Sunday, January 30

Charcuterie in Italy ~ Curing 150 lbs of Salami & Sausages

Vittorio & Jason in the zone
Last week we made our yearly pilgrimage to "Vittorio's Meat Laboratory" along the Adriatic Sea. There is no sign along the road, just a massive palm tree out front & a tiny unassuming converted garage in the back - that's where the magic happens! Vittorio is our 83 year old friend who has 2 passions in life: 1. dancing with his beautiful wife, Antonella and 2. curing meat! Every winter he turns thousands of kilos of raw pork into sausages, salami, lonzo and pancetta all for his lucky and hungry friends & family!

Some serious bragging rights come along with not only making fresh sausages but curing your meat as well, in the Italian countryside. 

Vittorio takes his sausage making VERY seriously - so seriously, that he has no real recipe, it is all done by the eye. Some add wild boar to the mix, fennel, pepper corns & more. We follow Vittorio’s lead and use the freshest pork, a little salt & pepper and a glass of white wine.  This year we added a bit of red wine & pepper corns to the salami. The key is the ratio of meat to salt & there is no need to use added preservatives. Our cured meats are all natural, all organic!
 Winter is best for curing meats with the cold air passing through the tiny prick marks left in the casings. To conserve dried sausages you can either put them in vacuum sealed bags (highly recommend) or under oil which is very traditional.  The salami can continue to hang in a cool dark place or be stored in the refrigerator.

**On a side note: After we finished stuffing all the salami & sausages, there was a great debate at lunch about what we should do if we are stopped by the police on our way home. I don't totally understand, but it seems that it may be illegal to transport that much raw (uncured meat) without a proper fattura (fiscal receipt & meat origin). They were telling us how to 'hide' the meat in the car (as if you couldn't smell the heavy meaty aroma immediately!)  Doctor Gaggi was taking it very seriously & Vittorio just kept saying - if you get stopped just offer them some sausage! (I like his style!)
Currently over 100lbs of meat are hanging in the house!

It may sound like a mess or a whole lot of work, but it is incredibly satisfying & fun to make your own sausages,give it a try! You just need a few tools (meat grinder, etc.) and the freshest pork possible!
Sausage & Salami Making Basics:
(The ratios vary depending on your amount of meat.)

Find high quality pork shoulder
Salt & pepper
Cup of white wine

SALAMI  - for every 2 kilos of meat use 70 grams of salt, 2 spoonfulls of black pepper, a 1/3 of a cup of white wine &  a sprinkle of peppercorn

SAUSAGE - for every 2 kilos of meat use 60 grams of salt, 2 spoonfuls of black pepper, 1/3 cup of white wine

Salted intestines are used for the casing
Rinse & soak salted intestines for the casings in water. Soak a garlic clove in a glass of white wine for about an hour before you start, then remove the garlic. Grind the meat & then mix together all the ingredients. Make large balls of meat & then stuff into your stuffing machine to gently press & work into the casings. Slip the salami's into a sausage netting to help keep its shape & twist sausage off at desired length/width. It’s that simple!

The sausages can be eaten immediately or hung to dry for about a month in a cool dry place. Then placed under oil, lard or in a vacuum sealed bag - this is will last for a good six months.

(excerpts from my monthly coloumn in Italia! Magazine)
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