, wild fennel, garlic, which is rubbed on the inside of the porchetta roll. During its eight hours roasting in one of eight of Cariani’s tremendous industrial ovens, these spices leech into the meat, spreading the flavors throughout the pork. With these distinct flavors, Cariani brings cheer to food trucks and customers alike.

The future, for Cariani and for Umbrian porchetta lovers, is bright. Currently, Giuliano’s son is studying at the Faculty of Agriculture, and plans to write his thesis on, that’s right, porchetta. For another generation, the Cariani family will continue to preserve Umbrian culinary heritage, spreading cheer and sharing the tastes of the region through their passion for pigs.

Cariani porchetta with crispy skin and tasty meat served cold on bread is something to love. Italian-style roast pork