How Salami is Made: Meat, Salt, and Time

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(photo: the varying parts of a pig, photo courtesy of Meat Salt Time by Tony Seichrist)

 I have to admit, I have an addiction.  Specifically, my addiction is centered on the mighty pig and it’s cured off-spring, Salami!  

Salumi (the plural for salami) is made from either a single, whole, cut (e.g., Prosciutto) or ground parts of the pig.  All salumi (at times referred to as charcuterie) is cured, including some type of spice, and is aged for varying periods of time (for most Italians, cooked pork products, such as mortadella and prosciutto cotto, would also be considered salumi). 

Some of the more popular salumi in Italy include, Cotechino
or Zampone, Guanciale, Lardo, Pancetta, Salame, Salame genovese di
Sant’Olcese, Felino, ‘Nduja, Soppressata, Ciauscolo, Prosciutto, Prosciutto
di Parma, Prosciutto di San Daniele, Speck, Culatello (a personal
favorite), Culaccia / Culatta, Prosciutto cotto, Capicola (another
personal favorite), etc.  See my guide to salumi for more information. 

Scroll down for a chance to win a great book on how salami is made!

(photo: Salumi drying in cells and developing mold.  photo courtesy of Meat Salt Time by Tony Seichrist)

great salami starts with a high quality pig, such as Duroc, Ossabaw,
Mangalitsa, Pata Negra, etc.  And salumi such as Felino or Soppressata
are made from different parts of the pig including the neck, belly,
loin, jowl, etc.  The pig parts need to be ground before the spicing
and stuffing process can begin. And as you probably guessed, both the
lean and fatty parts of the pig are used during the grinding process
(in fact, this is a key step because a good salumi needs a good ratio
of fatty to lean meat).  Before the grinding takes place, most salumi
makers coarsely chop their cuts of meat and thereafter it goes through a
coarse grind plate.  Next, the meat is ready for salt and spice.  
The best salumi makers, such as Christiano Creminelli (who is the subject of a new book by Tony Seichrist entitled, “Meat Salt Time),
use high quality sea salt and spices such as black pepper, garlic
powder, nutmeg, dextrose or sugar, chili flakes, cloves, fennel seed,
juniper berries, white pepper, etc.  The spices vary according to the
type of salumi being produced, but most salumi are usually comprised of
about 3% salt.  
(photo: Different Salumi spices, in this case the type of
spices used by Creminelli.  photo courtesy of Meat Salt Time by Tony
After the spicing process, the
salumi mixture is stuffed into a natural casing and tied and the
critical fermentation process begins.  During the fermentation process,
they key goal is to control temperature and humidity.  As Seichrist

“The temperature and humidity are primed for
bacterial growth, and the sugars in the recipe provide food for the
growing culture.  As the bacteria begin to multiply and consume the
sugars, there is a sudden drop in PH.  It is this sudden lowering of
the pH that renders salumi completely safe to eat.”

fermentation process also allows the salt in the meat to pull the water
out of the salumi (this is what “drys the salumi and the high humidity
during the process prevents the meat from drying out too much”).  The
ideal temperature at the beginning of the fermentation process is about
73-75 degrees with humidity close to 100 percent.  After about 10
hours, the humidity level needs to be dropped to 60 percent (for about
5 hours) with a gradual drop in temperature, as well.  After the 5
hours the humidity level is raised slowly (during a 4-5 day process) to
about 75-85 percent with a temperature between 55-60 degrees.  The
salumi stay in the aforementioned environmental conditions (usually in
a curing cell when making large production batches) for about 17 days
(during which critical mold and bacteria is created as well), in total.

Are you interested in learning more about
the salami making process and how high quality artisan producers such
as Creminelli make their products?  If so, enter to win your very own copy of Meat Salt Time ; the book includes some of the best food photography I’ve seen(!):
– Only one entry per person please.

The contest is open until 12 midnight on 10/4 and a single (1) random
user will be picked via (sorry contest only open to folks
from the US given shipping logistics).  The winner will be announced
immediately on Twitter (so please follow me) and on by 8PM
on Tuesday, 10/7.
– Requirements (both are
needed): 1. Become a fan of on Facebook (if you’re a fan
already please “share” the page on your Facebook account) and 2. leave
a comment here on your favorite food process, that is, something like
making salami that you know well (e.g., making homemade pasta or fried
– The book publisher will send out the book to a single contest winner during the week of 10/11.

(photo: Christiano monitoring the butchering process. photo courtesy of Meat Salt Time by Tony Seichrist)

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