The Sausage Saga, part 8: The delicious sausages from Italy and Spain.


Italian salami.
Wurst in southern Europe is all about the salami. It is a type of Rohwurst, cured through fermentation and air-drying. A "Dauerwurst". This is a traditional way of preseving meat in the Mediterranean, because it can be stored at room temperature for periods of up to 30–40 days. Smoking is the prevalent way fo preserving wurst in northern Europe (i.e. the kielbasa), while curing is predominant in the south.

The English word "salami" is the plural form of the Italian word "salame", which in turn originates from the Italian word "sale" (salt). The word salame basically means "salted meat".

Salami is part of a larger Italian foodgroup called "salumi", which include everything from meats such as hams (Prosciutto crudo, Prosciutto cotto), Bresaola and Pancetta; also Brühwurst such as Mortadella; as well as Salame. Salami (salame) are therefore a specific type of salumi. So, there....

Salami is national food in Italy. What are chile peppers to Mexicans, or boiled crawfish to folks from Louisiana, salami it to Italians! Like burgers or hot dogs for Americans, this is a food that retains a special place of affection. In Italy, pane e salame (bread and salami) is a metaphor for simple, genuine, good food. Besides being an essential part of traditional appetizer plates, such as antipasto di salumi and antipasto misto (a mixed meat antipasto), salame is most often enjoyed simply with bread—in a panino (bread roll) cut in half with nothing else—except, of course, a glass of good red wine.

Salami in Italy are truly exceptional. There is no other place on Earth where such a vast variety of shapes and flavors can be found in a meat product.

A typical salami is made mostly of pork, except for Kosher and Halal salami, whcih are made of beef. Various other meats are also used around the moutains in north Italy (such as venison, wild boar, moutain goat). Some amount of minced fat is usually added, along with salt, garlic, various herbs, spices (usually white pepper), wine and vinegar. The raw meat mixture is usually allowed to ferment for a day, then it is stuffed into an edible natural or inedible cellulose casing, and hung to cure. Heat treatment to about 40 °C (104°F) may be used to accelerate further fermentation and start the drying process. Higher temperatures (about 60 °C (140°F)) are used to stop the fermentation when the desired pH is reached, but the product is not fully cooked. The casings are often treated with an edible mold (Penicillium) culture, in order to impart flavor, help the drying process and prevent spoilage.

Originally Modena was the center of Italian salami manufacturing. Today, there are some 300 types of salami in Italy. They differ in the grain size, the amount of pork and beef, in the time of drying and the seasoning. All Italian salami are air-dried except Salame Napoli and Secondigliano that are lightly smoked. Moving from north to south, some of the notable salami are:

  • Lombardy: Brianza, Varzi and Milano
  • Veneto: Nostrano and Veneto
  • Piemonte: salam 'd la douja, which is preserved in pork fat called “douja”
  • Emilia-Romagna: Piacentino and Felino
  • Liguria: salame Genovese di Sant'Olcese
  • Tuscany: Finocchiona, Chianino and Cinta Senese
  • Umbria: Corallina, Perugino and local salsicce (hard, dry sausages)
  • Marche: salame Fabriano
  • Lazio: salame del Reatino
  • Abruzzo: Ventricina and d’Aquila
  • Campania: salame Napoli
  • Sardinia: Sartizzu and Salsiccia sarda varieties
  • Calabria: salame di Crotone
  • Sicily: salame di Sant’Angelo in Brolo

Salame Milano

Salame di Milano.
Salame Milano consists of one third each of pork, beef and bacon. The pork is cut into small pieces of 1 cm, run through a meat grinder and mixed with chopped bacon until all the ingredients are the size or rice grains and are uniformly distributed throughout the mass. Salame Milano is therefore a very fine-grained salami. The beef is ground separately on pieces of 5 mm and added to the pork-bacon mixture. The art of this procedure is that the white appearance of the bacon is cleanly separated from the red of the flesh. Then the other ingredients are added: salt, saltpeter, ground pepper, and garlic marinated in white wine or Chianti.

Milanese salami is a mass-produced salami, therefore artificial casings dominate, although some tradition-conscious businesses still use natural pork-intestine casing. The salami are left to rest a day without being tied off at the ends. Then, 25-35 cm long salami are made and tightly bound. The binding is speficic for each variety. The salami is then left to cure for 4-5 weeks. For this they are individually suspended on sticks in ambient temperature of about 18° c. They are regularly washed off with lukewarm water to remove the surface layer of microorganisms. When it ceases to form, the sausages are washed again, hung and aged for about 6 months in the fresh air. At the end, the salami has lost up to 30 percent of its weight and only weighs 2-4 pounds. The fat content is about 40 percent.

Salame di Brianza

Salame di Brianza.
Salame di Brianza is produced in the town of Brianza, located just to the southeast of the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, in the Province of Monza-Brianza north of Milan. It is a pork salami and the pigs must come from farms in Emilia Romagna, Lombardy and Piedmont. Lean pork and bacon are used, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and wine. Sugar, preservatives and antioxidants are also used. Either artificial or natural casings are used. Curing depends on size. The smaller specimens are ready in fifteen days, otherwise it takes at least five months. The final product is brightly colored, and has a soft and delicate taste.

Salame di Varzi

Salame di Varzi.
This salami comes from south of Milan, from an area called Oltrepò Pavese, about half way to Genova. Its quality derives from the optimal dosage of ingredients, processing techniques developed over several centuries, and favorable climate. Its history can be traced to the 13th century. For the preparation of Salame di Varzi, only fine cuts of pork are used: leg, shoulder, loin and tenderloin, combined with bacon and pig fat. The meat and fat are coarsely ground together, seasoned with sea salt, whole black pepper, spices, garlic and red wine. The mixture is stuffed into pork-intestine casings. Only that Salame di Varzi intended for delivery in slices is allowed to use artificial casings. The salami are then kept for several days in a 18-26° c temperature, depending on the size of the salami. It is dried for about a week in ventilated rooms with controlled humidity and temperature (maximum 18-20° c). After that, the salami is left to cure, the duration of which depends again on the size of the salami. For example, a salami weighing 1-2 kg and over matures for at least 90 days. Smaller salami weighing 100-200 grams are ready in 22 days. Curing takes place in the ancient cellars of Varzi, in a natural environment with a unique micro-climate (10-12° c with a humidity of 95%). During this phase, each salami is periodically brushed to remove the molds that form on the surface, to promote perspiration of the intestine and to reach the optimal maturation. The flavor is pleasantly aromatic and full. This salami is best served cut into thick slices, accomanied pickled vegetables, cheese and wine.

Salame Piacentino

Salame Piacentino.
This salami comes from the province and city of Piacenza, southeast of Milan, about half way between Milan and Parma. The pigs are those bred in Lombardy and Emilia Romagna. Lean and fat pork are coarsely ground together, and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, wine and sugar. The mixture is stuffed into natural casings, and left to mature in a temperature controlled environment below 20° c for at least a month and a half. The duration depends on the size of the salami. The finished product is cylindrical in shape, with a weight of 400 g to 1 kg. When cut, the slice has a compact appearance. It has a bright red color. Pinkish-white fat particles are distinguishable, typical of this coarse-grained salami. The fragrance is characterized by a delicate aroma of cured meat, accompanied by a slight hint of spice. Its taste is delicate and almost sweet, with an aromatic scent intensifying with longer duration of aging.

Salame Felino

Salame di Felino.
It is originally from the small town of Felino, some 15 km southwest of Parma and is a centuries-old recipe. Their quality is based not only on the quality of meat, but also on the low salt content (2.0-2.8 %) and the air-drying maturation. Through these conditions, the characteristic spicy and slightly sweet flavor develops. For this, a climate with as little as possible fluctuating temperature, good air exchange and not to high humidity is required. The salami consist of high quality lean pork and bacon of certain breeds of pigs. The meat is minced in a meat grinder (6-8 mm hole plate) together with the bacon, then the salt, saltpeter, peppercorns, garlic, dry white wine and up to 0.3% sugar are added. The mixture is stuffed into natural pork-intestine casings about 50 cm long. It is bound with cord in a manner typical of the variety at wide intervals. It is aged usually 3-6 weeks, resulting in a weight loss of 25 %. The drying and maturation time depends crucially on the weight of each sausage.

Salame Genovese di Sant'Olcese

Salame genovese di Sant'Olcese.
This salami comes from the towns of Sant'Olcese and Orero near Genova. It is a centuries-old recipe, a coarse-grained salami with limited seasoning. It is made with equal parts of pork and beef. The beef comes from adult cows that come from Piedmont. The pork (bacon and lard, 60% lean and 40% fat) is no longer produced locally, but comes from selected farms in northern Italy. The manufacturing process differs from that of other Italian salami and involves the manual cutting of meat (after removing tendons and cartilage), and then move on to the meat grinder of lean (while cubes are left in the fat), It is seasoned with black pepper, garlic powder, white wine and salt. It is stuffed into casings and tied by hand. The salami is then smoked for a few days over oak, then left to cure for 2-3 months in a temperature- humidity-controlled environment. This salami is traditionally eaten in the spring, accompanied by fava beans and fresh Sardinian cheese. It has a fragrant aroma and a light taste of garlic that accentuates the delicacy.

There is a fine-grained version of this salami made in the United States called simply Genoa Salami. It is made from pork, but may also contain beef or be all beef. It is seasoned with garlic, salt, black and white peppercorns, fennel seeds, and red or white wine.

Salame Finocchiona

Salame Finocchiona.
Finocchiona is a pork salami from Tuscany. The salami is a common and popular ingredient in many Tuscan foods, ranging from antipasti to pasta sauces. The unique flavor of finocchiona comes from the addition of fennel seeds (finocchio). Production with ground pork, which is seasoned with salt, pepper and fennel seeds. The mixture is stuffed into casings, and the salami is left to cure. When finocchiona is given a long cure, it turns into a firm, dry salami, which has the texture and consistency most people look for. This end-product may be sliced for antipasto alla Toscano, or included in pasta sauces and other meals. Like other cured meats, the salami tends to be salty with a complex, layered flavor, and it pairs well with strong cheeses and hearty wines.

When finocchiona is given a shorter cure, it is known as "finocchiona sbriciolona". This is a more crumbly, fresh salami reminiscent more of sausage than salami. Typically it is served in thick wedges on hearty artisan breads. The ground pork which goes into this type of finocchiona tends to be chunky rather than finely ground, facilitating a crumbly finished product.

Salame di Fabriano

Salame di Fabriano.
The salami comes from the town of Fabriano in central Italy, located between Ancona and Perugia. It consists to 37 % each of pork and beef, and 25 % fat. The chilled beef is run through a grinder using a 5-6 mm disc, mixed with pieces of pork and minced again. This is then mixed with bacon crushed to 8-9 mm, and mixed with salt, saltpeter, whole peppercorns, ground pepper and white wine. The mixture is stuffed into bovine or pork-intestine casings. Individual salami 30-35 cm long are made. It is left to cure for 2-4 months, resulting in 25 % weight loss. The end product weights about 400-500 grams.

Salame Napoletano (or Napoli)

Salame di Milano.
The salami is from Naples and is made from one-third each of lean pork, young beef and pork fat. First, the beef is ground with a 5-6-mm hole disc. The chopped pork and the chopped bacon are added and the whole mixture is ground again but coarsely with a 14-16 mm hole disc. Salt, saltpeter, crushed pepper, ground black pepper, red pepper, garlic and white wine are added. The mixture is stuffed into in horse-intestine casing of about 30 cm in length. Then, the sausage is smoked for several hours over poplar wood. It is left at a somewhat elevated temperature and humidity for 2-3 days. The subsequent maturation takes 2-3 months. The final product experiences a a weight loss of 20-25%, for a final weight of 400-900 grams.

In addition to salami, there are other hard sausage products in Italy. Salami is a cured Rohwurst in the German terminology we used. The term Dauerwurst (lasting wurst) is often used. However, Italy also has an array of raw Rohwursts that are great on the grill, just like the German bratwursts. These include the somewhat spicy Salsiccia Napoletana, a smoked pork wurst seasoned with pepper and Italian chile peppers; or the Salsiccia Toscana seasoned with sage and rosemary, Salsiccia Luganega, Salsiccia Piccante al Peperoncino etc.

Hungarian Winter Salami

Hungarian Winter Salami.
Italian salami spread into other parts of Europe. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the Austro-Hungarian Empire ruled smaller or greater portions of north Italy. The salami was brought to Hungary by a Hungarian by the name of Mark Pick, who had the idea to produce the previously unknown Italian wurst in Hungary. Pick had apparently learned the recipe salami of a Tyrolean butcher. Mark Pick founded his factory in 1869 in Szeged. Mass production started in 1883-1885, using skilled workers from Italy. The first Hungarian salamis have been and are still being manufactured in Szeged on the Tisza.

The salami became known in Hungary as "Téliszalámi" (Winter salami), and as "Hungarian Salami" outside of the country (Uherský Salám or Uherák in Czech, Ungarische Salami in German, etc.)

The name "Winter salami" dates back to the times before efficient refrigeration technology existed. It was only in winter time that the air was damp and cool enough to ensure an optimal maturation and drying process without the salami spoiling.

Either pure pork or a mixture of pork and beef, and bacon are finely ground to a size of about 2-4 mm. The pork comes from the mangalica breed of pigs, with the addition of smoked bacon. The ground meat is seasoned with salt, paprika, pepper, cumin and garlic, stuffed into casing and tied. Artificial casings are used solely today. The salami is then cold-smoked for 10-12 day, and subsequently cured for 2-3 months under controlled conditions in a cool but humid air. The characteristic white mold develops during this stage. The final product has a harmonious aroma and unique flavour. The specific choice of meat, the traditional production technology, the climatic conditionss along river Tisza, all contribute to making this one very special salami. The salami is sliced thin and served on bread or eaten as a snack with wine or beer. It is also part of the traditional Hungarian breakfast.

Czech Hunter Salami

Lovecký salám (Czech Hunter Salami).
Like the Hungarian Winter Salami, this is a dark and spicy pork salami, stuffed in artificial casing, cold-smoked and cured. Its characteristic flat rectangular shape facilitates drying. It dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, when it was being first made, especially in winter. The original recipe is from 1955 and was subsequently included in the Czechoslovak state standards. It is typically called "Lovecký salám", 5 ("Lovečák", "Český uherák")

German salami

Herb-crusted salami.

Haus salami.
Although salami is not indigenous to Germany, Germany nevertheless ranks among the salami superpowers of the world. German salami is mostly smoked, in contrast to Italian salami, which is air-cured. German salami is medium-grained and mostly thicker than Italian. Pork, beef and bacon is medium-fine minced is used, seasoned with spices such as garlic, salt and pepper, stuffed either in natural or artificial casings. Subsequently, German salami is usually smoked over beech chips.

German salami.
Italian or French Salami is often sold with a white mold that forms during the air-drying on the skin, and is a sign of quality. German salami often have a white coating, but this is artificially added. In Germany there are numerous gourmet varieties, for example, with herbs (herb salami, wild garlic salami), spices (paprika salami), booze (kischwasser and honey), or with a coating of pepper (pepper salami). There is also a German salami that is brewed, which puts it in the Brühwurst category.

While there are numerous types of salami in Italy that have the PGI label (protected geographical indication), most German salamis do not. Only the Greußener salami from Thuringia is awarded a PGI label in Germany. Nevertheless, there huge number of absolutely delicious salami made in Germany. Some even come with such unique ingredients as schnapps and honey!

Schwarzwald salami flavored
with honey and schnapps.

French salami
Salami made in France are an evolution of Italian salami. Like Italian salami, French salami is usually air dried, and often with other ingredients such as mushrooms, nuts or Camembert. The cross-pollination to France happened quite quickly. Italian bankers and cloth merchants going to France are said to have transplanted the salami to Lyon, where the first immitations of Italian salami appeared. Lyon remains the focakl point salami of production in France.

French salami is usually made of pork and bacon and air dried. It has a finer and milder, almost sweet flavor compared to German salami, which is smoked and a somewhat sour tasting.

An entire separate chapter is devoted to cured Rohwurst from France.

French saucisson sec.
Saucisson sec is a variety of thick, dry-cured sausage, made of pork, or a mixture of pork and other meats. The stuffing of a French saucisson is the most wonderful part. Some saucissons also contain things like whole peppercorns, garlic, bits of dried fruits, nuts such as pistachios, figs, olives, cheeses such as Roquefort, Laguiole, or alcohols such as wines and liquor. Where the German bratwurst is the king of the grilling sausage, the French saucisson sec generally ranks at the very top of the condiment pyramid. Sliced saucisson sec makes an unforgettable nibble-snack to go with wine.

Rosette de Lyon, sliced thick.
The Rosette de Lyon is a salami from the Rhone Valley in southeastern France. It is a Rohwurst, thick, in a white, moldy casing, tied together with a string, which, upon slicing, produces the characteristic star shape. It is made pork leg, seasoned with pink peppercorns & wine, slow-cured aged for a mellow flavor.

Saucisson de Lacaune.
Saucisson (des Monts) de Lacaune comes from the Massif Central in south-central France. It is another Rohwurst, named after the city of Lacaune and the mountains around it. Massif Central is a hilly part of France, geologically related to the Jura and the Vosges moutains, but also to the Bohemian Massif in the Czech Republic and to the Appalachinan Moutains in the eastern United States. Not surprisingly, because these mountains are quite old (several hundred million years, they are more gently rolling hills, completely unlike the Apls to the East, which are much younger and still growing. The sausage is thin and dark red red.

Saucisson d'Ardenne.
Saucisson d'Ardenne is a medium-size sausage from the Ardennes region of Belgium. It is composed of a mixture of pork, or pork and beef, and pork fat. This meat is minced, salted and spiced, and the mixture is stuffed into casings of various sizes and shapes. After that, the sausages are fermented during which time most of the flavor and color develop. At the end, they are slowly smoked over oak and beech wood, common species in the forests of Ardennes, and allowed to dry for a few days.

Jesus de Lyon.
Jesus de Lyon is another Rohwurst, made of pork and pork fat, salt and spices, in natural pork casing. It is a traditional dry sausage. It is wrapped in a net, which gives it the characteristic imprint and distinctive pear shape.

Saucisson d'Arles from Provence.
Saucisson d'Arles is an example of a Rohwurst from Provence. It is a mixture of lean meat donkey meat, pork and beef, pork fat, salt and various spices. It is short and medium thick, 15-20 cm long and a diameter 4-5 cm. It is pink-gray, and weighs about 300 grams. It dates back to 1655 a butcher named Godart introduced it in Arles from Bologna. At present, there are only two butchers who continue this tradition.

  • Saucisson aux noisettes (Sausage with hazelnuts): 10% whole hazelnuts, 85% pork, 5% pork fat, natural pork-intestine casing.
  • Saucisson aux pistaches (sausage with pistachios)
  • Saucisson au beaufort: 85% pork, 10% pork fat, 56% Beaufort cheese. Beaufort cheese is a firm cheese made from raw cow milk, associated with the gruyère family. It is a cheese from the Alps, produced in Beaufort in the Savoie region of the French Alps.
  • Saucisson au poivre (sausage crusted in ground peppercorns): 85% pork, 15% pork fat, natural pork-intestine casing.
  • Saucisson au herbes (sausage crusted in herbs): 85% pork, 15% pork fat, natural pork-intestine casing.
  • Saucisson aux noix (sausage with walnuts): 7% whole hazelnuts, 85% pork, 8% pork fat, natural pork-intestine casing.

Spanish salami
In Spain, a fermented Rohwurst like the salami is called "Salchichón". A distinction has to be made between "salchicha", which is a weenie (a Brühwurst), and "salchichón": which is a fermented Rohwurst (a salami). Spanich salchichón are cured, smoked but sometimes also cooked. They are mostly made of ground pork meat, herbs and spices. Depending on the choice of spices, two distinct varieties of Spanish salchichón exist: red and white. Red salchichón contains paprika (pimentón in Spanish), and other spices such as garlic, pepper or thyme.

Chorizo Ibérico.

Chorizo Ibérico.
The most popular type of red sausage is the Chorizo Ibérico. It is an original and typical wurst of the Iberian Peninsula. The origin of the word is uncertain, perhaps from the Latin "salsicĭum". Spanish chorizo is a cured (either air-dried or smoked) wurst, made mainly from minced pork and seasoned with spices, with paprika being the dominant one. Chorizo has a characteristic red color and slightly spicy flavor. The casing is usually pork intestine.

Chorizo de Pamplona.

Chorizo Cular.
Apart from Spain and Portugal, chorizo is known elsewhere in Europe, such as Hungary and Germany, where it is called "sausage paprika" (Paprikawurst).

White salami.
White sausages, on the other hand, do not contain paprika. They are close in look to Italiand or French salami, in that they a typically covered in white mold.

A distinction has to be made between Spanish chorizo and Latin American chorizo. While Spanish chorizo is a type of fermented (or some instances smoked) salami, chorizo in the New World is a raw sausage that has to be cooked (i.e. grilled) before consumption.

Spanish horizo is handy for tapas and sandwiches:

Red chorizo tapas.

Chorizo sandwich.

Picadillo de chorizo.

White chorizo tapas.







  • Pick Salami And Szeged Paprika Museum (
  • Wikipedia


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Last updated: May 10, 2014

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