A Traditional Family Adventure With Mamma and Co.
By: Sara Grazia
For the past 2 days I've been busy breaking down a 200kg pig for the production of homemade sausages, salami and an array of cured meats. We've been to the farm, deboned the carcass, salted the meats, mixed recipes and now today we start producing.
Day 3 is salami making day! This is always an exciting part of the process. This year we’re making 7 different types of salami. Usually we would only do a couple of variations, mamma's recipe – that has remained the same ever since I can remember. Over the years I've tried adding a change or two and every time I've been beaten away with a wooden spoon, so I learnt its best not to mess with a tried and tested formula.
Having a few extra kilograms of meat available this year however, I've managed to mix up some wonderful recipes I would not normally have the opportunity to do. I’ve made some favorites from my Secrets in Salami Book – Molisano, Calabrese, Felino and the Finnochina. I was also thrilled to be able to mix a couple of batches from a recipe a dear Italian friend had given me on my last visit. One particular mix would shock any salami making traditionalist, however I was fortunate enough to try a sample he had made on my last visit and it was to die for.
My other surprise recipe looks like a fairly typical mix on paper, however the trick with this recipe is the type of meat used and how it’s prepared and processed. As I have mentioned previously, the differences between the varieties of salami is not just in the spice mix – it’s so much more.
You've probably read something where I've mentioned my mamma's authentic handmade pepper sauce and how we use it quite regularly in our mixes. I’d like to introduce you to her crop of piping hot chili’s. Every year she harvests these little gems, some are dried and crushed, while others are squeezed and turned into paste.
We start the day by filling some casings with the salami mix we had prepared the day before. I’m starting with the Calabrese recipe while on the other side of the table they’re filling the Felino.
Depending on who you invite over to help you on your salami making event, it’s best to keep a close eye on what’s happening around you, more specifically an eye on your recipe mixes. A friend of mine has a particular need to constantly want to add something ’extra’ to each and every recipe if not watched closely. Mammas wooden spoon comes in handy on these moments!
With one of my new recipes that I’m trying, more ingredients need to be added after the main body of the meat mix has rested overnight. This will intensify the aromatic qualities and flavour of the finished product. This particular recipe has taken my salami making to new level of excitement.
One of my favorite parts of the salami making process is cooking up a small batch of the mix and nibbling away on it with some homemade crusty bread and a little Italian coffee. As this is a meat mix for salami making the salt content is considerably higher than that of a fresh sausage mix, because it’s needed for the curing process. Eating the mix with lovely fresh crusty bread helps dampen down much of the saltiness and you get to enjoy the flavours.
After a short break, it’s back to filling and tying. There is more than 80kg of meat that needs to be filled and its moments like these that you’re grateful for the help of family and friends.
For those a little reluctant to get out of bed for an early Sunday morning start – the bribe of my mamma’s home cooked breakfast lunch and dinner always seems to be a good motivator. There’s a little bit of morning grumbling, but that soon passes after biscuits and coffee has been handed out.
While we’re all busy filling casings and netting the salami, mamma is boiling up more bones preparing the lardo…..and lunch.
The bones are boiled for hours to the point where the meat is only just hanging on by the teeniest morsel. It’s tender and lean and falls apart on your tongue, most importantly of all though, it’s delicious. The bones are served up as is and you enjoy the meat right of the bone, nothing added – no sauce and no spices. As the bones are boiled the natural fats and marrow flavour the meat. The liquid left in the pot is drained, filtered and poured into jars. Natural, preservative free lardo.
After a late lunch, it was time to get back onto the salami making, our batch was rapidly increasing with two fillers on the go. We all had a little job to do and between shifts we kept topped up on coffee, biscuits, bread and grappa! It was what I imagine an artisan production line to be like. Around this massive table some of us were preparing casings, others tying the casings when full and then there were those netting the salami. Once the salami were all finished, they were put into a container and left in the garage to rest before they are hung the day after.
Before I left for the day, I went to check on my cured meats which were coming along wonderfully. I drained the brine, added a little more salt and left them to rest for another night, excited about processing them all tomorrow.
If you've missed out on how my journey started, take a look at what we got up to on Day 1 and Day 2. This is Day 3 down and I'm looking forward to an early night before finishing off all the cured meats in the morning.