What is Salami?

What is Salami?

Thought to originate in Italy from as far back as Roman times, the word salami comes from the Latin for salt - sale or to salt – salare. Salami is a cured sausage consisting of fermented and air-dried meat, typically pork. Italy is widely credited with having invented the product, and some date it back to Ancient Rome. As explained by Italy Magazine, a 1st-century A.D. Roman cookbook shows that pork salami has been around for centuries. A more modern version was later mentioned in an official Italian document in 1436. 

The quality of salami is dependent on the quality of the raw materials and the level of technology used in its production. The first step in salami-making is selecting various cuts of pork and grinding them thoroughly, making sure there is a generous proportion of fatty bits in the mixture of leaner pieces. Salt and flavorings, such as spices, garlic, herbs, or even nuts, are added to the mixture before it is stuffed into a case and then hung up to dry-cure. This is a time-consuming process that involves storing salami in strict temperature and humidity-controlled conditions for weeks, months, or years. As anyone who has tasted great salami can probably attest, the end result is worth it.

There are far too numerous different salamis to count. Italy alone brags of well over 150 different types and many Old-World salami are named after their region or country of origin. Varieties also differ by coarseness or fineness of the chopped meat and size and style of the casing.

No matter which types you buy or how you enjoy it, all types of salami boast a similarly salty, porky taste and fatty mouthfeel. More specific flavor notes depend on what is added to the salami. Some may have an anise flavor from fennel seeds, while others may taste spicy from black pepper or chili peppers. There are countless ways to pair cured meats with cheeses, fruits, wine, and bread, but a good rule of thumb is to pair hard cheeses with spicy, dry salami and keep fresh fruits for soft salami.