Pepperoni is a cured-sausage product that became popular in the United States even before the establishment of the nation's leading producer of pepperoni, Hormel Foods, in 1891. The origins of pepperoni are in Italy, but the name "pepperoni" does not refer to the same food in Italian as it does in English.
Pepperoni typically is made from a combination of pork and beef trim, spices and cultures. Pork and beef pieces might be blended with salt, paprika, white pepper, cayenne pepper, anise seed and allspice. Cured sausages may also be made from a combination of other meats, including turkey and chicken. Meat, spices and preservatives are combined through grinding, chopping and mixing. Another option is to inject spices and preservatives in a water solution into the meat that will be cured.
Established in 1891 by George A. Hormel in Austin, Minnesota, Hormel Foods produces the nation's top-selling pepperoni. Hormel produces a variety of pepperoni products for direct consumption and for inclusion in other products, such as calzones, pizzas, sandwiches and salads. According to Hormel, its pepperoni sausage is "medium-chopped and seasoned with red pepper and fine spices."
Pepperoni is a cured sausage that is not actually cooked. Sodium nitrite is most often used to cure meat because it "greatly delays development of botulinal toxin (botulism), develops cured meat flavour and colour, [and] retards development of rancidity and off-odors and off-flavors during storage." Table salt and other spices are also used in curing meat.
Fermenting and Drying Pepperoni
After the meat mixture is cured, the meat is also fermented and dried to reduce the moisture inside the mixture, making it more difficult for bacteria to grow and spoil the meat. Fermentation involves converting carbohydrates in meat into alcohols or acids. In pepperoni production, fermentation offers another way to protect against bacterial growth. In the final step, the pepperoni is dried.
Meat Safety and Regulation
Curing pork is safe when proper safety standards are followed, according to the American Meat Science Association (AMSA). In the U.S., meat packers and processors follow the standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for curing meat.
Roots in Ancient Italy
The history of the pepperoni dates to ancient Roman times. The Roman civilisation was notably the first society to regulate pork production, and they cured pork products into useful forms of salami and sausage because they couldn't refrigerate meat. Pepperoni lovers would have to ask for a spicy salami in Italy to come close to the taste of American pepperoni.