History of Salami
Although the exact origin is unknown there is evidence that a fermented sausage was made in the Mediterranean region more than 2000 years ago and became he preferred method of preserving meat for the Romans and Greeks.
The word Salami comes from the Italian "salare" meaning to salt. The Roman Legionnaires were often paid with salt, hence the word salary which also comes from "salare". They then used the salt to make salami. Originally salami was just made from pork but more recently other meats including beef have been used.
Because salami is fermented it has many natural health benefits, for example, it contains lactic acid bacteria which can help maintain a healthy digestive system.
Why eat salami and other cured meats?
The consumption of salami is increasing in Italy. In 2001, the annual quantity consumed per inhabitant was an impressive 18.5kg so we have a bit of catching up to do! There are several reasons for this:
• nutritional properties – the recognition that salami has good nutritional properties with a high concentration of noble proteins;
• value for money – salami is comparatively cheaper than other meat products;
• convenience – it is also a convenient product providing a quick and easy way (all you have to do is slice it!) to prepare a healthy and appetising lunchtime snack or evening meal;
• long-lasting – as it is cured, it keeps well in the fridge (see how).
How to store the salami?
Salami is a cured meat product and keeps for months – don't forget these products came about because years ago this was the only way to preserve meat – there were no fridges. As a consequence, it can keep for months.
The best way to conserve whole salami and other cured meats is to keep them hanging in a fresh and ventilated place (about 10-15°C) where they will continue to mature. If that's not possible, put them in the fridge in the compartment reserved for fruit and vegetables. Generally, the best way to taste salami is to eat it as soon as it's cut. The salami should then immediately be tightly covered with plastic wrap around the cut surface – it will help to put an elastic band around the wrap to keep it stretched and avoid the air from entering underneath – and put in the fridge. Once started, if you notice that the cut end-piece of the salami has discoloured, don't worry this is simply due to slight oxidation as the air has got to it. The salt may also have started to crystallize on the end surface which may alter the taste slightly. You will see that it is just this end-piece that is affected and the rest of the salami is absolutely fine.
If you have uneaten slices remaining, they should be kept in an air-tight sealed box in the fridge to help the salami keep its organoleptic characteristics for as long as possible.
If the skin of the salami develops marks or discoloration on the skin, again don't worry it is completely natural. If you wish, you can use a slightly damp cloth to gently rub the marks away but it really isn't necessary.
How is salami preserved?
To preserve meat, the undesirable microorganisms on the meat surfaces that cause spoilage must be inactivated and destroyed. One of the most effective means of accomplishing this is by introducing salt into the meat. The hotter and more humid the climate, the more difficult it is to preserve meats by salting. Naturally, the climatic conditions have meant that such products are traditionally strongly flavoured with plenty of salt, garlic, peperoncino, black pepper, or wild fennel, flavourings so assertive, that in the past they masked successfully the taste of meats gone off in the heat. Today, of course, such products are made under hygienic and temperature-controlled conditions and the robust and assertive flavourings are used out of choice not necessity.
How to skin salami?
First slice off the tip of the salami. With a sharp knife, score a line around the salami – in this way you will then be able to easily peel the skin away. You should only remove enough skin sufficient to slice the quantity of salami you require. Do not remove the skin of the entire salami unless you intend to slice it all and consume it all at once. Without the skin, the salami won't last, even in the fridge.
How to cut salami?
Salami and other cured meats are usually always best cut in fine slices (1-2mm) – so that they almost melt in the mouth rather than being overly chewy. You will also have a better balance of flavour in this way. Slice by hand with a sharp knife (preferably a long, large blade) or I find it is better with a meat slicing machine ( I have a cheap Kenwood machine which works pretty well!) Exceptions are the more fresh and softer salamis such as Finocchiona (fennel-flavoured salami), Goose Salami, Truffle Salami – these are best cut in thicker slices (3-4mm) or diced and served with cocktail sticks.
How to use salami?
That's the wonderful thing about salami – it can be used in so many different ways. Suggestions are given on individual product detail pages, but here are some ideas:
• A selection platter of cured meats, say four to five different types (mix of salami, prosciutto and other) makes a great starter. Slice and arrange the meats on a large platter to make an attractive display.
• Serve salami with vegetables or rice for a main course.
• Chop and add to salads, omelettes, pasta dishes.
• Serve on bread with some cheese or plum tomatoes for a delicious sandwich.