Italian cured meats, or salumi, were born from the need to conserve meat for months. There are three main method to transform fresh meat in cured meat: salting, smoking and air-drying.
Italy has a great culinary history about cured meats: the ancient Romans began to prize the pork sausages and create a sort of Prosciutto (ham), like still made today in Italian mountain village.
Cured meats can be made of beef, veal, buck, goat, chamois, venison, sheep or horse, but today pork is still the most appreciated. Pigs are prevalent in areas where there’s a notable cheesemaking tradition.
Italian salumi: a millennial culinary tradition
There are two main variety of Italian salumi:
- Salumi which are made with a whole cut of meat, such as shoulder (Prosciutto, Pancetta and Coppa)
- Salumi which are coming from minced or chopped meat, stuffed into casings and known as insaccati (Salami and Sausages)
Salumi can range different size, be delicate or hot and can be eaten raw on a slab of bread like antipasto, marinated with olive oil, pepper and lemon juice or cooked with other ingredients (like pasta) to add flavor and depth. When cooking with cured meat, keep in mind that they are very savored, spicy and aromatic. In fact, salt is used as preservation element to conserve meat for several month. In general, salumi from Southern Italy are spicier than Northern ones.
The best place to discover and try an amazing variety of salumi is the salumeria: here your find all delicatessen and local cured meats. The distinctive trait of Italian salumeria is that you find different kind of cured meats depending on the town where you are. Many Italian salumi are still cured on an artisanal level, relying on the meat of free-ranging animals or animals raised on specific feed.
If you want to taste an authentic Italian cured meat abroad, we recommend using only original Italian products, instead of the versions produced locally (which are often cheaper and lower in quality): imported and domestic cured meat can’t be compared, seeing that the animals are raised in different place, with different feed and cured in different climates. The breed of animal, the kind of diet and the peculiarities of place create cured meats with vastly different characters.