What better month to discuss cured meats than June — the month that honors fathers! "Real Men" love cured meats. We are not talking about the processed cured meats in your supermarket, we are talking artisanal salumi (generally, American salami is made with dried milk, corn syrup and other fillers, beef as well as pork)
Salumi (charcuterie is the French word) is the general word that refers to all the Italian cured meats such as salami, coppa, procsciutto. Thanks to the slow food, artisanal movements many chefs have fallen in love creating these delicious meats. Creating salumi, for chefs, is akin to making wine – each batch is different. Each chef has their secrets – the type of pork, how finely the meat is ground, the spices, the curing all are factors in the final product. Creating these meats has become a personal passion for many chefs today.
A piece of homemade salumi, a great handmade cheese and a hunk of fresh bread - that is living—what about the salt and fat, you may ask? Moderation is the key to great living. The meats are served as antipasti or a side dish, or as the star of a great panini. Cured meats also are chopped for stuffing and in the case of guanciale (cured pig's cheeks), they are sautéed for pasta all'Amatriciana.
Slicing is the most important point. Most salumi, especially the dry ones like salami and prosciutto, need to be cut very thinly. The bigger around the salumi, the thinner you want to slice it. A knife will do , but it needs to be very sharp, otherwise you won't get thin, clean slices. Instead, you'll smush the meat, smearing the fat and blurring the taste of the lean bits. Small, hard salami can be cut thicker. Salumi makers like to use hand-cranked machines. Power slicers will heat up — and the heat will smear salumi's fat. In the quality salumi world, "the' machine is called "the red slicer." This refers to a Berkel, preferably a hand-cranked antique model, in red with chrome fittings. Refurbished, they are considered the ultimate salumi slicing machines.
The accompaniments are personal taste. Italian cheeses, olives, roasted garlic, sliced beets and almonds are all terrific.
When building a platter select salumi of different colors, textures and tastes. For example, sweet, soft mortadella is a good contrast to spicy, chewy coppa and silky, salty prosciutto.
Storing. Uncut dry-cured meats can be kept for up to three weeks, unwrapped in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. It will continue to dry and harden. If moisture gathers on the surface, dry it on your counter for a day or two. Once cut, they should be eaten within three weeks.
Types of Salumi
Coarsely chopped pork, highly seasoned & dry-cured. Some are spicy hot, some aren't. Best when sliced very thin.
Salted, then dry-cured leg meat, covered in its own fat. Usually made from pork, but can be made from lamb or wild boar.
Dry-cured beef, traditionally served with lemon, olive oil, Parmigiana and arugula.
Dry-cured loin meat, whole pieces not chopped, usually pork.
Whole pieces of pork shoulder cured in a natural casing. Dark red, with thin veins of fat throughout. Spicy coppa is rubbed with cayenne.
Back fat, cured in salt and dried.
A cooked sausage made by emulsifying fat and finely ground pork. Cubes of fat are often added (some also add pistachio nuts). Spices vary. It's poached and air-dried.
Common Tuscan-style dry-cured sausage made from coarse-cut pork, red wine and whole black peppercorns. Finocchiona is a variation of Toscano, flavored with fennel.
Salame di Felino
Light curing makes it softer than some salami. Very lean pork, ground to a medium coarseness, flavored with peppercorns. Originally from the town of Felino, near Parma.
Finely ground, deep red and mildly spiced with garlic and white wine. Mass-produced American versions contain beef, too.
Dry-cured pig cheeks or jowls.
Pork bellies, rolled and spiced with black pepper. Italian bacon.
Food411 Salumi Resources:
Salumeria Biellese - Italian Salamis (phone orders only) Old World style Italian products, with an emphasis on the highest quality. homemade sausages and salamis since 1925. Highest quality ingredients, without artificial colors or flavors
La Quercia - Premium American artisanal made prosciutto and other cured meats. See our blog post.
Fra' Mani - Fennel salame, sausage, bresola, and more handcrafted by nationally recognized chef Paul Bertolli. Bertolli's zeal for authentic handcrafted food brings the art of traditional Italian salumi to America. All-natural pork in the pastoral Italian tradition
Salumi Artisan Cured Meats - Outstanding products; Salami's: Dario, Finocchiona, Hot Sopressata, Mole, Oregano, Salumi Salami, Smoked Paprika; Cured Meats: Coppa, Culatello, Lamb "Prosciutto",Lomo; For Chefs: Guanciale,Lardo, Pancetta
Boccalone - Tasty Salty pig parts! Sustainably raised, heritage-breed pork, Italian sea salt, and fresh spices & a lot of time. They use a small-batch, hands-on method and traditional cold curing. Salami, lardo, capocollo, pancetta. If you live in the SF Bay area you can join their Salumi Society, 2x's/month you pick up your Sacchetto (small bag) containing an ever-changing assortment of fresh sausage and salumi selected their 23 varieties of artisan meats..
The Fatted Calf - charcuterie producing a wide range of hand crafted products using high quality, natural ingredients. Organic and hormone free meats, superior seasonings and salts, organic herbs and produce. They create pâtés, salami, prosciutti, confits and a large selection of fresh sausage. Our cured meats are made and aged using traditional methods.