The Art of Artisan Salami

Salami’s popularity in deli shows no signs of waning

Salami has a long and rich culinary history pre-dating the Roman Empire. The word’s origin is rooted in the Latin word salumen, meaning to salt. Just
about every region or town had its own recipe, with pork usually as the main meat ingredient, along with local spices and salt as a natural preservative. Roman legions on campaigns often found salami among
their rations as well as sampled varieties of salami as they marched through towns and villages, often bringing the recipes home.

Fast-forward to today. If you’ve ever gone truffle hunting in Italy, you were most likely treated to a picnic lunch of salami (the plural of the singular salame), cheese, crusty bread, some fruit and wine by the hunters. The tantalizing mix of flavors, aromas and textures has become a favor- ite among Americans here—whether on a picnic to enjoy the splendors of nature or as an impromptu gathering in the comfort of our homes. And no mountain climber or backpacker would hit the trail without packing a stick or two of salame for a protein punch.

Distinguishing Factors 

True, salami’s popularity might rest in its no need for refrigeration, having been smoked and/or dry-cured. But anyone who has tasted the seductive sweetness of its meat mingled with specks of creamy fat and its heady swirl of spices such as garlic, peppercorns or fennel—or, perhaps, from the added delicacy of a rosé or the robustness of a chianti—knows where the attraction lies. It’s in salami’s taste. Rich, satisfying and comforting—a celebration of flavors.

Though all salami are a mix of ground meat (usually pork or beef) and spices and then stuffed into a casing and cured until a desired hardness, not all salami in the deli are created equal. 

So what’s the difference between artisan salami and traditional?

According to Deanna Depke, St. Louis- based Volpi Foods’ marketing manager and fourth generation family member, “The more appropriate contrast would be the artisan versus the conventional/industrial salami.” Artisan salami follow the traditions passed down for generations, she explains, while industrial-processed salami are based on efficiency, with most of the time at a sac- rifice to the overall taste, texture and eating experience of the product. “At Volpi, we’re committed to doing all things old-school. We use only fresh, never frozen, Midwest pork, and produce in small batches with hands-on expertise.” In addition, she says, “We use gentle processing methods and allow the time for flavor development.” 

Marketing analyst for Fiorucci Brand salami from Colonial Heights, VA-based Fiorucci Foods, Stephen Docherty describes what sets Fiorucci salami apart from regular salami centers on its meat and recipe. “Our specialty meats use a trea- sured family recipe and process that has been perfected since 1850. We still hand trim all of our premium, select cuts of pork, use only the finest spices.” In addition, he says, they carefully age all of their products.

Carefully selected ingredients, low-tem- perature fermentation, slow-timed dry-cu ring and having the patience to pro- duce artisan salami have been the hallmark of Fratelli Beretta, a company begun in 1812, and still family-owned with the eighth generation of the Beretta family running the business. President and COO of Mt. Olive, NJ-based Beretta USA, Simone Beretta says, “We are using the same tra- ditional recipe that has been in the Beretta family for generations. All our salami are 100 percent pork with no additional filler or additives.”

To Dave Brandow, director of inter- national sales for Piller’s Fine Foods, headquartered in Ontario, Canada, the terms ‘artisan salami’ and ‘traditional salami’ “are one and the same, especially as it pertains to Black Kassel salami.” Black Kassel salami, he says, “are very traditional, authentic salami that originated in Central Europe. The recipes are centuries-old and handed down through the generations.” The salami are cold-wood smoked for a minimum of six days and then further dry- aged for a minimum of 28.

To further explain, Depke likens arti- san salami to fine wines. “The bouquet of a good artisan salami is pleasant and fra- grant,” she says, “the mouthfeel, gentle to the palate (not salty, not acidic).” The undeniable flavor comes through even in the thinnest of slices, she says, leaving an aftertaste that is clean and fully satisfy- ing. Another mark of artisan salami is in its shape. Because they are often handmade, unlike industrial-produced salami, they’re often not uniformly round.

What’s Available

All Veroni salami are still made in Italy, says Alan Adelson, vice president of sales at Veroni USA, based in Logan Township, NJ. Due to the American growing demand for Veroni salami, the company recently expanded production for the U.S. with a newly-remodeled plant near the Adriatic Sea. The mark of a true artisan salame, he says, is not only found in its flavor and tex- ture, but also in how it is made: “less acidic, slow-cured, use of fresh ingredients and handcrafted.”

Each of the companies produce a variety of artisan salami, ranging from traditional flavors and styles to more mod- ern-influenced ones. For example Volpi makes 15 in various sizes and flavors, rang- ing from traditional favorites like Genoa (a medium-grind garlic salame with a smooth, rich flavor and clean-finish) and Sopresetta (a mix of pork and spices, including paprika) to the company’s more innovative flavors like Prosecco-infused salame. All are syn- thetic nitrate-and nitrite-free. Veroni salami include Salame Milano, which is characterized by long-aging, finely ground fat, an intense red color and sweetness on the palate; Salame Di Parma, a mild salame seasoned with salt and pepper; and Salame Calabrese, a spicy salame made according to the traditions of Calabria.

In addition to its Genoa and Sopressata salami, Fiorucci also produces others such as Hard Salami, a firmer, dryer salami, with a robust smoke flavor and peppery aro- mas containing fine specks of flavorful fat and spices. Its Abbruzzese salami shows vibrant, rosy hues from the variety of pork used and hot, spicy flavors, imparting a firm, chewy texture for a full flavor profile of paprika and aroma of crushed red pep- pers. Fiorucci also produces 100 percent natural salami, which are antibiotic-free in Hard, Italian Dry and Genoa varieties.

More than 25 salami are produced at Fratelli Beretta, ranging in traditional fla- vors, such as Milano, and sweet and hot sopressatas to more culinary-creative ones such as black truffle, fennel and chorizo to healthy-minded low-sodium, Natural (no nitrates or nitrites), antibiotic-free and organic salami. Their best seller, Beretta says, are their antipasto trays. “They give the opportunity to the consumer to try several variety of salami, prosciutto and coppa in one package.”

Black Kassel salami come in 10 varieties, such Mustard Seed, Old Forest and Picante Salami, and in assorted packaging, such as Whips. Introduced in 2017, Whips, which look like its name with 1⁄2-inch widths and 8 inches long, come in resealable packs. They quickly gained in popularity, so much so that Whips now come in personal portion-size packages for those times you need a quick hit of protein. Two new Whips with the American pal- ate in mind will be launched this spring for a limited time, including Honey Bourbon in May and June and Hatch Chile Pepper in July and August.

Look also for an exciting array of new products coming from Fratelli Beretta, Volpi, Veroni and Fiorucci. 

At this year’s IDDBA Show, Fratelli Beretta will launch its full line of entertain- ment trays that combine the company’s artisan salami with complimentary items, making them ideal to bring directly to the table. On-the-go individual snack packs and charcuterie trays are already trending at Fiorucci, Volpi and Veroni. For exam- ple, Fiorucci offers 2-ounce packages with salami, cheese and artisanal crackers for snacking or as a meal replacement as well as a Keto-friendly 2-ounce Spicy or Mild Salami Protein Packs with Aged Cheddar. 

According to Adelson, the salami category continues to grow in the U.S., so you’ll see more products, flavors, sizes and combination packs—even salame blended with spirits like whiskey. “The snacking and protein diet trends have created a whole new category of small artisan salame sticks, bites and snack packs, “he says. This June, Veroni will roll out several new individual snack packs and sharing trays. Like charcuterie boards, the Veroni Aperitime (Aperitivo Time) trays offer an array of artisan products, such as combining salami with cheese, nuts and dried fruit.

Merchandising Salami

Merchandising dry-cured meats offers a myriad of possibilities, Depke says. Salami pairs well with so many different grocery items like wine and beer, cheese, fresh and dried fruits, nuts, crackers and artisan breads. The list is practically endless. “Deli retailers can add value for customers by merchandising salami next to these displays.”

Today’s salami also come in a myriad of forms. From behind the deli counter for fresh slices to reach-in deli refrigerators for snack packs, salame and cheese roll-ups/paninos, and charcuterie/antipasto trays to shelf-stable salami that are perfect for free-standing floor and shelf displays. Because of shelf-sta- ble salami’s pairing power, Docherty says, they can be placed with complementary items, like crackers. “Or my personal favorite,” he says, “next to the red wine section.”

In addition, consumers want to know more about the food they eat, Depke says, and sees this as a continuing and widen- ing trend in the food industry. “They want to know about the company making the product, what its values are and how they connect to the community. They want authenticity and transparency in the production, sourcing and packaging of these salami products.

“Artisan salami is made by real people who care about the products they pro- duce,” she says, “are sourced from real family farms that care about their animals and real communities that care about the food they enjoy and their environment.” DB