Salami is part of our everyday lives, whether it’ on pizza, in baked goods, or just in a sandwich. We bet you’ve got some form of salami in your fridge right now.
As food lovers we try to understand everything that’s in our fridge, pantry, freezer and counter.
Today we’re tackling the salami – what it’s made of, how it’s made, and answering a few general salami-related questions that have become increasingly common.
So what is salami made of ?
Salami is a type of deli meat, resembling a dried sausage but much larger. It’s made of cured, dried meat but may sometimes be made of cooked meat.
There are so many salami types out there and each type has its own, specific recipe which dictates what the salami is made of.
However we can tell you that in general salami is made up of ground or finely minced meat, spices, and sometiems extra fat is added to provide more flavor.
All salami types are heavily salted, partly to help them keep longer and partly to have a safe environment – bacteria cannot grow in high sodium levels.
As for the meat used for salami, the most common is pork, though there are beef, turkey, game, horse, reindeer salami and some parts of the world may have a very ‘exotic’ meat added.
Salami is an ancient way of preserving meat
Back in ancient times salami was one of the best ways to preserve meat over long periods of time.
It was originally meat kept with a lot of salt, so it would still be edible for months. This was especially useful for long travels, war rations and an immense help for farmers who were struggling to put meat on the table each day.
The very origin of salami isn’t well known, since it seems to be equally old in different parts of the world.
The reason it’s called salami is because it originates from the Latin ‘salumen’, which is a word for salted meats of all kinds. As time went on and the Roman empire became Italy, the word turned into ‘salame’.
Once Italians and other folk from Southern Europe, like Spain and Greece started settling in America, they brought the salami we all know and love.
It was the Italians that made it popular, and to this day when someone says salami you’re probably thinking of the Italian, dried sausage-like version with a bit of white mold on the outside.
How salami is made
The process of making salami is ancient, and it varies a little due to climate influence and region. This influences the way the salami tastes since some regions aren’t suited to drying the salami, like Northern Europe since it’s too cold and humid most of the year.
Those salami types are usually made with a method similar to some deli meats where the meat is salted and then smoked, without the possibility of drying it as much as other regions.
In East and South Europe salami is usually dried and has a very distinctive appearance, dark red with white marbling on the inside and you may even see some seasoning peeking through.
Please keep in mind that tradition plays a very important role in what salami is made where, and how.
Due to technological advancement it doesn’t really matter what kind of weather you have outside, any kind of salami can be made anywhere in controlled environments.
Still, folks know that some salami types come from specific regions and expect it to be actually made there. Examples like the Sibiu salami that’s made in Sibiu, Romania after a very specific recipe, or the Milanese salami that’s originally from Milan, Italy.
Salami is made up of ground meat
As for the actual process ma making salami, you need ground meat. What meat you use varies on the region, the meat available and the recipe you’re using.
Depending on the recipe the meat may be finely ground or it may be coarse. Some recipes add extra fat, others simply use the fat that’s already in the meat.
As for the cut of meat used, pretty much any part of the animal is used, as long as it’s edible and fits well into the recipe.
Once the meat is cut, it’s heavily seasoned with herbs and spices, along with a lot of salt.
The resulting mixture is then fed into casings which are either cleaned animal intestine, or cellulose-based, much like for sausages.
After a certain length, the sausage is twisted to separate each salami in part. The links can be come very long, and the salami can be very thick, depending on the casing used and what the recipe calls for.
Finally, the salami is left to hang for anywhere between a few weeks and several months. Some salami types are fermented, some are just cured and air dried.
There’s another types of salami that is smoked on the outside, and some types are allowed to grow a white mold out the outside.
The final result is meant to be moisture loss, about 25% or more. This creates a dry, salty environment that is inhospitable for bacteria.
Smoking the salami helps if keep even safer, and in some cases prevents the meat of the salami from being in direct contact with the sunlight.
Salami meat is not raw
The meat in salami is not raw, despite being so in the beginning of the recipe. As time goes on, the seasonings and salt allow the salami to lose lots of moisture, which turns it into cured meat, much like ham or bacon.
A lot of time needs to pass for this to happen, weeks or months to be exact. This is why the process takes so long, but it’s completely worth it in the end.
Due to the low moisture and high salt, bacteria can’t really develop so the meat is safe and it can keep for a very long time (for a meat-based product).
If kept properly, at low temperatures of about 10 C/50 F, an unopened roll of salami is good for about 6 weeks. Of course, you can freeze salami if you need to keep it for a very long time.
Salami casing is crucial
The casing used for salami is also very important, for a couple of reasons.
First, it helps keep the meat inside safe from any contaminants. both cellulose and animal intestine do this wonderfully.
Second, it helps prevent further moisture loss and this is very important in keeping the salami shelf stable for so long.
You may notice some salami comes in a plastic packaging, despite being already in its casing. This is usually done if moisture loss would ruin the salami a lot, and also to keep the casing clean during shipping and handling.
Benign mold growth on the outside is encouraged
You may have noticed that some salami types have have white mold growing on the outside. That mold is not harmful, though we don’t recommend eating it on purpose since it won’t taste very good.
Other salami types have have a grayish mold, it usually grows on the Mangalitsa pig intestine casing and is also non-harmful.
The whole point of mold is to cover the salami so the sun doesn’t damage the meat inside and to prevent moisture loss.
So now you know what salami is, how it’s made and where it’s from – though that’s debatable.
Still, we’ve got all our bases covered but we still need to talk about a few common questions we’ve had others ask. So here they are.
What’s the white stuff in salami ?
When salami is made, the majority of the stuffing is minced or ground meat. Then you’ll notice the little white bits dotting the entire roll.
Those are ground or finely shopped pieces of fat. The fat is necessary both to keep the salami together, provide extra flavor, and keep the meat from spoiling.
Another very old way of preserving meat is frying it and storing it in the resulting lard, all of which is salted. All of this is put into jars or glazed ceramic containers and it can keep for months in cool pantries or in the fridge.
Does salami have beef ?
Some salami types may have beef, or may be entirely made of beef.
There are hundreds of salami types and recipes and there’s bound to be some beef-based ones.
Most of the time you’ll find beef salami in the kosher or halal aisles.
A couple of beef salami examples are Genoa and Milano salami which both include pork and beef, as well as pepperoni.
You may also find salami that’s made from other meats, like venison or horse or donkey, if you’re after a red meat salami.
Is pepperoni salami ?
Yes, pepperoni is a type of salami. Not all salami is pepperoni, but all pepperoni is salami.
Pepperoni is an Americanized version of an Italian sausage salami, but with lots of paprika and chili powder added. This gives it its distinctive red hue, and a nice spicy bite.
You’ll notice that pepperoni has a much finer grain compared to regular salami, and especially when compared with Italian salamis.
Can you eat salami raw ?
Yes, you can eat salami raw. The meat in salami is not raw, instead it is cured, dried meat.
Imagine eating salami as you would a slice of ham, or dried sausage.
If you’d like to be on the very safe side, you can fry the salami. Boiling it will usually result in a duller flavor but you can try.
And if you’re wondering about the salami in pizza, that salami ends up being cooked due to the high heat the pizza is subjected to.
If you’ve got any other food curiosities be sure to check the related articles below, we’re always adding more food facts to make your life that much easier.