Gourmet dry salami
How it's made, where it comes from, and where you can buy it online if it's not available locally
Most people will have come across or at least heard of salami - it's those thinly sliced disks of cured meat you get as a topping on pizza, right? But salami has a long and distinguished history going back thousands of years, and while the stuff you get on your pizza is probably OK, it isn't the best example of the breed, so to speak. The "top of the range", gourmet salami is so-called dry cured salami, which once it's made can be stored at normal temperatures for a long period, provided the conditions are right. If you see "chubs" of salami hanging on hooks in your local deli or at Italian restaurants, these will be dry cured salami.
How is dry salami made?
Dry salami is made by mixing chopped meat (usually pork), salt, fat and other ingredients (e.g. herbs, garlic and wine) together. Rather than actually being cooked, the ingredients are mixed and then allowed to ferment. The fermentation is kick started by the wine (if it's used) or by a starter culture.
The ingredients are then stuffed into a casing and hung to cure. As the salami cures, its acidity increases; this is due to formation of lactic acid by the bacteria involved in the fermentation process. It's the acidity which prevents the salami from spoiling and going off - not only that, but it gives a nice tangy flavour to the meat. After about three months, the fermentation is stopped in its tracks by increasing the temperature, though not by enough to actually cook the salami. After this, the salami is then allowed to dry. The salami casings are often treated with an edible penicillin-type mould or with flour to prevent the meat from going off. As already mentioned, whole chubs of dry salami will keep for years although once you've cut one open, you will need to keep it covered or wrapped in the fridge and consume within a week (or do whatever the instructions on the packaging tell you). [cont/d below]
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|Columbus Salame Company Artisan Finocchiona Salame Grab N Go 10 Ounce|
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|Columbus Salame Company Artisan Collection Gift Pack Crespone and Cacciatore 1.4lb|
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|Fra Mani Handcrafted Salumi Salametto Dry Salami|
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Where does salami come from?
Countries known to produce salami commercially include Denmark, Germany, France, Spain and Hungary. But the one that comes first to most people's mind - the one whose language gave us the word "salami" - is Italy. (In case you were wondering, the word actually comes from the Latin word "salumen", which describes a mixture of salted meats.) However, you can also buy salami from US firms such as Fra'Mani and the Columbus Salame Company, which is very much Italian in style and is made using the same methods and recipes.
Some types of Italian salami
Cacciatora. This is a small salami that's produced all over Italy.
Felino. Comes from Parma in northern Italy (where you also get Parma ham/Prosciutto di Parma).
Finocchiona. This salami is flavoured with fennel seeds and comes from Tuscany.
Milano. From the northern Italian city of Milan, this is among the most popular varieties of salami in Italy.
Napoletano. Comes from Naples in southern Italy, as you can guess from the name! Quite spicy.
Soppressata. This is from Calabria, which again is in southern Italy (it's the toe of the boot, as it were). This is softer than other dry cure salamis, because it's not aged for quite so long. [cont/d below]
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How to serve dry salami
Dry salami does not need cooking and can be eaten straight away, once you've peeled off any wrapping and chopped the salami up. Generally speaking the wider the diameter of the salami, the thinner you want to slice it. So a small salami about an inch or thereabouts in diameter wants to be chopped up thickly, so that it's nice and chunky. However you slice it, all types of dry salami are great in salads - my personal favourite way to eat them is with fresh tomatoes, salad leaves, fresh basil, olives and Parmesan shavings, all drizzled very lightly with good quality olive oil.
You can also cook with salami - chorizo, which is a Spanish salami, is a key ingredient in the rice dish paella. And yes, of course, you can slice your dry salami and use it as a pizza topping!
© Empress Felicity September 2010
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