On Instagram, restaurant menus and even deli counters are showing more use of the word “salumi” or its singular, “salume” version. Perhaps you have been curious about salumi, which is different from salami or charcuterie or ….?.
Here are 101 facts about the subject:
Salumi refers to a category of high-quality cured meats, which includes salami and prosciutto, some of which are pork-based. Salumi definitions are subjective and changing, so producers are constantly expanding the boundaries.
Traditionalists restrict salumi’s definition to Italian cured meats. Others use the term to refer to meats preserved in different ways, including cooked, and made around the globe.
Emilia-Romagna, the most famous region in Italy, is known for its salumi and prosciutto. However, cured meats can be found throughout the country.
Charcuterie, the French cousin of salumi, is a large range of cured meats that are mostly made from pork.
Salumi was created out of the need to preserve meat before refrigeration and to use all parts pigs. There are many salumi brands that can be purchased at supermarkets. Olli, Gusto and Coro are some of the most popular brands.
Producers and food businesses across the United States are increasing their salumi game. Northern Waters Smokhaus, Duluth, Minnesota is a popular destination for cured meats. Salty Pork Bits, Pittsburgh, makes cured meats that are available nationwide.
Cesare Casella, an Italian chef who is also an expert on salumi, says that there were not many options in America for salumi. “Then, slowly, they started to import some Italian products. In the last five years or so, more producers have started to show up. Smaller producers are also showing up and trying out new products.
Casella says that many people don’t know salumi is a cured product.
It is safe to eat raw and does not require cooking. He says that it is cured so, just like pickles and safe to eat.
Salumi are a vast industry. Here are a few of the greatest salumi hits:
Salami is the most well-known type of salumi. It is generally described as dry-cured, firm-textured and sausage-style in America. Sometimes made from beef, it can be sold whole or sliced. This is a large category with many salami types and many variations depending on the region.
Salamis consist mainly of chopped or ground meat, which has been salt and seasoned and then stuffed into a casing and dried. You can also find soft-cured salamis or cooked salamis. You will need to take out the casing in most cases before you eat salami.
Sopressata, a dry-cured pork salami, uses almost all the parts of the pig. It has a long, flattened shape and is often spiced with chili peppers, black pepper, or other spices. You can slice it thickly or thinly.
Mortadella, a pink, soft, mildly cured, and cooked salami, is made all over Italy. You can flavor it with various seasonings, and sometimes add pistachio nuts. It is usually cut into thin slices.
The Calabrian region of Italy is home to ‘Nduja (pronounced “en-DOO”ya). It is a spreadable, spicy meat that is hot with peppers. You can spread it on bread with a knife as an appetizer or snack.
WHOLE MUSCLE SALUMI – INCLUDING PROSCIUTTO SPECK, GUANCIALE
These salumi can be dry-cured with seasonings, wine and salt. They are made from the entire animal’s muscle, and not from any parts of it. This salumi is often eaten uncooked, sliced thinly and sometimes as an ingredient in other dishes.
These salumi would be purchased sliced at your local high-turnover store. However, they are also available in packages at the grocery store near the deli counter or by the fine cheese section.
Prosciutto is the most well-known, and it’s a whole new category. The most popular type of prosciutto, salt-rubbed whole pork legs, is cured in cool dark rooms for at least 400 day. Prosciutto is typically sold in thin slices made from paper. It has a mild salty flavor, a smooth texture, and delicate toothsomeness.
Italian or Italian-style prosciutto is a similar product to prosciutto, but it has a little more flavor, seasoning, and smokeiness. It’s also a bit thicker. It can be eaten raw or added to recipes.
Pancetta, which is basically the Italian bacon, is a cured pork belly version that is sold in a cylinder. It is sometimes cut and diced. You can eat it as-is, or you can saute it and use it in a variety of dishes including braises, pasta sauces, and salads.
Guanciale is made with the pig’s cheeks and season it with bay leaves, pepper, and juniper. It is also sold rolled and then cut, and is used most often in pasta sauces such as carbonara or amatriciana.
Coppa, or capicola, is made from the top of the pork’s shoulder. It is different in Italy. It is usually very flavorful, often with wine and bright red, smooth texture, and fatty in its best form.
To get to know all about salumi, the best way is to taste them! Try them!
You can ask for samples at a deli counter if you live near a gourmet or Italian market. You can buy a quarter pound of many different items. For the best tasting salumi, keep it in the fridge and cool it at room temperature (in the 60degF range).
Casella believes we should all eat more salumi. “Every Italian household has at least a few kinds of salumi in their refrigerator that can be pulled out for a quick meal.”
It sounds like a plan.