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Salami at a Glance
Mediterranean Basin, Southern Europe, West Asia, North Africa
Type of Charcuterie
Dry Cured Sausage
Pork, beef, veal, fat, salt, garlic, pepper, onion, mustard seed and other spices
Salame, salam, szalami, hunter salami, cacciatore salami, cacciatore salami, Spegepølse, Genoa salami, Milanese salami, fegatelli, finnochiona, felino, ciausclo, soppressata, pepperoni, saucisson sec, nduja, winter salami, German salami, chorizo, kulen, salame Napoletano, landjaeger
Unlike the popular notion, salami is not a single type of sausage. Rather, this is a general term used to describe "insaccati" or encased meat. The word is said to have come from the Roman term "salare" which means to salt.
Other accounts attribute the origin of the word salami to the Latin term "salumen" which refers to a mixture of salted meats. Either way, both these origins refer to the preferred method for meat preservation during the early days.
The preparation of salami goes back well before Roman times rooting from the Mediterranean basin. Regional differences in preparation techniques have given rise to many different types of salami. These are usually identified according to the spices used as well as the fineness of the meat. However, despite the many different countries within this region that produce this type of sausage, it is associated mostly with Italy.
Generally, this sausage is prepared with pork, beef, veal or a mixture of these meats. It is then mixed with fat and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, onion, mustard seed and other spices then left to ferment. The meat is encased in chitterling and the sausages are then hung to cure and dry.
In some cases, these may be smoked or exposed to heat to help quicken the fermentation and begin the drying stage. It is also common for salami to be made with edible mold culture which prevent spoilage and give flavor as well.
Fresh and cooked salami are soft and often have a bright pink interior speckled with white coming from the fat. On the other hand, dry salami has a deeper dark red color which may also be speckled. These are firm and hard to the touch. These may also have an uneven surface as a result of the loss of moisture in the sausage.
Soft salami is best served in thin slices while hard varieties give the best flavor when sliced thickly. Generally all salami types go well with tomato based dishes.
Photo Credit: Jesper Hauge