A salami is a
cured (fermented and air-dried) sausage
of Italian tradition. The name comes from the Italian verb
salare, meaning to salt.
A traditional salami
is made from a mixture which may include the following:
chopped pork, beef,
and various herbs and spices. More modern (but still
traditional) mixtures include additional ingredients to
assist in fermenting: nonfat dry milk, dextrose, lactic
acid starter culture (bacteria), ascorbic acid, sodium
nitrite, and sodium nitrate. These more modern ingredients
simply take the guesswork out of traditional curing and
can be found in many of the finest salami varieties in the
world, although some producers eschew the nitrates and
nitrites due to health concerns.
The raw meat
mixture is usually allowed to ferment for a day and then
the mixture is either stuffed in an edible natural or
non-edible artificial casings and hung to cure. The
casings are often treated with an edible mold (Penicillium)
culture as well. Mold imparts flavor and prevents spoilage
during the curing process. Most salami have the mold or
the casing removed before being brought to the United
States market. Purists insist that the mold should be left
In Italy, salami
come in many regional varieties. Other national varieties
exist, and, throughout the world, amateurs enjoy the art
form as well. Though uncooked, salami are not raw; it has
been prepared via curing. The term cotto salame
refers to salami cooked or smoked before or after curing.
This is done to impart a specific flavor but not to cook
the meat. Before curing, a cotto salame is still
considered raw and is not ready to be eaten.
Styles of salami
are as varied as types of cheese. Many Old World salami
are named after the region or country of their origin.
Examples include Arles, Genoa, Hungarian and Milano salami.
Many are flavored with garlic. Some types � including a
few varieties from Spain, most Hungarian types, and
southern Italian styles (such as pepperoni, derived from
salsiccia Napoletana piccante) include paprika or chili
powder. Varieties are also differentiated by the
coarseness or fineness of the chopped meat as well as the
size and style of the casing used. The length of curing
process is directly affected by the climate of the curing
environment and the size and style of casing.
The process of
curing does not just involve drying. It also involves
fermentation with lactic acid bacteria, which are safe for
human ingestion. The acid produced by the bacteria makes
the meat an inhospitable environment for other, dangerous
bacteria and imparts the tangy flavor that separates
salami from machine-dried pork. The flavor of a salame
relies just as much on how this bacteria is cultivated as
it does on quality and variety of other ingredients.
Originally, the bacteria were introduced into the meat
mixture with wine, which contains other types of
beneficial bacteria; now, starter cultures are used.
One of the most
expensive and well-regarded types of salame, the Felino,
brings a great amount of money to the local industry of
the province of Parma and Emilia-Romagna in general. There
is, in fact, a small statue in the town of Felino
dedicated to the pig. According to what was written in the
inscription of the statue, the people of these areas
brought out the best quality of the pig to create the
grandest of all pork-derived products in Italy if not in
the whole known world: the Salame di Felino and Prosciutto
di Parma. This gives a bit of perspective of how much
pride and dignity Italians have for these traditions.
In the United
States, traditional salami are either imported or referred
to as an "Italian Salami", the protected term
for salami made in the United States with authentic
traditions. Other salami may include non-traditional
ingredients, such as mechanically separated chicken,
beef hearts, water, and corn