Four hundred years of Venetian Rule left, among many other things, a legacy in the traditional production of cold cuts. In those days, preserved meats were prepared by butchers in charge of processing meat from chirosfagia, an annual ancient custom of pig slaughtering.
Among the specialties of cold cuts, such as salami (salada), blood sausage or black pudding (bourdounia), headcheese or brawn (pichti), sopresada (similar to brawn), smoked ham (hiromeri fumicado), and sausages, the Corfiot smoked pork fillet (noumboulo fumicado), also called Corfiot prosciutto, was and still is Corfu’s most popular cold cut.
Noumboulo fumicado is produced according to this traditional method: A piece of pork contra fillet is packed with coarse salt, sometimes marinated in Corfiot wine, and smeared with pepper and oregano. It is then wrapped in natural pork intestine, smoked over a fire of wild lentisk branches, pennyroyal, sage, laurel, myrtle and oregano, and then left to age in an airy spot.
Until recently, noumboulo was prepared both in homes and in butcher shops that mastered the art of its production. From the mid 80s, Kerkyriaki Allantopiia, followed by other companies, began producing it in large quantities, and thanks to its special, delicate taste, noumboulo has won admirers all over Greece and abroad.
Noumboulo should be cut in very thin slices, to show off their light pink colour, served with soft cheeses, and can accompany the two other typically Corfiot deli treats – the exceptional and unusual sykomaida, a kind of pattie made of dried figs kneaded with grape must or ouzo, pepper, fennel seeds, and lemon rind, and kumquat, or in summer by slices of cool melon. It is also excellent with strapatsada, eggs scrambled with tomatoes.
A milestone in the history of noumboulo will be to be awarded PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) or PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status, which would further broaden its appeal and recognition.
Owing to the recent resurgence of interest in local products and local cuisines throughout Greece, noumboulo as well as other local cold cuts – salado, sausages, headcheese – are enjoying increasing demand in Corfu to such an extent that an old custom is reviving: instead of sweets, they are being offered as gifts on name days and birthdays.
In Corfu, you will find noumboulo at several butcher shops putting all their hearts to what they do, such as Michalas at the village of Doukades. However, the lion’s share is produced by the two largest companies of the island, Kerkyraiki Allantopoiia and COMECO.