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The Ultimate Guide To Salami

by Albertina Roca

Deeply flavorful and satisfying, salami was once considered peasant food – a hearty food that would withstand weather and time for farmers in Europe to take out in the fields.

Salami is a dry sausage, typically made of pork, chopped, salted, blended with spices, stuffed into casings, and then dried and cured. There’s also cooked salami like bologna, and soft ‘nduja, but rule of thumb is, if it’s hard and dry and made of pork, it’s probably salami.

But how many salami types are out of there, and how do they taste? Get to know your salami!

If it's hard, dry, and made of pork, it's probably salami

Terminology: Salumi vs. Salami

Let's break down the lingo of cured meats because, believe it or not, there's a bit of a meaty maze to navigate. So, we've got "Salumi" and "Salami" on the menu.

  • Salumi: This is like the VIP section, welcoming all sorts of Italian preserved and cured meats to the party. Think Prosciutto, that classy cured ham; Bresaola, the air-dried beef superstar; and Pancetta, the Italian bacon with serious flavor game.
  • Salami: is a dried sausage made by mixing ground meat, herbs, and spices, packing it into casings, and letting it hang out to dry and cure. Picture your classic pepperoni, sopressata, etc.

So, while every Salami is a Salumi, not every salumi is salami.

The Craft of Salami

Salami's preparation involves mixing ground meat - often pork, but variations include beef, venison, or poultry - with salt for preservation, first and foremost, then seasonings. This is encased in natural or synthetic casings, then left to dry, and cure in a cool environment until ready.

Italian Salamis

Old school salami, the kind that most Americans are used to seeing in their deli meat counter, starts in one place: Italy. Although, like we discussed above, the process of drying meats and fermenting them to avoid spoilage has been around for a couple of thousand years, it was in 18th century Italy that we first begin to glimpse salami in it’s more modern form. Which is why there are so many beloved types of Italian salami that we see at our tables.

  • Finocchiona Salami: A classic of the Tuscan countryside, this pork salami is flavored fennel seeds and black pepper for a spicy kick.
  • Pepperoni: An Italian-American classic, seasoned with peppers and spices.
  • Salami Cotto: A Piedmont specialty, cooked and seasoned with garlic and peppercorns.
  • Soppressata: A well-known dry-cured, pressed pork salami with regional variations in flavor, this beloved meat can be bold or mild, depending on the recipe. It's great with sandwiches!
  • Nduja:this Calabrian soft and spreadable salami is the exception to the hard and dry salami rule. It’s fiery red, buttery and perfect to a fiery and meaty flavor to pizzas, crostini, and pasta sauces.

Other Delicious Salami Varieties

  • French Saucisson Sec: A thick, dry-cured sausage from France, sometimes flavored with dried fruits, wine, or cheese.
  • Rosette de Lyon: This French specialty is sweet and bold, made with rich pork marinated in red wine.
  • Teli Hungarian Salami: Also known as "winter salami", this classic is made from Mangalitsa pork meat and pork bellies, and seasoned with white pepper and all spice. You'll notice it right away for it's heavy dusting of edible mold on the casing.
  • Spanish Salami (Salchichon): A spicy salami made with finely ground pork and beef, seasoned with peppercorns.

Pairing Suggestions and Serving Tips

Salami adapts well to various pairings. Thick slices of Soppressata pair nicely with fresh cheeses like Mozzarella, while hard salamis from central Europe complement smoky notes. Its portability makes it an ideal snack for travel, hiking, or camping.

Gourmet Selection at Your Fingertips

From authentic imported salami to new artisan American salumi, discover the world of cured sausages online.

Questions and Answers

Q:Can dogs eat salami?
A:This is surprisingly a very frequently asked question! The short answer is not really, but a slice won't hurt your pet. However there are certain seasonings in salami that could be harmful for dogs, like garlic powder, so try not to feed your dog salami if you can. 
Q:Is salami gluten free?
A:Salami does not typically contain gluten in its ingredients. However, some have a casing that may contain gluten, so check labels carefully. Additionally, cross-contamination is a potential issue. Always look for a gluten-free label to be safe! 
Q:Can you eat salami when pregnant?
A:Cured meats are not cooked and therefore have low, but potential, risk of harboring bacteria that cause toxoplasmosis, putting the baby at risk. While this risk is very low, it's still a possibility. There's no right or wrong answer, and all pregnant women should talk to their doctor and follow their guidelines - or make their own choices based on information available. 
Q:What is salami made of?
A:Typically, it's a blend of ground or chopped pork with salt and spices, however it can also be made from beef, chicken, venison, or even bison.

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