What food snobs today call ‘artisan curing meats’ I just like to call Salami day. The real secret to a successful salami day is actually some good homemade wine ( and by good I mean something that doesn’t taste like vinegar as is often the general consensus for homemade wine). This may seem cliché but it is important for two reasons, the first obviously being a hangover free attractive invitation to lure your friends to come and help, and the second is that it is because it is the only beverage that you can spill on a meat table that wont cause damage to your salami and in fact may actually aid flavour profile.
The first thing to consider on salami day is ‘what do you actually want to make’, as this will determine whether or not you are going to buy a whole pig or just particular cuts of meat. Now first you have to understand the difference between Salami and Salumi. Salami is exactly what you are thinking of… that long dried sausage that is sometimes covered in white mould and comes in many varieties of spice, determined by where the person making it comes from in Italy. Salumi on the other hand encompasses ALL cured cuts of meat. That would include (but is not limited to) prosciutto, coppa, pancetta, lonzino, lardo, guanciale, fiochetto and culatello
As a beginner, I would recommend making the following salumi as they are quite simple.
Coppa to the northern Italians , or coppacollo to southerners. This tender piece of meat is my favourite and is one of the easiest cuts to cure. It is a cylinder shape cut, taken from the top of the neck/head down to the 5th rib.
The pancetta can be divided into two parts. The lean, and the fatty. The fatty is usually cut up and used to flavour salami. The lean is then either cured flat or rolled up.
Salami meat is generally taken from the front shoulder of the pig as It has a great fat ratio. You want to have about 35% ‘good fat in your salami’. This is the really white fat that is marbled through the meat or you can take additional fat from the back along the spine if you need extra. If you are using a whole pig, any extra lean muscle generally gets cleaned and put into salami, taking care to remove any sinew, tendon and blood spots.
Im not going to put prosciutto in here…. The process is pretty easy but the drying is very risky for someone who doesn’t know anything at all….
Choosing your meat
You can decide to either buy a pig and invite 10 mates around and divvy up the proceeds, in such case remember to order sufficient wine and have a BBQ handy for the ribs that will come off the belly. Or if you prefer to drink alone you can also just order the specific meat that you need from your butcher. The latter option certainly does make for much less clean up.
However you procure your meat the important thing to remember is that the meat should come from good stock, so either get to know your farmer or make sure your butcher does. Salumi meat is also not the same as the regular pork you get from Coles. A salami pig should always be a sow, not on heat and she should be at least over 100kg as this ensures your meat has flavour. Some will say that a castrated male is acceptable, but I disagree. apart from the obvious, I also think they tend to be much fattier and the meat tends to have an uncanny odour, so even though the meat may cost you less, you will compromise both on quality and quantity
- Chefs Knife
- Boning Knife
- Large food grade plastic or stainless tubs for storing meat -1 each for whole cuts, salami meat, and discard
- Large work surface
- Large scales for weighing meat
- Meat grinder
- Sausage filler
Seasoning, Ingredients and Spices
Our most important ingredient for curing is salt. We use this both for flavour and also to aid drying as the salt will pull out all the moisture in the meat. Simply put, this is important because if too much moisture is left in the meat this will create an environment for bacteria to grow.
You should always use fine sea salt that is unionised and with no additives. Kooka salt has been the preferred salt in our family for generations in Australia.
For curing salami I recommend 2.8% salt per kilo of meat + recommended nitrate
For curing coppa and pancetta I recommend 3% salt per kilo of meat + recommended nitrate
Another important kind of salt is what we call a curing or nitrate salt. This kind of salt is generally called Cure #2 .Nitrates act as an antibacterial in our bodies and they have the same effect on our Salumi. They help keep bad bacteria away. They should however be used sparingly and for exact quantities you should go by the quantities as recommended by the particular brand that you are using. You can buy these easily online or at specialist deli’s. Do not confuse cure #2 with potassium nitrate or ‘salt peter’. This should never be used.
You can use whatever spices you like in your Salami and also for your bigger cuts. The most common are pepper and/or chilli, but garlic powder, fennel and paprika are also common. Experiment as you like, just make sure that your spices are fresh. Going to Asian or middle eastern grocers is a great way to ensure this.
This is pretty simple. White moulds are good, everything else is bad. White mould can be left to grow, Everything else should be wiped off as soon as it appears. To do this you take some white vinegar and mix with a little oil and wet a rag. Then rub the salami until all the mould is gone and rehang them. The vinegar will remove the mould and the light film of oil with help to prevent it from coming back. BUT if it does… wipe it again
A super nifty trick is to buy a white mould starter culture. In Australia you can buy a product online called Bactoferm 600 which is a powder that is dissolved in water and then sprayed on your salumi as soon as you hang it up. This gets the white mould started and is pretty fool proof. Our salami should completely cover in mould and will dry more evenly and taste better.
To go natural or synthetic… that is the question. Well here is your answer… most men will tell you to go natural cause they usually make their women wash and prepare the smelly buggers. I say go synthetic. Sometimes evolution does serve a purpose and for quite a few justified reasons.
- They are easier to fill and less prone to breaking
- They have a much more uniform shape and all dry at the same time… and look prettier hanging in your garage
- The only tying necessary is to seal the end and so less time consuming
- The skin once dry is easier to remove and so makes for easier storage and eating
- Any leftovers can be used for next season
- And most importantly there is or flavour difference between natural and synthetic
Just like a condom, they come in a range of sizes to suit all preferences and this is entirely your personal choice. Just remember that bigger is not always better and if you get them too big you may have problems with drying later on
For home drying you are at the mercy of the weather. Salami is made in winter time so that the cold temps allow for the slow drying process and of course the low heat stops prevents bacteria formation. Ideal Salami making season runs from June to July.
Hang your salami in your shed or garage, but always where mice and cats can’t get to them. You can cure in a temperature controlled ice box, but that for me is no fun and so if that is how you want to go then there is millions of pages on the internet.
Use the mould spray and follow the instructions carefully. You may have to do a google search for this specific to the product you are using.
Keep the humidity high… you want about 85% ideally. This can be achieved by opening your garage door for an hour or so when the fog comes in or leaving buckets of water around. Stealing your kids vick vapour steamer works will too and just run it with water (obviously without the vicks) Make sure there is no draught coming in as this will make the salami dry too quickly which can cause holes in the middle of your salami.
Salami will need about 6-7 weeks
Coppa and Pancetta about 9-10
Both should feel firm and have lost at least 35% of their weight
Curing Pancetta and Capocollo
Weigh your piece of meat. Weigh salt to the total of 3% and rub this all over the meat being careful to rub everywhere. The meat is then placed in a snug container with a weight on top and left in the fridge, covered for about 3-4 days. The meat will brine as the salt draws any moisture out of the meat. The meat should be firm when it is ready.
Once the meat comes out we wash away the salt with some wine and then dry with paper towel. Here is where you add your spices. Make a dry rub and Remember that if you are using things like pepper and juniper they should be toasted first and then ground in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Use this to season your coppa or pancetta.
Coppa can be tied up just as you would a roast beef so that it holds a nice uniform shape. Make sure you tie really tight, remembering that the meat will shrink. Place the coppa inside a skin and tie again, making sure to leave a hanging string. If you cannot find a skin that is large enough, just cut two open and then wet them slightly. Layer them over the coppa and tie to secure as per your roast beef.
Pancetta is exactly the same but it needs to be rolled up first. Get someone to hold it together nice and tight while you are tying or use some metal skewers to hold it in place and then tie. For extra security you can buy some netting to put over the top to keep everything nice and snug.
- Pepper, juniper, garlic, bayleaf, rosemary
- Brown sugar, juniper, garlic, bayleaf, thyme, pepper, curing salt (for rolled pancetta).
- Chilli, smoked or sweet paprika
Making Salami and sausage
There are as many types of salami in Italy as there are towns, provinces, villages and families!
Two main things change the flavour of a salami… the first is how big or small you grind the meat and the second obviously depends on the spices you use. Never put anything into a salami that you wouldn’t normally eat on a BBQ or from the oven. The method for making all kinds of salami remains the same
- Cut the meat into strips and then chunks that are large enough to fit into your mincer.
- Mince the meat. You can use whatever size cutter that you like. Generally a large size is used for bigger salami and a smaller cutter for smaller salami. Remember that larger salami take longer and are more difficult to cure. Sausages are cut very fine
NOTE: it is important that your meat is cold. Sometimes it is good to partially freeze the meat. If the meat is too hot, you will get smearing on your mincer, which is when all the meat kind of sticks to the blades and comes out soggy. If this happens stop immediately and clean you blades and start again. This can also happen if the blades are blunt. Some people like to mince the meat twice… this is a matter of preference
- Season the mea To do this we lay all the meat out on top of a table into a single layer. Measure your spices and have them ready. Sprinkle the meat with half of your seasonings. Then using your hand as a shovel, scoop sections of the meat up and flip it over like a pancake until all the meat is turned. Now season the other side. Remember that as a general rule
Meat from the leg 100%
Back fat 25%
Total meat + fat now =100%
Salt 2.8% (multiply by meat in grams 0.0280)
Curing salt 0.25% (multiply meat in grams by 0.0025)
Black Pepper 2% (multiply meat in grams by 0.0200)
Other Spices 1% (multiply meat in grams by 0.0100)
- Massage the meat. Now we have to rub the meat to work the proteins and make the meat sticky. This prevents air pockets when filling salami and is very important. It will also help distribute the seasonings evenly. In small quantities you can use the paddle attachment on a cake mixer for this step. In our case though I like to have one person on either side of the table, and working along we rub the meat back and forth against itself. You should do this for at least 20 mins and you will see the meat becomes tacky. Alternatively you can put the meat into a tub and punch it with the same effect.
Taste your meat! Crank the BBQ and make some rissoles. Only cook them to medium and taste your seasonings
- Ball the meat. We then get the meat and make nice big compact balls… about two handfuls of meat. This makes the filling the sausage filler easier and helps prevent airbubbles
- Fill the skins. Pack your sausage filler tightly. Once person should turn the handle, while the other threads the skins. Take you skin, either synthetic or fresh and thread it on to the nozzle. Fill the skins, making sure that you turn slowly and ensure that the skins are packed tightly. If using fresh skins, a back and forth motion when filling will stop breakages as it helps to follow the natural curve of the skin.
- Tie Up. Now we tie either our sausage or salami. Usually a knot at both ends is fine. You may like to thread your sausages, and if making big salami or sopressata it is advisable to tie them like a roast or add netting to aid with drying.