Table of Contents
- Salumi vs Salami – Italian Classic types of Salumi
- Proscuitto (leg)
- Pancetta (Pork Belly)
- Lonzo (loin)
- Charcuterie Board – Salami & Salumi
- Classic Cooked Salami
What is the difference between salami and salumi? Salumi is the craft of preserving and salt curing meat. The major muscles of the pig represent most of the traditional salumi. The muscles are cured to create specialty products such as pancetta. Salami is fermented salt-cured or cooked sausage. Salami is part of the traditional salumi category.
The topic of Italian cured meats topic is massive, from living & visiting Italy – my studies of the traditional aspects have been up close and personal. Even venturing to Norca, supposedly the beginnings of salumi and dry-cured meat in Italy.
From studying classic Italian meat curing for decades, here is a complete breakdown of the traditional Italian cured meat world. You might become a fanatic like myself after learning some more.
Let’s start with some of the most popular salumi, seven major pork muscles that make Italian classic salumi. From a purists perspective, this will give you the basics and hopefully a better understanding of something that may seem confusing but is absolutely delicious!
There are thousands of salami variations across Italy, but here are some common classics.
Salumi vs Salami – Italian Classic types of Salumi
Opposed to the modern butchery approach used by many Western countries for the pig, the traditional Italian salumi style was based on minimizing the waste and dry curing whole muscles to last longer during the leaner months of the year.
It’s the quality of the pork that will define how good traditional prosciutto actually is. Considering this was made during the Roman era to start off with. It represents pure simplicity and pleasure.
Crafted over time to preserve and intensify quality pork meat.
Some are aged up to 48 months before being sold and consumed.
Prosciutto is seen as a very special Artisan product in Italy (although it has also been rather commercialized). These long-term legs are normally reserved for people all over Europe and the world, so I’m told.
Prosciutto de Parma – Special Salumi
The top end of the Italian scale, the Parma Ham pig gets a grain diet but a key difference is the leftover cheese whey from the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese region nearby (Hence the name Parm-a Ham!)
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) is given – a European Community Certification that protects traditional methods and also a geographical area of production.
Lastly, because of the PDO and incredible scrutiny – no nitrates are used in Parma Ham Parma Ham. It can only come from Parma.
Pancetta (Pork Belly)
Pork belly is either flat (tesa) or rolled (arrotolata), unlike bacon. Pancetta when finished, has enough weight loss from the dry curing to be eaten without cooking.
This is a useful cured product used in the infamous classic – carbonara pasta!
Made from the middle area of the ‘back steak’ from a well-looked-after pig, this cut is the loin/fillet, a beautiful boneless piece of meat.
A great cut to use for wild game animals, though many muscles are good from my experience for this type of salt curing.
The classic lonzo has a thin layer of fat around the edge.
Coppa (Neck & Loin)
From the back of the
There are many spice variations for traditional coppa, especially across Italy.
A US-style butchering of a pig would cut this muscle in half instead of keeping it as one whole muscle. If you wanted this whole cut from a butcher, you may have to make a specific request.
Super Pancetta! It’s a part of the pig with more texture and decent amounts of fat.
Sliced thinly or used to enhance the flavors of other dishes, it has a lot of versatility, just like pancetta. In Italy, it is used widely in pasta, like carbonara.
Depending on how it’s butchered, sometimes it has the cheek, sometimes not. Guanciale translates to “Pillow”.
Being a shoulder muscle, it often relates to the prosciutto flavor, bone-in or out – it’s versatile salumi for cooking or thinly slicing and eating. Traditionally, it was only salt and pepper, then washed with white wine following traditional Italian culture.
Only 7 to 10 months of drying/aging! Without bone normally 4-7 months. With bone 7-10 months. (This is to achieve at least 30% weight loss)
Lardo (Back Fat)
Of course, only the finest pork fat is used, and salt and herbs turn this meat into the ultimate form of butter! DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) exists for Lardo di Colonnata.
The key difference is that Lardo is salt-cured in marble from a little local town on a hill called Colonnata-Carrara. The marble supposedly gives some characteristics to the fat.
Being a smaller cut, this is a great beginner’s salumi. Finding well-cared-for and well-fed quality pig is the key to making this special. My advice would be it’s best to find quality locally sourced pork.
This cut is like a pork chop without the bone, and it is super lean.
Charcuterie Board – Salami & Salumi
I did a bit of brainstorming about common and obscure cured meats; if you want a look at 50 great examples of cured meats, you can find the post I wrote here.
If you have an interest in maybe trying something in your kitchen fridge, I have done some experimenting – and written about what works; check out the guide I wrote here; it’s an amazing hobby to get into. Please find a link here.
Now the master craft – the combination of meat, salt, and spices. Funky penicillin bacteria, balance, and a conducive environment.
Salami generally always has 20-30% good fat (pork fat generally).
Fermented and then dried, it becomes pure magic wizardry.
With a combination of either pure pork, beef, or other meat. It’s about fermentation early on to create some tang across the taste buds.
If this is (or becomes) your passion, you can actually purchase various good bacteria cultures (bactoferm for instance) with different taste profiles to play around with.
Once the fermentation is done after a few days, the dry curing begins. Sometimes light smoking is added to traditional Italian Salami.
Quick List – Classic Types of Dry Cured Salami
- Cacciatore (Hunter’s Salami)
- Salami Picante (Original Pepperoni)
Cacciatore (Hunter’s Salami)
Traditionally a long, well-dried salami for the hunters of course! Wild boar is a key ingredient for the classic; wild venison is also used. Lots of spices in this creation
Fresh truffle in a salami, divine enough said.
Originates from the province of Parma. Simple garlic and wine flavorings – but the pigs here have a very long history – 5th century BC actually.
A spicy salami which comes from the south of Italy. Chilli/red pepper flakes are present here. But other flavors are used to balance this.
Pepper & chili are the main ingredients, with large fat bits throughout – there are a lot of regional differences across Italy with this style.
From around the Milanese area, the spiced and lightly smoked style is classic.
Salami Picante (Original Pepperoni)
Common in Southern Italy, this is more than likely the beginnings of pepperoni when Italian immigrants arrived in the Americas.
Classic Cooked Salami
- Salami Cotto
Being cut in Italy at the supermarket….by hand!
Gloriously emulsified, this holds many spices and is a classic from Bologna, Italy.
Truffle & Pistachio encrusted mortadella is divine – if you can find or make it!
In Sicily, I saw a giant supermarket pistachio-encrusted Mortadella, expertly cut by hand with a thin long saber knife!
Hot smoked to cook it and cold smoked to flavor it – garlic and caraway to give it substance.
What is the difference between Salami and Pepperoni?
Pepperoni developed from the original Salami Picante that early Italian immigrants brought to America. Red pepper flakes are the main spice ingredient of the original pepperoni salami. Black pepper is common in modern commercial pepperoni.
I love all forms of pepper and pepper flakes.
What is Charcuterie?
The word designates the shop where such products are sold and the tradesmen who sell it. Charcuterie also includes cured meats, fresh & smoked sausages, pates, andouilles, black puddings, boudin blanc, hams, galantines, ready-cooked dishes & force-meats.
The above is a definition taken from ‘Gastronomique – Larousse’. The encyclopedia of French cooking.
Restaurants & bars have used Charcuterie because it sounds very marketable, I suppose. If you want the classical definition, I wrote more information in another post; please find it here.
The Purist vs Modernist
On a charcuterie board, a mix of tasty morsels is always appreciated. I just love to appreciate the evolution over thousands of years through creating dry-cured meat. The reason meat curing began was to preserve foods for the leaner months. Now, it has become a kind of art form, and experimentation is happening all over the world.
It had much to do with shelf life and preservation in Roman times. Indeed, it still commands much respect in the Italian food culture and is at the epicenter.
There are some incredible combinations of flavors and techniques now used in the world of salumi & meat curing. Since there is delayed gratification for many variations of salumi.