There are many different casings that can be used for wrapping salami. Since I make salami at home I got interested in all the different types available.
Different types of salami wrappings or casings as they are known – are used for different purposes, especially in commercial salami production.
There are 1,000’s of variations of salami across the world. And in some areas of the world like Central and Eastern Europe, the term sausages also used for salami.
Specifically, I’m going to talk about dry-cured salami, which is the salami that is cured with salt and spices, often fermented and sometimes smoked.
Probably the main salami type across the western world is either dry-cured or fast commercial cured salami.
Traditionally this type of salami should be dried out, which takes a few months depending on the size.
Many of the commercially made salamis will have the acid pH increased to skip the long traditional process and get the product to market quickly.
Anyway, this is all about wrapping so here is a quick summary and then some details on the different types below.
What is Salami Wrapped In?
Salami is wrapped in casings which are either from animals, artificial or plant-based. Traditional salami casing is animal intestines due to how they shrink with the drying process. Some casings are edible, plastic casings are not – often they are printed on.
What is the White Stuff on Salami?
Hopefully, that white stuff is penicillin, yeah I know that sounds pretty crazy but it is kind of the same penicillin that you find used in hospitals.
The penicillin is naturally occurring around the meat, and although the mold culture is introduced generally to commercial or homemade salamis. It can be naturally encouraged with high humidity and moderate temperature (and of course a process and other factors).
It isn’t always good mold penicillin though you will see, especially on a cheap salami. For some reason, certain commercial producers have been allowed to fake the good mold, you’ll find white flour used on the outside to make it look like the real deal.
Another trick to make a salami look authentic is that some commercial products use a plastic-based casing which has a picture of good mold penicillin on it. I’ve seen this trick even throughout supermarkets in Italy!
Different Types of Salami Wrappings
Its nothing to be grossed out by salami wrappings, many are derived from animals which basically means their natural in origin.
Some I have used in a pure natural casing form, whilst others have been processed to create something uniform, like collagen casings. WHich is also using a byproduct of the animal.
In a way I guess this is efficient utilization or ‘head to tail’ use of an animal.
It’s a bit sad how we’ve moved away from offal and other bits of the animal. ie. Livers, hearts, etc. I think it has to do with the supply chain, offal is best fresh – any because meat has to go through a ‘process’ it takes time.
Unless you go our and harvest your own meat.
Considering the rich amount of vitamins and minerals available in offal and non-steak cuts it’s a shame.
We’ve been a little bit brainwashed by the marketing of steak in many countries.
Take bone brother for instance, well-proven scientifically to be incredibly good for you or just old fashion chicken stock.
1) Natural Casings
The intestines or casings I use come salted so that they are preserved, and then you just soak them in water. They can be bought online from many places nowadays.
What is it made from?
There are basically small and large casings that are used for traditional salami wrapping.
The small intestines would be used from sheep and certain parts of the cow.
Large casings are also from the cow, it just depends on which area they are harvested from.
Example of Natural Casings
Shrinks with the Meat When Drying
One of the most important reasons why natural casings work so well with salami wrapping. Is that they dry out and shrink at the same time as the meat is drying out.
Airflow and a natural taste all help the drying process of salami.
This is a crucial step and why traditionally made salami will have a natural casing.
Curved Natural & Wonky!
Beef casings can sometimes have a curve in them, I think I’ve come across this with sheep casings as well. Of course, being a natural animal product, you don’t know it’s can be curved until you fill it with delicious meat.
You have probably had a fresh mince meat-type brat sausage with a curve or bend in it – that’s a natural casing more than likely!
Heard of Haggis from Scotland?
The traditional haggis is the most respected and honored tradition in Scotland, with an interesting mixture of meat spices and other products stuffed into a sheep’s stomach. Just a random fact, it’s normally poached until cooked, not a Scottish salami!
2) Cellulose/Fibrous Casings
Common Examples: commercial pepperoni salami, commercial summer sausage.
What are the made from?
“Fibrous casings are made with plant fiber in the form of cellulose, non-meat glycerin, added moisture and food oil running lengthwise, which gives them added strength”
Fibrous or cellulose casings have the breathability or permeability that is needed for drying out things like summer sausage.
These normally come with one end tied and being non-edible are the type of casings or wrappings that you need to peel off.
3) Collagen Casings
What are they made from?
Connective Tissue, skin and bones (often cattle hide derived)
I have also come across client-based collagen casings, there are a lot of variations some edible some and non-edible.
For the home producer of found it harder to work with them the natural casings, although it depends on the supplier as well of course. Since there are quite a lot of variations in natural casings also.
What are they made from?
Many different types of plastic-based products, but not so much for salami, since they casing can’t breathe or is not generally permeable.
More for luncheon sausage, mortadella type products.
What Casing do Fresh Sausages Use?
These are the sausages that are basically minced meat with spices.
Since you won’t be peeling off the wrapper of your fried or grill sausage and you’ll find a little bit of a kink bend in them, this would show that they are natural sausages (like a brat)
Now if you are researching natural casings and what to go to a new depth –
Check out this authority – International Natural Sausage Casing Association!
Thanks for dropping by, I’ve been passionate about meat curing for around 20 years now. Having been lucky enough to learn inside fine dining kitchens through to backyard smoking sessions. From doing courses, trial & error and reading extensively – finally, I thought it was time to share my passion online.
My insatiable appetite and passion toward classic Italian dry-cured salumi and all forms of curing and smoking are what drives this website engine. All the best, Tom