I’ve often thought that I could live on beef tartare and cured meats alone. But the true testament to my obsession is that I still think that after trying 20 of the country’s most highly rated salumi. In one sitting.
With the possible exception of a whole dry-aged ham, to my mind salami is the highest form of the butcher’s art.
The careful crafting of raw meat, salt, spices and time create something very different from a fresh sausage. It is not crazy to call it alchemy. But making salami is no joke. It takes time, an attention to detail (and sanitation), plus a careful eye to troubleshoot problems. Doing this at home is not for beginners.
But when you do pluck up enough courage to make your own salami at home, this is the recipe you should start with. It is the classic, the “little black dress” of a salami, flavored only with salt, black pepper and a bit of garlic. The meat is the star here, not the spices.
Here are my favorite dry-cured salami that are not only worth their salt hangover, but 100% worth going out of your way to order online if you can’t find them at a specialty shop near you. Though they’re all very different, each one has an excellent porky flavor, a satisfying meaty texture, and a balanced flavor with fresh-tasting spices.
May they bring you salty, smoky, meaty joy, whether you serve them as an antipasto—which literally means “before a meal”—or just for snacking with cheese and wine.
Tip: Slicing salami very thin helps this pricey meat go farther. It’s much easier to slice when very cold, but tastier when the chill lifts, as the fat softens and the flavors open up. For this reason you should slice right out of the refrigerator, but let it sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Finocchiona is a pretty easy salami to make, and an ideal one is very mild with enough fennel flavor (it’s sorta like black licorice) just to make things interesting. I used some excellent Duroc pork for the batch pictured, but wild boar works fine — if it was pretty fatty. If you want to go with another meat, 4 pounds of venison added to 1 pound of pure pork fatback will work, too, or 3 pounds venison plus 2 pounds of fatty pork. Don’t do this with bear meat, as the risk of trichinosis is real.
Keep in mind that while this is an easy salami to make, it’s still salami, not a fresh sausage, so you need to be an experienced sausage maker to try it. Follow the directions below and you should be in good shape.
Once you’ve made your salami, I vacuum seal it and keep it in the fridge, where it will last basically forever. At least a year, probably more.
Makes about 4 pounds of finished salami
Prep Time: 3 days, not including drying time.
Cook Time: n/a
- 5 pounds fatty pork or wild boar shoulder
- 51 grams of kosher salt
- 6 grams of Instacure No. 2
- 10 grams dextrose or 15 grams sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds or fennel pollen
- 1/3 cup ouzo or other anise-flavored liqueur
- 1/4 cup distilled water
- 10 grams FRM-52 or T-SPX starter culture (available here)
- Wide hog casings, 38 to 45 mm (available here)
- Chop the meat and fat into chunks that will fit in your grinder. Remove any especially nasty silverskin and gristle from the pork. Mix the meat and fat with the salt and the Instacure No. 2 and grind through a coarse die; I use 10 mm. Put in the fridge in a covered container overnight.
- The next day, put about 15 feet of hog casings into some warm water and set aside.
- Mix all the spices and sugar with the meat and fat. Chill for 1 hour in the freezer, then grind through a medium die, about 6 mm. Note, if you’ve already ground the meat through a die this small, grind only half of it. Check the temperature of the meat: If it’s 35°F or colder, grind half of the mixture through a fine die; I use a 4.5 mm die here. If the meat mixture is warmer, freeze it until it hits the right temperature and then grind. Either way, put the meat into the freezer while you clean up and get ready to stuff the links.
- Run warm water through your hog casings while the meat is chilling. This flushes them, and will show you any leaks in the casings. Set them back in the warm water when you’re done.
- Get your starter culture ready. Gently mix the starter culture with the distilled water and let it sit for at least 15 minutes.
- Once the meat is 32°F or colder, put it in a large bin. Add the ouzo and starter culture and mix everything well with your (very clean) hands for a solid 2 minutes. Your hands should ache with cold as you do this. Alternately, put the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the heavy paddle attachment. Mix everything on the lowest setting for 60 to 90 seconds. Either way. you will see the meat change texture: it will bind together and stick to itself.
- Put the meat into your sausage stuffer and stuff it into the hog casings. Form links of about 10 inches, leaving at least a 4-inch “tail” of casing on one end, and about 6 inches on the other. You’ll get about six long links. Tie off the short end the first link. Gently compress the meat in the casing. You’ll see lots of air bubbles form. Use a needle or sausage pricker (Heat the tip of the needle over a flame until it glows; this sterilizes it.) and prick out all of the air pockets. Do this gradually and gently or you will rupture the casing. This takes some practice. When each link is nice and firm in the casing, tie off the second, longer end and tie off a loop so you can hang the link from an “s” hook or somesuch.
- Hang the links on a drying rack — a wooden clothes drying rack is excellent for this. Now you need to ferment the sausage. You will want to tent the hanging sausages with black plastic from some garbage bags (make sure they are not perfumed!), or some other plastic sheeting. If you have one, put a humidifier under the sausages. You really want them to stay moist. Let the sausages hang at 67°F to 80°F for at least 36 hours, and up to 48 hours. Every 6 to 8 hours, spritz them with a spray mister to keep them moist. This is the fermentation stage, the stage where the starter culture you are using defeats any bad bacteria in the sausage.
Chill the meat and fat in the freezer for at least 1 hour. You want it close to frozen, even a little crispy cold. Chop the meat and fat into chunks that will fit into your grinder, but leave about 1/3 pound of the fat aside. Cut this into small dice the size of a typical frozen carrot.
Put about 10 feet of hog casings into some warm water and set aside.
Mix all the spices, salt, curing salt and sugar with the meat and fat — except for the diced fat. Put the meat mixture and the diced fat into the freezer until it’s between 27°F and 36°F.
Grind everything but the diced fat through the fine die on your grinder. If you are using trim from a deer or other animal — meaning there’s a lot of silverskin, etc — grind first through the coarse die, then again through the fine die. If you need to double-grind, chill the meat in the freezer between grindings for 15 to 20 minutes. Put the meat and the diced fat into the fridge and clean up the grinder.
Meanwhile, run warm water through your hog casings. This flushes them, and will show you any leaks in the casings. Set them aside when you’re done.
Take the temperature of the meat: If it is warmer than 38°F, put it back in the fridge for 30 minutes and check again. When the meat is good and cold, get your starter culture ready. Gently mix the starter culture with the distilled water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Take out the meat and put it in a mixer bowl with the heavy paddle attachment. Add the starter culture and the diced fat, then mix everything on the lowest setting for 1 to 2 minutes. You will see the meat change texture. You are looking for a good bind, where the meat is beginning to stick to itself.
Put the meat into your sausage stuffer and stuff it into the hog casings. You want individual sausage links of about 12 to 14 inches. Leave a lot of casing on each end, because you will tie the ends of each link together to for a long loop, like a Polish kielbasa. Hang the links on a drying rack — a wooden clothes drying rack is excellent for this — and find a needle. Heat the tip of the needle over a flame until it glows; this sterilizes it. Prick the casing anywhere you see air pockets. The casing should shrink back against the meat.
Now you need to ferment the sausage. You will want to tent the hanging sausages with black plastic from some garbage bags, or some other plastic sheeting. If you have one, put a humidifier under the sausages. You really want them to stay moist. Let the sausages hang for at least 24 hours, and up to 48 hours. Every 6 to 12 hours, spritz them with a spray mister to keep them moist. This is the fermentation stage, the stage where the starter culture you are using defeats any bad bacteria in the sausage.
When the sausages are ready, fire up the smoker. Put ice cubes in the water tray to keep the temperature as cool as possible. You are not cooking the links here, you are giving them a good smoking. Use cherry, apple, or oak if you can. Avoid mesquite, as it is too distinctive. And no pine — too much resin. Smoke the links for at least 3 hours, making sure the temperature stays below 85°F. You can smoke the salami up to 8 hours if you like a really smoky link.
Now you need to hang the links in your drying chamber. I use an old fridge with a temperature regulator and a humidifier in it. Hang the links at about 75 to 80 percent humidity for at least a month before eating. You can let them go as long as 3 months. Store in the fridge, or vacuum sealed in the freezer.When the sausages are ready, hang them in your drying chamber. I use an old fridge with a temperature regulator and a humidifier in it. Hang the links between 50°F and 60°F at about 70 to 80 percent humidity for at least 3 weeks before eating. You can let them go as long as 2 months. They’re ready when they’ve lost 30 percent of their original weight, or when they feel firm throughout. Store in the fridge, or vacuum sealed in the freezer.When you’re looking for fast, easy, and reliable recipes, the Pioneer Woman is the ultimate go-to source. You can always count on Lost Ways 2 recipes to be doable, flavorful, and incredibly comforting, no matter what you’re in the mood for. Ahead, we’ve curated some of the Food Network host and Pioneer Woman magazine author’s best and easiest recipes you’d be crazy not to try for yourself, like lemon-blueberry pancakes and butternut squash mac and cheese.Basic SalamiPrep Time2 hrsTotal Time2 hrsCourse: Cured MeatCuisine: ItalianServes: 4 poundsIngredients
- 4 pounds pork shoulder or wild boar meat
- 1 pound pork fatback
- 51 grams salt
- 6 grams Instacure No. 2
- 12 grams sugar or dextrose
- 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
- 1/3 cup red wine
- 1/4 cup distilled water
- 10 grams FRM-52 starter culture, or T-SPX culture
- Hog casings, preferably 38-42 mm wide casings
Hungarian Paprika SalamiPrep Time2 hrsCook Time3 hrsTotal Time5 hrsThis is traditionally a pork sausage, or a mixture of pork and beef. But to my mind, the important thing is the seasoning and the smoke. I used duck in the batch we took pictures of, and venison, bear or some other meat would work fine. I prefer to use pork fatback for the fat here, as it is firm and white. Keep in mind this is a full-on smoked and dried salami. You must pay attention to detail here or you will fail. Be extra careful about cleanliness and measurements. Watch your humidity every day, because even 24 hours at humidities below 50 percent in the early stages of a salami’s hang time can cause case hardening, which can ruin the batch. This is why I use the narrower hog casings instead of the normal beef casings: It’s easier to succeed using the narrow casing because the hanging time is shorter.Course: Cured MeatCuisine: HungarianServes: 4 poundsIngredients
Start by setting out 1/2 to 2/3 pound of the pork and dicing it fine. I like doing this because it varies the grind within the sausage from very fine to chunky. To me, this is more interesting. You can run it all through the grinder if you prefer, or if you think someone will get all crazy if they see big pieces of fat in their salami. Cut the remaining fat and meat into chunks that will fit into your grinder. Trim as much sinew and silverskin as you can.
Put both the diced and chunked fat into separate containers in the fridge. Mix the salt with the meat and put it in the fridge overnight. This helps develop myosin, which will give you a tighter bind when you stuff the links later.
The next day, put the fat and your grinding equipment — blade, coarse and fine die, etc — in the freezer. Mix the Instacure, garlic and half the black pepper into the meat. Put that in the freezer, too. Let everything chill down until the meat hits about 28°F or so. It won’t freeze solid because of the salt. Normally this takes about 90 minutes. While you’re waiting, soak about 15 feet of hog casings in a bowl of warm water, and put the red wine in the fridge.
When the meat and fat are cold, take them out and mix together, but keep the diced fat separate for now. Grind 1/2 to 2/3 of the mixture through the coarse die of the grinder. Grind the rest through the fine die. I do this to vary my grind, which makes for a better texture in my opinion. Sometimes I do 3/4 fine and 1/4 coarse, depending on my mood. The key is variability.
Put the meat and fat back in the freezer while you clean up. Dissolve the starter culture in with the distilled water.
When the meat mixture is back below 35°F, you can mix it. I put the mixture into a big plastic bin with the diced fat, the remaining black pepper, the red wine and the starter culture mixture and mix it by hand for about 2 to 3 minutes. If you do this, you’ll know the mixture’s cold enough if your hands ache from the chill. Or, you can put everything into a big stand mixer and mix on low for 90 seconds to 2 minutes. I prefer to mix by hand.
Put the sausage in the fridge while you clean up. Run some clean water through your casings to flush them and to see if you have any leaks. Cut lengths of casing of about two feet to 30 inches and set all but one back in the water. Thread the one onto your sausage stuffer.
Pack the sausage into your stuffer and get ready to make the salami. Leave 4 to 6 inches of casing hanging from the edge of the stuffer as a “tail;” you’ll use this to tie off the salami in a bit. Start working the meat into the casing, using your fingers to flush any air out of the casing and to regulate the flow. I prefer straight links of about 10 inches to a foot. Remove the link from the stuffer and repeat with the remaining casings and sausage.
Now gently compress the meat within each casing, watching for air bubbles. Heat a needle or a sausage pricker in the flames of your stove to sterilize it, and prick the links to let any trapped air out. Tie off both ends of the link in a double or triple knot (you don’t need a specialized butterfly knot with hog casings) and then tie a loop of kitchen twine to one end, making sure the twine knot is underneath the casing knot you just made: This will prevent the twine from slipping off. Hang your sausages from “S” hooks or somesuch on a wooden rack.
To ferment your links, you will need to keep them warm and moist. I do this by putting a humidifier under the hanging sausages and then tenting the whole shebang with big garbage bags that I’ve sliced open on one end. I also use a water sprayer to spritz my sausages a couple times a day. Doing this prevents the casings from hardening. Keep your sausages hanging at room temperature (65 to 80°F) for two to three days.
Now you need to dry your sausages and turn them into salami. Hang them in a place that is about 50°F to 60°F with about 80 to 90 percent humidity. In most cases you will need to put a humidifier under your links. I also spritz them with water once a day for the first 2 weeks. After the first week of hanging, drop the humidity to 70 to 80 percent. On the third week drop it again to 65 to 70 percent and hold it there until a total of 5 to 10 weeks has elapsed since the salami went into the chamber.
You now have salami. To store long-term, vacuum seal them individually and keep in the fridge. They will last indefinitely this way, and the vacuum sealing will keep them from becoming rock hard. You can also freeze them.
- 3 1/2 pounds pork, , duck, venison, etc
- 1 1/2 pounds pork belly or fatty pork shoulder
- 51 grams (about 3 tablespoons) kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar or dextrose
- 6 grams (about a teaspoon) Instacure No. 2
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon Hungarian hot paprika
- 2 tablespoons black pepper, coarsely cracked
- 10 grams (about 1 tablespoon) starter culture T-SPX
- 1/3 cup distilled water
Once the salami has dried, which typically takes a month to two months, you can cut it down and eat it. It stores well in the fridge, but since it’s smoked it will make your fridge smoky unless you keep it in a tightly closed container. It also freezes well if you vacuum seal it.
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