"Speck" is one of the core foodstuffs in Tirol, found at every good mountain hut and in many hikers' rucksacks. It is dried bacon which is made from pigs kept on the mountain pastures, where the healthy grass and rugged terrain cause them to grow strong and lean.
No visit to Tirol would be complete without sampling a little of the region's Speck or dried bacon. Supplies are limited, with Tirol home to just 13,000 pigs out of a total of 150 million in the EU in 2018. However, it is worth searching it out, not only for its delicious taste but also its many health benefits:
- The pigs, which spend summers on the high pastures in the Alps, receive almost zero antibiotics as they are at a far lower risk of contracting illnesses in the mountains.
- The healthy feed and regular exercise creates high levels of unsaturated fats, which can be seen in the fact that the fat on the meat is relatively soft at room temperature.
- The proportion of intramuscular fat is lower than in pigs kept in cramped conditions.
- Harmful fatty acids, such as arachidonic acid (a fatty acid which can cause inflammations in the body) are almost never found in Speck made from Tirolean alpine pigs.
- Bacon from Tirol's alpine pigs is treated using only pickling salt and natural herbs. No artificial colourants, flavour enhancers or other similar items are used.
Perfect for a healthy diet
We recommend combining this dried bacon with vegetables (fresh onion rings, radishes, sliced cucumbers) so the body can better absorb the iron.
How it's made
The meat is treated with pickling salt and herbs, including juniper berries from Tirol. It is then gently smoked over a beechwood fire with juniper branches. The smoking process kills any bacteria and dries the meat. After being left to rest, ideally in the fresh mountain air, the Speck develops its characteristic aroma.
How to recognise top-quality produce
Run a knife over the fat. If it is soft, it is a sign that the Speck is of good quality.
Though you will often find this dried bacon cut into thin slices, many experts are of the opinion that it tastes better when cut into small matchstick-shaped pieces. This means you have to chew the meat a little more, releasing its full flavour.
Traditional dried bacon from Tirol is too good for cooking. We recommend just eating it with a slice of fresh wholemeal bread.
The fat around the outside can be used in soups and hotpots, for example in the popular "barley soup" often found in Tirol. Simply cut the fat off and place in the soup at the start of the cooking process.