Although eaten in many countries across the world, salami originates in Italy. Salami is made by encasing meat in a thin skin--traditionally, cleaned animal intestines, but today collagen-based artificial skins are also used. Recipes generally begin with pork meat, or sometimes pork and beef, and include about 40 per cent fat. Other ingredients, such as garlic, salt, peppercorns, fennel seeds and chilli pepper, are added to enhance the flavour before the meat is cured. The variety of possible ingredients means that a number of different types of salami exist.
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"Salame Milano" is the generic term for salamis made using finely minced meat. "Crespone" salami is made of finely minced pork with coarsely milled black pepper. It can also include crushed garlic that has been marinated in red wine. The finished sausage is around 3-1/2 inches in diameter and is aged for about three months. "Crespone" is served in very thin slices. "Cacciatore" or "hunter's sausage," on the other hand, is small and aged for a much shorter period. It takes its name from the men who could carry it in a pocket when out hunting.
"Nostrani" are made with coarser meat, which means you can identify them by the little chunks of meat and fat visible in each slice. "Salame di Felino" is made in the town of the same name near Parma, and Italian chef Antonio Carluccio calls it "probably one of the best Italian salamis." It is made of several different cuts of meat combined with salt, whole black peppercorns and saltpetre, and is matured for at least three months. "Salami Napoli" is another popular sausage of the "nostrani" type--it mixes pork, pork fat and beef with spices including garlic, pepper, wine, salt, saltpetre, paprika and chopped chilli pepper.
Calabria, in the south of Italy, is famous for its chilli peppers, and the salami produced there makes great use of the spicy seeds. Salsiccia Calabrese is a firey salami made using chilli peppers, paprika and whole peppercorns. Salsiccia Napoletana is a similarly spicy offering from the city of Naples. Soppressata is made in a different way, by pressing the meat and spices into a short gut that is then placed under a weighted wooden board to create a distinctive flat shape. The Calabrian variety is probably the most sought-after, and incorporates garlic, pepper, blood, paprika, wine, salt, pepper and chilli peppers.
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