The word “salumi” (or its singular “salume”) seems to be popping up more on restaurant menus, Instagram feeds, and even at some deli counters. Perhaps you have wondered what exactly does salumi mean as opposed to salami or sausages or …?
A bit of 101 on the subject:
Salumi is the category of high quality charcuterie that includes salami, prosciutto, and others, many of them pork-based. The definition of salumi is subjective and evolving, and producers are pushing the old boundaries.
Traditionalists limit the definition of salumi to cured meats made in Italy, while others use the term to describe meat that is preserved in a variety of ways – including cooked – and made around the world.
Emilia-Romagna is the best known region of Italy for its salumi, especially prosciutto, although charcuterie is made across the country.
Charcuterie is Salumi’s famous French cousin – also a wide range of cold cuts, including mostly pork.
Salumi was born out of a need to preserve meat before refrigeration and to use all parts of the pig. There are now many manufacturers of commercially packaged salumi available in supermarkets. (Some good, readily available brands are Olli, Gusto, Coro, Creminelli, and Daniele.)
In the US, producers and food companies are increasing their game of salumi. Northern Waters Smokehouse in Duluth, Minnesota is a destination for sausages that can be found in sandwiches, while Salty Pork Bits in Pittsburgh makes sausages that can be shipped nationwide.
“For a long time, the options for salumi in the US were very limited,” says Cesare Casella, an Italian chef and expert on salumi. “Then they slowly started importing some products from Italy. Now, in maybe the last five or so years, a lot more producers are popping up – a lot more small producers popping up and experimenting. “
Many people don’t understand that salumi is a cured product, Casella adds.
“It’s not ‘raw’ and doesn’t have to be cooked. It’s matured, so just like pickles, the fermentation process makes it safe (and tasty) to eat, ”he says.
The world of salumi is huge. Just some of his greatest hits:
Salami is the type of salumi many of us are most familiar with. In America, it is generally considered to be firm, dry-cured and sausage-like, sometimes made from beef and either whole or sliced. It is a huge category, with many types of salami and many variations within each variety that are influenced by the region.
Salamis are mostly made from minced or minced meat that has been salted and seasoned, wrapped in a wrapper, and hung up for curing and drying. There are also boiled salami and soft cured salmis. In many cases, you should remove the casing before you eat salami.
Sopressata is a dry cured pork salami that uses practically all parts of the pig. Its shape is long and slightly flattened, and usually has a certain kick of chili peppers, black pepper, and other spices. It can be cut thick or thin.
Mortadella is a pink, smooth, lightly cured and cooked salami that is made all over Italy. It is flavored with various spices and sometimes contains pistachios. It is usually served in thin slices.
‘Nduja (en-DOO-ya) comes from the Italian region of Calabria and is characterized by the fact that it is a spreadable meat with hot peppers. It is often served with a knife to spread on bread as a starter or snack.
Whole-muscle sausages: including ham, bacon, bacon
Many of these types of salumi are dry-cured with salt, spices and wine. They are made from the animal’s whole muscle, not ground or combined. This salumi is usually thinly sliced and eaten uncooked (but sometimes cooked), often as an ingredient in other dishes.
In the most perfect world, you buy these types of salumi to order from a high-volume store, but you can also find packs of them at the grocery store, often in the cheese department or near the deli counter.
Prosciutto is probably the best known, a whole category in itself. And the most common type of prosciutto is the whole leg of pork rubbed with salt, matured for at least 400 days in cool dark rooms. Usually sold in wafer-thin slices, Prosciutto has a salty, funky taste, silky texture, and delicate toothiness.
Italian or Italian bacon is somewhat similar to prosciutto, but with a little more pizzazz, spiciness and smokiness and a little denser. It can be eaten as is or used in recipes.
Pancetta is essentially the bacon of Italy, a cured version of pork belly that is often sold rolled into a cylinder, sometimes sliced, and sometimes diced. It can be eaten as is, but is often sautéed and used in all types of dishes, from braised meats to pasta sauces to salads.
Guanciale is made from the pig’s cheeks, flavored with bay leaves, pepper and juniper. It’s also usually sold rolled and then sliced, and is mostly used in pasta sauces such as carbonara and amatriciana.
Coppa or Capicola comes from the shoulder of the pig and is seasoned differently all over Italy. It’s usually quite flavorful – often made with wine and bright red, smooth in texture, greasy in the best possible way.
The best way to get to know the wide world of salumi? Taste it!
If you have a good gourmet or Italian market near you, go to the deli counter and ask to try some food samples. Remember, a quarter pound can buy a lot of different things. Keep salumi in the refrigerator but bring them to a cool room temperature (in the range of 60 degrees) for the best eating experience.
Casella thinks we should all eat more salumi: “Every Italian household probably has a few types of salumi in the fridge that you can pull out for a quick meal.”
Sounds like a plan.
Workman is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Dinner Solved! and “Das Mama-100-Kochbuch”. This article was provided by The Associated Press.