PGI Zampone di Modena sausage has a characteristic, intense flavour, and tends to be eaten during the winter months. Alongside Cotechino sausage, Zampone has been brandishing the Indicazione Geografica Protetta (Protected Geographical Indication) mark since 1999 and, like many other specialities, includes its birthplace in its name.
Today, this sausage is made in a much vaster area, which also comprises part of Lombardy, covering the provinces of Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona and Mantova.
Unlike many other specialities, we do have a very specific date for when the first Zampone came into being: 1511. Legend has it that during the winter of that very year, the inhabitants of Mirandola, who were running low on provisions at the time owing to the long-lasting siege of Pope Julius II, did what they could to survive and stuffed pork rind and meat inside pig intestine casing and trotters (the name zampone derives from zampa, meaning the ‘paw’ or ‘leg’ of an animal) , thus giving life to the tradition of Cotechino and Zampone sausage.
Cheek, head, jowls and shoulder of pork, with a sprinkling of salt and various spices (pepper, cinnamon, mace, coriander, cloves, cumin, vanilla, nutmeg, thyme, bay leaf and garlic, as well as Lambrusco wine), depending on what the salami maker selects: these are the basic elements that make this sausage so truly special. Additives such as polyphosphates, however, are strictly prohibited.
In Italy, Zampone sausage traditionally symbolises the New Year’s Eve feast, when it is served with its famous companion, lentils, which are said to bring good luck for the year ahead. It may be accompanied by potatoes, mashed potatoes, stewed beans or peas as desired, or might be used as an ingredient in more refined dishes, such as in a stuffing for roast duck or goose. As for what to drink with it, sparkling red wine, such as Lambrusco, makes for a wonderful pairing.
Be sure not to miss the PGI Zampone and Cotechino festival, which takes place every year on the streets of Modena.