Book Review: Salumi by Micheal Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing was a popular and more general look at making cured meats. In the author’s latest pork crazed book, Salumi, Ruhlman and Polcyn focus on eight basic categories of Italian salami (plural salumi), including: guanciale, coppa, spalla, lardo, lonza, pancetta, prosciutto, and salami (comprised of both whole muscle <such as prosciutto> and sausage <such as cacciatore>) .
See our guide to Italian cured meats.
Overall, Rhulman and Polcyn have produced a very good book on Italian, cured and smoked, pork products. That it to say, the authors know their stuff and the content is well researched, including wonderful photos. The book is both for the casual reader looking to gain a bit more knowledge about the craft of salumi (including butchery) as well as the serious food technician who wants to make his or her own salumi at home.
With the above said, making high quality coppa or prosciutto at home isn’t for the faint of heart, especially if one is looking to raise his or her own hogs with the goal of expertly butchering a pig for salumi production (this claim comes from a first generation Italian American whose family in Calabria has been making lardo, coppa, quanciale, and various salami for hundreds of years). However, if one can secure high quality cuts of pork (from the right breeds and farmer who mimic Italian butchers in the proper way of breaking down a hog) then curing and smoking at home become truly accessible and, in turn, possible.
So, at the end of the day, is it worth making your own salumi at home? The short answer is, surprisingly, no (especially with a recent ban of imported Italian salumi lifted). However, if one can secure the right breed of hog, butchered in the style of Italy, then decent Italian-like salumi can be produced in the home of any North American (and there’s no better hands-on or food anthropology guide than Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Salumi).