Cured meats and meat products - Albania
Pastërma is a cured meat from the region of Përmet, Albania, particularly the areas of Dangëllia and Frashër, that is made from goat meat dried over a fireplace or oven. Though it can be produced with beef, pork or mutton, it is best prepared with the meat of an older goat raised in the nearby mountain passes. Pastërma is prepared during the winter, especially during the month of December, when the temperatures are low and below freezing. To make pastërma, first the animal is slaughtered and butchered and hung for 24 hours. Then the meat is cut into strips 5-6 cm wide. These strips are put into a bot with salt and left to rest for 12-15 hours. The wood for hanging the meat is prepared, and then the strips are hung carefully so as to not overlap for drying. The meat is hung 1-1.5 meters above the oven or fireplace and dried very slowly, and is checked and moved from time to time to ensure an even drying. When finished, they are cut into smaller pieces and stored in canvas bags which are kept in a dry area to avoid humidity. Pastërma has been made and consumed in this region since ancient times and is a tradition passed down through generations. It was created as a way to preserve fresh meat, which could not be consumed in its entirety before spoiling in times before refrigeration. Pastërma is used in many dishes, but the most preferred ones locally are dishes with beans, onions, leaks and cabbage. Local families prepare about 10-15 kg annually for personal use. Today, the product is at risk of extinction due to trends of rural-to-urban migration, which compromises the transmission of traditional knowledge, like pastërma production, from generation to generation. Furthermore, new hygiene rules adopted with European Union membership make it impossible for local butchers to prepare the cured meat according to the original tradition, especially with the use of locally raised and slaughtered animals. This prevents artisan producers from emerging, while the general trend of sausage making in the home is diminishing.