“La Valle del gigante bianco” (The valley of the white giant) is the main event dedicated to the well-known Chianina breed organized by the Association “Amici della Chianina” in collaboration with the city of Sinalunga and the Consorzio of Vitellone Bianco dell’Appenino Centrale. A particularly rich exhibition that aims to enhance a product famous at international level as well as to tell its history and its territory of origin which is around the town of Bettolle (province of Siena, Tuscany).
This 14th edition has been held on May 25-27 and on June 1-3 with several activities: historical re-enactments, visits to breeding farms, cycling routes, conventions and tastings. Giovanni Corti, president of the admirable association “Amici della Chianina” states: this is an event aimed at “enhancing Chianina as a driver for the socio-economic development of the whole territory by connecting to many sectors: the food-and-wine one, the rural-agricultural sector if you think about producers and breeders, the cultural one linked to history as well as tourism”.
But how much do we really know about Chianina? Thanks to the educational tour organized this year I have been able to deepen all aspects related to this fine meat. Please find here the most relevant traits.
The term Chianina derives from the Val di Chiana, which is its territory of origin. Val di Chiana, already mentioned by the latin Plinio il Vecchio, today covers the provinces of Siena and Arezzo (in Tuscany), touching those of Perugia and Terni (in Umbria), both in central Italy.
Bettolle is the historical homeland of Chianina that was the birthplace of prof. Marchi considered “father” of Chianina as first researcher aimed to improve this breed genetically making it more suitable for procuding meat than working in the fields; and in the ‘30s right here in Bettolle began the modern selection by the prof. Giuliani.
What does Consortium of “Vitellone Bianco dell’Appennino Centrale” (White Beef of the Central Apennines) really mean?
Chianina meat is protected by the IGP mark “Vitellone Bianco dell’Appennino Centrale” (European brand for recognition and protection of valuable food products, closely linked to their area of origin and production), the mark is protected and promoted by the relative Consortium. More specifically:
– “Vitellone” means “Beef”: animals of 12 to 24 months
– “Bianco” (White): for the white coat
– “Central Apennines”: it’s the area of origins (in Central Italy) of the 3 breeds protected by the Consortium: Chianina, Marchigiana and Romagnola
The REAL Chianina: CURIOSITIES
It was already represented in the graffiti of prehistoric caves. It is present in Italy since 2500 years ago, much appreciated by the Etruscans and Romans who, thanks to the white coat, used it in the triumphal processions and for religious sacrifices. Today it is present in Tuscany, Umbria, Upper Lazio and to a lesser extent in other Italian regions. Probably the oldest breed of cattle raised in Italy.
It can be recognized by:
– white (like porcelain) coat
– black pigmentation of muzzle and tongue
– light and elegant head with short horns
– it is the largest bovine in the world! (an adult bull can reach 2 m in height and exceed 17 quintals of weight).
Once used as a working animal, today it is considered one of the finest meat ‘producers’ in the world. Among the races protected by the consortium is perhaps the one that enjoys a more noble and established image thanks to the fame also related to the myth of the “Fiorentina” (Bistecca alla fiorentina, meaning Steak of Florence).
Why in Italy do we call it “bistecca”?
In Florence since 1565 on the occasion of the Feast of San Lorenzo, in August, local people used to make barbecue. Thanks to the trade between Tuscany and England, some Englishmen were there and smelling a roast smell, got closer asking for “BEEF-STEAK!” And this expression have been Italianized in “bistecca“, finally officialized by the famous food expert and writer Artusi in a book.
How to recognize Chianina steak:
– bright red color
– tight and consistent grain
– small fillets of fat (white or slightly whitish)
– external thickness of white or light yellow fat
– Optimal maturation time *: from a minimum of 10 days (according to the regulation) even if often the butchers leave it for at least 20-25 days
* (it is a biochemical maturation process inside the meat which makes it softer and tastier, it takes place keeping the meat for a shorter or longer period, depending on the breed and other factors, in a sterile environment)
How to cook it (general rules for a barbecue)
– Keep it out of the fridge before cooking
– Cook over high heat (or hot plate)
– wait for a few moments before consuming it after cooking