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Salami is a type of cured sausage consisting of fermented and air-dried meat, typically beef or pork. Historically, salami was popular among Southern and Central European peasants because it stores at room temperature for up to 40 days once cut, potentially supplementing a meager or inconsistent supply of fresh meat. Countries and regions across Europe make their own traditional varieties.


The word salami in English comes from the plural form of the Italian salame;[1] it is a singular or plural word in English for cured meats of a European, particularly Italian, style. In Romanian, Bulgarian, and Turkish, it is salam; in Hungarian, it is szalámi, while in French, German, and Dutch, it is the same as in English.

The word originates from the word sale (salt) with a termination (ame) that in Italian indicates a collective noun.[2] Thus, it originally meant "all kinds of salted (meats)". The Italian tradition of cured meats includes several styles, and the word salame soon specifically meant only the most popular kind—a salted and spiced meat, ground and extruded into an elongated and thin casing (usually, cleaned animal intestine), then left to undergo natural fermentation for several days, months, or even years.

Ingredients of salami

Hungarian Herz Salami poster, an advertisement from Budapest, 1900

A traditional salame, with its typical marbled appearance, is made from pork or beef (sometimes specifically veal). Beef is usual in kosher and halal salami. Makers also use other meats, including venison[3] and poultry (mostly turkey).[4] Goose salami is traditional in parts of Northern Italy. Salami has also been made from donkey[5] and horse.[6] Typical additional ingredients include:[7]

The maker usually ferments the raw meat mixture for a day, then stuffs it into either an edible natural or inedible cellulose casing, and hangs it up to cure. Some recipes apply heat to about 40 °C (104°F) to accelerate fermentation and drying. Higher temperatures (about 60 °C (140°F)) stop the fermentation when the salami reaches the desired pH, but the product is not fully cooked (75 °C (167°F) or higher). Makers often treat the casings with an edible mold (Penicillium) culture. The mold imparts flavor, helps the drying process, and helps prevent spoilage during curing.[8]

Salami varieties

Salami varieties include this smoked Westphalian salami with added Camembert cheese-culture

Salami varieties include:

Many Old World salami are named after their region or country of origin—such as Arles, Genoa, Hungarian, and Milano salami. Many are flavored with garlic. Some types—including some varieties from Spain (salchichón), Hungary (pick salami), and Italy (such as Neapolitan varieties that led to American pepperoni) include paprika or chili powder. Varieties also differ by coarseness or fineness of the chopped meat and size and style of the casing.

Manufacturing process

Though completely uncooked, salami are not raw, but cured. Salame cotto—typical of the Piedmont region in Italy—is cooked or smoked before or after curing to impart a specific flavor but not for any benefit of cooking. Before cooking, a cotto salame is considered raw and not ready to eat.

Before extruding mixed ingredients into their casings, the maker mixes the ground meat with salt, seasoning, and—if the particular salami variety requires it—bacterial starter culture. They mix the ingredients vigorously to develop the protein structure (called the "primary bind"), stuff it into casings, and hang it up to cure. For a more modern, controlled fermentation, makers hang the salami in warm, humid conditions for one to three days to encourage the fermenting bacteria to grow, then hang it in a cool, humid environment to slowly dry. In a traditional process, the maker skips the fermentation step and immediately hangs the salami in the cool, humid curing environment. Added sugars (usually dextrose) provide a food source for the curing bacteria, though makers do not usually sugar horse meat because of its naturally high glycogen level.

The bacteria produce lactic acid as a waste product, which lowers the pH and coagulates the proteins, reducing the meat's water-holding capacity. The bacteria-produced acid makes the meat an inhospitable environment for pathogenic bacteria and imparts a tangy flavor that distinguishes salami from machine-dried pork. Salami flavor relies as much on how these bacteria are cultivated as it does on quality and variety of the other ingredients. Originally, makers introduced wine into the mix, which favors the growth of other beneficial bacteria. Now, they use starter cultures.

The climate of the curing environment and the casing size and style determine the drying and curing process. After fermentation, the sausage must be dried. This changes the casings from water-permeable to reasonably airtight. A white covering of either mold or flour helps prevent photo-oxidation of the meat and rancidity in the fat.

Nitrates or nitrites are added to provide the cured meat color and inhibit growth of harmful bacteria from the genus Clostridium. Salt, acidity, nitrate/nitrite levels, and dryness of the fully cured salami combine to make the uncooked meat safe to consume. High quality, fresh ingredients are important to helping prevent deadly microorganisms and toxins from developing.

See also


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Further reading

  • Bacus. Jim, "Utilization of Microorganisms in Meat Processing – a handbook for meat plant operators", Research Studies Press
  • Campbell-Platt, G and Cook, P. (Eds) (1995) "Fermented Meats", Blackie Academic and Professional, Glasgow
  • Darby W.J et al. "Food: the gift of Osiris", London 1977
  • Gou P. et al. "Potassium Chloride, Potassium lactate & Glycine as Sodium Chloride substitutes in fermented sausages & in dry cured pork loin", Meat Science vol 42 nol p37-48 1996

External links