The Secret Life of the Salami Maker

Doing it for the girls, with the boys!

By: Sara Grazia

Sara Grazia tying salami

It's been a busy few weeks for me since winter has arrived. I've been visiting friends and avid salami and meat curing enthusiasts all over, as the curing season kicks off I'm going to be sharing my adventures with you.

Today's adventure is with an Italian friend of mine, Signore Attilio. I was invited over to help the family with some salami making, which lead into some pancetta production, capocollo and some other delicacies I've only every seen made in particular regions of Italy.

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Preparations are all set, it's time to get washed up, aprons on and started. Today we processed 2 pigs at almost 200kg each. The messiest parts had been done the night before, a process which is not a job for the faint of heart!

Are you ready to see what we got up too?

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Our adventure begins on a fine winter's day. Temperatures chilled, the perfect environment for an afternoon of curing.

On a large estate of farmland rests our picturesque paradise. Something from a salami makers fairy-tale.

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Like with many traditionalists, Attilio and his family continue to produce all their meats using authentic production methods from the Italian north, where the family originates from. It was really exciting to see the difference between the methods and techniques he uses in comparison to those that my Mamma uses from the south.

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Attilio's sons are busy preparing the minced meat for the salami and cotechino making. These guys will produce approximately 100kg of salami alone today, using the same recipe Attilio's Great Great Great Grand Mother used. "Nothing has changed, It's always been this way for generations. I was brought up on the flavours and so have my children. We love taste, it's very simple and reminds me of when I was a child".

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Keeping your recipes simple and uncluttered lets you develop particular accent flavours and aromas. If you want a variety of accents, instead of throwing everything into the one mix, make several mixes - and fill each one individually. This way you'll also end up with a variety of different flavoured salami, and more of them (which can't be a bad thing).

Once the meat had been minced and put into the electric meat mixer, one of Attilio's son’s mixed and added the recipe. There was a bit of a discussion of which one should have the honours. It's quite a particular process the way Attillio and his family blend their spices. Much of it happened hidden away, like many traditional producers, he's very protective of sharing his recipes.

In the end, the blending honours were given to his youngest son who sifted all the ingredients meticulously before added them to the minced meat. The spice mix was then delicately sprinkled over the surface of the minced meat using a large silver spoon. It was like watching an artist at work. The spices were not just thrown in the meat, to get an even mix of spice time and appreciation of the process must be taken.

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With a push of a button, a large steel grill covered the meat mixer and the paddles went to work. Churning and mixing the freshly minced meat with the spice and infused wine. It was quite a hypnotic experience; the fragrance that come from that mixture as it was being blending was to die for. Floral and sweet, with mild peppery accents, I was almost tempted to poke my finger in and sneak a tasting.

With the meat mixing, there was no time to stop for lunch, it was a quick coffee to warm us all up and then back to business.

While Attilio's youngest son attending to the salami, the rest of us moved on to the muscles meats. Preparing the pancetta, capocollo and other cured delicacies.

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All skinned, trimmed and ready for salting. The pancetta and capocollo are placed to once side to be salted and laid to rest. We made a flat pancetta using a very simple pepper and coriander rub, followed by a rolled pancetta that was bathed in a hot pepper sauce. I look forward to tasting this one later on after we'd finished up.

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The rolled pancetta is one of Attilio's favourites, and his pepper sauce is made by his wife who grows her own chili peppers at home. Something I could relate too as my Mamma does the same things, although she tends more to dry and crush them (as is traditional in her village).

Once the muscle meats were all salted and resting it was time to get back to the salami. Overall, we made 4 different types of salami. We used different cuts of meats to get different flavours and textures, we also used other meats such as lamb and a little bit of beef.

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Some of the meat was minced while others where diced by hand (I had that honour, there was a lot of meat to be diced! approx. 12kg. It was great fun, I'd go and do it again tomorrow - In fact I am! stay tuned for my next adventure)

With all the casings full it was time to start stringing. Everyone got involved. WE were all stood around the large butchers table, chatting away, knotting salami while Attilio was telling his boys to concentrate. His daughter brought in coffee and pastries for everyone on her way through after work. It was another wonderful salami adventure with Attillio and Co. I look forward to seeing you all again in a few weeks for tastings!

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