According to tradition, it was the Jews who arrived in Valnerina after the destruction of Jerusalem who invented the technique of preserving pig meat. As they were unable to eat it for religious reasons, they had to preserve it in order to trade it.
From the 12th to the 17th century, there was strong development of crafts relating to the processing of pig meat and these included the emergence of the “norcino” – the “pork butcher”. Over the years these professionals organized themselves in guilds or confraternities, eventually playing important roles in society and creating new charcuterie products.
In Bologna there was the Corporazione dei Salaroli (Guild of Salters), while De’ Medici’s Florence featured the birth of the Compagnia dei Facchini di S. Giovannni (Corporation of St. John’s Porters), stemming from the Norcians. Pope Paul V, with a papal bull of 1615, even recognized the Norcian confraternity dedicated to St. Benedict and St, Scholastica. Eight years later Pope Gregory XV promoted this association to the rank of Arch confraternity, which was joined in 1677 also by the university of the pork butchers of Norcia and Cascia and of the Norcian empirical pork physicians. Graduates, also blessed and licensed, Norcians’ fame grew in various parts of Italy. Their activity was purely seasonal as pigs were slaughtered only once a year, in the winter.
They left their towns and cities (Norcia, Cascia, Bologna, Florence and Rome) in early October and returned to them at the end of March, when they became sellers or straw or of horticultural products.
The fame of the “Norcino” – pork butcher – remained intact until after World War II. At present the largest Norcino community is in Rome, besides the civil association set up in 1623.
Since then the salting and curing of hams, capocollo salami (made from pork neck and shoulder) has become a specialty of the inhabitants of Norcia – whence the name of “Norcineria” given to the activity and of “Norcino” given to the craft.
Norcia today still features production, as well as outstanding prosciutto crudo (uncooked, dry-cured ham), of capocollo salami, spalletta (small cooked shoulder of pork), loins, bacon and guanciale (unsmoked cured pig’s jowl). Sausage-type products, i.e. packed in guts, include ciasculo salami (a.k.a. spreadable salami), coppa (cured pork collar) and sausages, also made using boar’s meat.