Salumi is the “catch –all” Italian word fro cured meat (prosciutto, sausages, smoked or air dried meat etc).
Italian enjoy salumi as an appetizer before the pasta course (In Italy pasta and pizza portions are small and considered appetizers).
In traditional Italian restaurants in North America salumi are served as part of banquet menus, and occasionally it is advertised on menus but the term has not yet entered the culinary vocabulary, and who knew about latte, espresso, and cappuccino only three decades ago?
The root of the word salumi goes back to Latin salumen (preserve with salt), which Romans favoured to preserve meats.
Archaeologists discovered evidence of prosciutto production in Emilia Romagna dating back to 500 B C. Bologna and Parma, both famous for their cured ham and sausage, are famous cities in the province.
Salumi is made commonly from pork, but beef, the meat of wild boar, duck, deer, and other animals can be substituted. Either whole cuts (prosciutto), or minced meats mixed with spices and herbs are stuffed in casings. Some are smoked, others dried, yet other sold fresh to be cookd. Spicing ranges from mild to hot and everything in between.
Prosciutto is dry cured ham which may be raw (crudo) or cooked (cotto).
Prosciutto di Parma and Prosciutto di San Daniele are most famous and have been declared D O P (Denominacione di Oirigine Protetta = Protected denomination of origin (PDO).
Salami contains minced pork shoulder mixed with black pepper, wild fennel, red wine, chilli, paprika or peppercorns stuffed in casings, which may be salt cured, or air-dried.
Salsicce are slim fresh or cured sausages.
Capicolla can be cured or cooked and can be whole cuts from the neck of pigs, then spiced with either black pepper or chilli flakes.
Mortadella was invented in Bologna. It is a “fat” sausage (20 cm in diameter) including strips of fat, black pepper corns, and pistachio nuts and finely ground pork. It is pink and delicious with no resemblance to inexpensive North American grey versions that look revolting and which are with the skins of turkeys.
Speck is a salted and smoked slab of pork fat. It is sliced and eaten on hearty whole wheat bread.
Bresaola – is a specialty of Lombardy and is made using lean leg cuts of leg of beef, then salted and air-dried.
While most wine consumers constantly talk about matching food and wine, few think which wines to choose for salume.
In most cases, the salume course aka secondi also include marinated squid and/or octopus or shrimps.
Prosecco, Soave, Pinto Grigio, off dry Riesling all go well with prosciutto, and fruity and light reds (simple Valpolicella, simple Beaujolais, Passetougrain).
Spicy o hot salumi can be successfully matched with a zesty sauvignon blanc from Loire, or chenin blanc, off dry Riesling, or roses from Provence.
Wines to avoid are heavily oaked chardonnays, full-bodied, high alcohol or highly tannic red wines.
Salumi along with a mixed salad (use lemon and oil dressing) and baguette or Calabrese bread can be a delightful summer lunch.