The speciality products of Italian
charcuterie are numerous and all characterized by unique
elements, as well as by common factors such as the quality of raw materials, from “heavy pigs”.
Furthermore, the appropriateness of the pork from “heavy
pigs” for charcuterie products also depends on the feeding of pigs and on the structure of pig farms.
Original Italian salami from Italy cannot be imported in the United States
due to FDA regulations against raw pork meat imports. But some Italian expatriates
found a way to satisfy anyway the market for salami in that country, here is the story of what they did.
ITALIAN SALAMI VARIETIES
It is considered to be the “Prince” of Italian charcuterie
products. It is a matured product made from selected pork legs, coming from pigs having weights
ranging from 160 and 180 kg (the so-called “heavy pigs”).
It is elongated and pear shaped; its internal color is more or less rosy, uniform and edged by
a fat layer. The aroma is fragrant, the taste is delicate, faintly salty, tasty and flavorful.
How cured ham came to be
the most famous hams are protected by the PDO and PGI designations: Prosciutto di Parma Ham,
Prosciutto di San Daniele, Prosciutto di Modena, Prosciutto di Carpegna, Prosciutto Veneto
Berico – Euganeo, Prosciutto Toscano, Prosciutto di Norcia and Jambon de Bosses
are all protected Italian salamis designations.
It is a product with very ancient origins evolved over the
centuries into several types that now make up a true family subdivided into
regional specialties. Italian salamis differentiate themselves according to the
type of meat grinding (whether fine, medium or coarse) and according to the
spices and ingredients (garlic, chili pepper, fennel seeds, wine) used that
contribute to give each individual type a very specific personality.
In the Italian salami, meat, fat and other possible ingredients are minced together, put into casings
and matured. Then, towards the end of the maturation period, each salami type
develops its own typical aroma. The shape is generally elongated and varies in
size; when sliced, the inside looks red with grains of white/pink fat, the odor
is intense and appetizing and the flavor clearly defined.
Some of the most renowned salamis are the following: salami Milano (extremely
fine grain), salami Felino (medium-sized grain), Hungarian salami (fine grain
and slightly smoked), salami Napoli (fine grain) and Soppressa Veneta
(medium-sized grain), and at least five types, namely Brianza, Piacentino,
Salame di Varzi, Soppressata di Calabria and Salamini Italiani alla Cacciatora
have been given the PDO Community recognition.
The typical charcuterie product from the Alto Adige region
and it has been given the IGPCommunity recognition. Speck from
the Alto Adige region is protected by a specific Consortium that checks and
guarantees its quality by applying the Consortium mark to each piece passing
Speck is made from raw pork legs, that are then smoked and matured. One of the
secrets in making a good speck is its smoking, an operation that lasts for about
ten days using non-resinous types of wood (beech, juniper and ash).
Speck is long and flat-like in shape; the inside is pink with a tendency towards
red and clearly defined fat parts. It has a very distinct spicy and smoky taste.
It is extremely versatile from a gastronomic point of view.
Bresaola is made from beef leg cuts, dry cured for about two
weeks with salt, pepper, garlic, cinnamon, laurel and cloves.
This product is a typical one from the Valtellina area and only the Bresaola
produced in the province of Sondrio is entitled to bear the IGP European
At the end of maturation, Bresaola has a bright red color; its smell is
delicate and slightly spicy aromas can be perceived; the taste ranges from
slightly savoury to mild and the texture is soft and compact.
This charcuterie product is highly nutritional and energetic thanks to the high
protein content and the total or almost total absence of fat.
It is considered to be one of the most prestigious
charcuterie products of the Italian tradition. It is made from the fresh rear
pork legs, defatted and skinned, separating the muscle mass surrounding the
femur. The front part of this joint is destined to the preparation of "Fiocco",
that undergoes a shorter maturation period with respect to culatello.
Both Culatello and Fiocco are specialties coming from Parma, and the Culatello
di Zibello has been given the DOC mark. Their nutritional facts are similar to
those of defatted cured hams.
It is prepared using the neck muscles, following a production
process that is in many ways similar to that of cured hams.
It is typical of the Parma and Piacenza areas and Coppa Piacentina has been
given the DOC Community recognition. However, it is also produced in other areas
of Italy, where they use different processing methods and are sold under
different names (for example, Capocollo, which, if made in the Calabria region,
has been given the DOC mark).
Coppa is cylinder shaped, pointed at both ends, its texture is compact, but not
elastic. Inside, this product is red with white to pink fat veins. It is one of
the most nourishing charcuterie products, its smell is mild and characteristic,
its taste is delicate and becomes more refined with maturation.
It is made rom the pork belly and its shape changes according
to the type. For example, it is square in the case of flat pancetta that can be
with skin on or skinless, classical or smoked. Instead, rolled Pancetta,
Magretta and Pancetta Coppata (its name is because it is made by rolling
together Pancetta and Coppa) are all round in shape. Pancetta Piacentina and
Pancetta di Calabria have been given the DOC Community mark.
Its color is rosy white, more reddish in leaner Pancettas. Its smell is delicate
and varies depending on the spices used, such as pepper and cloves, whereas
Pancettas coming from central Italy are very often flavored with garlic and
Lard is made from pork back, more precisely, from the fatty
layer under the skin and to make a high quality product, heavy pigs are used; in
fact, these animals must have a strong constitution, with well developed muscles
and with a ratio between fatty and lean cuts that is more favorable to the
There are several production – preservation and maturation - techniques to make
lard and they vary according to the region. The most famous ones are Lardo di
Colonnata IGP and Lard d’Arnad, which has obtained the DOC European
Today it is considered a precious product and is widely used in gastronomy.
Prosciutto cotto (cured ham):
It is made from boned pork legs that are salted and then
The shape of cured ham is normally roundish; the inside is light pink with a
thin fat edge that contributes to its flavor fullness, which is delicate, though
typical, like the aroma characterizing it.
This product has quite recently joined the tradition of Italian charcuterie, but
apart from this, it is now one of the favorite products among consumers, due to
both its nutritional characteristics and its gastronomic versatility. “Roasted”
and “herb” versions are also available.
The typical features of this product are its cylinder shape,
its appearance and its slice color: a uniform pink (finely minced meat) studded
with clear-cut white little cubes (the so called lardons, prime quality fat).
Its smell is unmistakable and slightly spicy; its taste is full and
well-balanced thanks to the very presence of the lardons that mitigate the meat
Italian Mortadella has a centuries-old history and is produced using techniques
that are unique in the world. Mortadella Bologna bears the IGP Community mark.
Typically Italian, Zampone is a mix of lean pork, minced pork
skin and fat, with salt and spices, then stuffed into the skin of front pork
The market offers both raw and pre-cooked and sterilized Zampones.
The latter is particularly appreciated because it reduces preparation times. Its
consumption is mainly in the winter months, in particular, during the Christmas
period, but it would deserve more attention from consumers throughout the entire
Zampone Modena is a IGP charcuterie product.
Unlike what people may otherwise think, Zampone is a balanced product.
Cotechino is produced with the same mix used for Zampone, but
it is put in a different type of casing.
Cotechino is also available for sale in the raw and pre-cooked sterilized
versions. The consumption of Cotechino normally takes place in winter months, in
particular, during the Christmas period; however, its presence on the table is
also extending to other occasions.
Cotechino Modena, just like the Zampone Modena, has been given the IGP
From a nutritional point of view, Cotechino guarantees a good supply of noble
proteins and the composition of the fats it contains is in line with the
suggestions of modern nutritional sciences.
It is a type of salami that arrived in Italy from central
Europe, but is, by now, very popular and well liked also in Italy. Small in
size, generally a “single portion”, it is made by putting a mix of selected pork
meats into a casing.
The external and internal color is normally pink, whereas, the taste of the
individual types can be personalised by the addition of flavorings, such as red
onion, salt, pepper, oregano and, sometimes, even sugar.
Eaten raw or cooked, it has quickly integrated itself into the modern Italian
Originally typical of the Emilia Romagna region, they have
become popular throughout the Italian peninsula.
Cicciolis are produced by using the scraps of lean or fatty pork parts that are
roasted and then melted to obtain rendered fat.