Italian Salami: How they came to be
The specialty 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.
Also, production techniques are key factors within the supply chain of Italian charcuterie products. Last, but not least for the excellence of Italian charcuterie products, is the series of controls that are carried out to assure their quality and safety.
Italy has a long history of preserving meats and an innumerable number of salami, each region has its own way of preserving the pig’s meat. Here you find a list of the most common ones:
Original Italian salami from Italy could not be imported in the United States due to FDA regulations against raw pork meat imports. Recently, these regulations changed, and now some real imported salami made in Italy are available for purchase, both in stores and online. In the past, some Italian expatriates found a way to satisfy anyway the market for salami in that country and made, and still make, Italian sounding products that often have nothing to do with the original Italian product they are named after. Here is the story of what they did, and where to find the REAL STUFF.
ITALIAN SALAMI VARIETIES
It is considered to be the “Prince” of Italian charcuterie products. 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, di San Daniele, di Modena, di Carpegna, Prosciutto Veneto Berico – Euganeo, Toscano, 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 IGP Community 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 controls.
Speck is made from raw pork legs, that is 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 recognition.
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 savory 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 is 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 from 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 fennel seeds.
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 latter.
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 recognition.
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 cooked.
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 flavor.
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 trotters.
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 year.
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.
It 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 recognition.
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 personalized 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 gastronomic world.
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.
Italian salami varieties:
Biroldoor Buristo o rSanguinaccio
Bocconcini di Daino
Bondiola di Treviso
Bresaola della Valtellina
Budellaccio di Norcia
Cappello da Prete
Carne di Melezet
Coppadi Ascoli Piceno
Corallina di Norcia
Cotechino di Modena
Cotechino di San Leo
Culatello di Zibello
Fiocco di Daino
Lardo di Cavour
Lardo di Colonnata
Lardo di Saint Arnad
Mazzafegato delle Marche
Mortadella di Bologna
Mortadella di Campotosto
Mortadella di Fegato
Mortadella di Fegato or Mortadella d’Orta or Fidighin
Mortandela del Trentino
Pampanella di San Martino
Porchetta di Ariccia
Prosciutto Cottonel Pane
Prosciutto di Bardotto
Prosciutto di Basciano
Prosciutto di Bassiano
Prosciutto di Bosses
Prosciutto di Carpegna
Prosciutto di Cinghiale Latium
Prosciutto di Cinghiale Tuscany
Prosciutto di Daino
Prosciutto di Guarcino
Prosciutto di Modena
Prosciutto di Montefalcone
Prosciutto di Norcia
Prosciutto di Parma
Prosciutto di San Daniele
Prosciutto di Sauris
Prosciutto di ValVigezzo
Salama da Sugo
Salame del Montefeltro
Salame della Duja
Salame di Cinghiale
Salame di Cremona
Salame di Daino
Salame di Fabriano
Salame di Felino
Salame di Mantova
Salame di Pecora
Salame di Rape
Salame di Sant’Olcese
Salame di Varzi
Salsiccia Cruda di Bra
Salsiccia di Castrato
Salsiccia di Lecce
Salsiccia di Monte San Biagio
Salsiccia di Polmone
Salsiccia di Rionero
Sanguinaccio di Lecce
Soppressa del Pasubio
Soppressata di Fabriano
Soppressata or Testa in Cassetta or Mallegato
Spalla Cotta di San Secondo
Speck Quadratoor Peze Enfumegade
Teutenneor Tetetteor Tetin