Salami is cured sausage, fermented and air-dried.
Historically, salami has been popular among Italian peasants because it can be
stored at room temperature for periods of up to a year, supplementing a possibly
meager or inconsistent supply of fresh meat.
Left: Winter salami.
Varieties of salami are traditionally made in France, Italy,
Hungary, Germany, and Spain.
The word salami, as currently used in English, is actually
the plural form of the Italian salame; it is indifferently used as a singular
or plural word in English for cured meats in a European, particularly Italian,
The word originates from the word Sale (salt) with a termination -ame used in
Italian as an indicator of collective nouns; the original meaning was thus
all kind of salted (meats). In the Italian tradition of cured meats the word
salame soon specialised to indicate only the most
popular kind, made with ground salt and spiced meat forced into animal gut
with an elongated and thin shape, then left to undergo some kind of fermentation
A traditional salame, with its typical marbled appearance, is
made from one or more of the following meats: pork, chopped beef (particularly veal), venison, poultry (especially
turkey), and horse.
Additional ingredients may include:
various herbs and spices
The raw meat mixture is usually allowed to ferment for a day and then the
mixture is either stuffed into an edible natural or non-edible artificial casing
and hung to cure. The casings are often treated with an edible mold
(Penicillium) culture as well. The mold imparts flavor and
prevents spoilage during the curing process.
Many Old World salami are named after the region or country
of their origin. Examples include Arles, Genoa, Hungarian and Milano salame.
Many are flavored with garlic. Some types – including a few varieties from
Spain, most Hungarian types (Pick salami), and southern Italian styles (such as
those from Naples, which in turn originated American pepperoni) include paprika
or chili powder. Varieties are also differentiated by the coarseness or fineness
of the chopped meat as well as the size and style of the casing used.
Though completely uncooked, salami are not "raw" per se; they
have been prepared via curing. The term salame cotto refers to salami cooked or
smoked before or after curing and it is typical of Piedmont region in Italy.
This is done to impart a specific flavor but not to cook the meat. Before
curing, a cotto salame is still considered raw and is not ready to be eaten.
Salami are cured in warm, humid conditions in order to encourage growth of the
bacteria involved in the fermentation process. Sugar is added as a food source
for the bacteria during the curing process, although it tends not to be added to
horse meat because of the latter's naturally high levels of glycogen. Lactic
acid is produced by the bacteria as a waste product, lowering the pH and
coagulating and drying the meat. The acid produced by the bacteria makes the
meat an inhospitable environment for other, dangerous bacteria and imparts the
tangy flavor that separates salami from machine-dried pork. The flavor of a
salami relies just as much on how these bacteria are cultivated as it does on
quality and variety of other ingredients.
Originally, the bacteria were
introduced into the meat mixture with wine, which contains other types of
beneficial bacteria; now, starter cultures are used. The whole process takes
about 36 weeks, although some age it more for additional taste, and some can cut
it down to about 24 weeks for a sweeter taste.
The curing process is determined by the climate of the curing environment and
the size and style of casing. After fermentation, the sausage has to be dried.
This changes the casings from being water-permeable to being reasonably
airtight. A white covering of either mold or flour helps prevent the
photo-oxidation of the meat and rancidity in the fat.
Under some conditions the nitrate are produced by the breakdown of proteins.
Salt, acidity, nitrate levels and dryness of the fully-cured salami combine to
make the uncooked meat safe to consume.