Italian cured meats, known as “salumi” are eaten all around the world and are commonly used on charcuterie platters, on top of pizzas, and much more.
The term “salumi” may frequently be confused with the ever popular meat “salami”. However, the term actually refers to all different types of Italian cured meats.
Italian cured meats, known as “salumi” are eaten all around the world and are commonly used on charcuterie platters, on top of pizzas, and much more. The term “salumi” may frequently be confused with the ever popular meat “salami”. However, the term actually refers to all different types of Italian cured meats. In fact, there are three types of subcategories that classify these different meats – salumi, salami, and salsiccia.
The first subcategory, salumi, shares a name with the more general term but in this sense, it is used to describe Italian cured meats that are made from the whole cut of an animal. Usually made from pork, these cuts most commonly come from the shoulder or thigh of the pig.
The most popular type of salumi is prosciutto, which is made from the thigh or hind leg of a pig or wild boar. The most expensive legs of prosciutto come the central and north-eastern regions of Italy, namely Parma and San Daniele. There is a finer version of the meat known as Culatello, which is made from heavier pigs and uses wines during the curing process. Depending on the size of the ham, production can take anywhere from nine months to two years! Often served as an antipasto, prosciutto is sometimes wrapped around fruits, such as melons, and vegetables, such as asparagus, or it can be wrapped around other meats such as steaks or veal. It is also commonly used in pastas or as toppings on traditional Italian pizzas!
The second subcategory, salami, refers to the Italian cured meats that are smoked, salted and hung up to air dry. An example of a traditional Italian salami is capicola, known in Italy as “coppa” or “capocollo”. This meat is made from the dry-cured muscle of the pork shoulder or neck, which can be inferred by the translation of the name, “capo” meaning head, and “collo” meaning neck! Before the curing process, the meat is typically seasoned lightly with red and white wine, garlic, herbs and spices, and salted. The meat is then hung up to cure in a natural casing for about six months. On occasion, the casings are rubbed with a paprika!
Known for it’s tender, fatty texture, capicola is more expensive than other salumi and is even sold in the United States as a gourmet item. This meat is typically sliced very thin for use as an antipasto, in a panini, or as a topping on a pizza.
The third subcategory is salsiccia, meaning “sausage”. This type of meat is first ground, and then placed in a casing to dry. A popular example of this kind of Italian cured meat is soppressata, a type of cured dry sausage. Sopressata can actually be a type of dry salami, as is common of the regions of Tuscany and Liguria, but is also known as a sausage; popular in the Italian regions of Basilicata, Puglia, and Calabria. The process of making the soppressata first involves grinding the meat, most commonly pork, and often times, adding hot pepper. The process of drying the meat can take anywhere from 3-12 weeks. Soppressata is typically sliced thin and eaten on crackers but can also be used in place of pepperoni on a pizza.