Italy is well known for it’s salumi, cured meats. We find a great variety; from the muscle used to make it, the seasoning, whether it’s smoked or just air-dried, also if it’s pressed or spreadable. There is also a variety of meats, animals, used as it has to do with not wasting, and using everything at hand.
The main purpose of making salumi is for conservation reasons; once an animal is killed, some parts are consumed fresh (and fast) and the rest is transformed for later use. Though the majority of known salumi are pork products, the prosciutti, pancette, salsicce and sopresse, the products made are also a reflection of what animals are available in the area. Again and always, “niente se butta mai!” (nothing goes to waste, ever!)
I am a big fan of bresaola della Valtellina, which is a salted and dried beef salume from Lombardia, and easily found overseas. Bresaola can also be made with horsemeat, venison, or pork. The bresaola della Valtellina IGP is made from beef.
Visiting the region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, known for it’s buttery prosciutto San Daniele, I had the opportunity to taste an array of salumi, made from different meats! Goose is a traditional meat in the region and is served in different ways ( though rarely seen on menus). Salume d’oca (cured goose) is a versatile, cured meat as the external layer of fat can be seasoned as one wishes., transferring flavours to the meat. A traditional product of the region is pitinia. Pitinia is a type of salume made from roe deer (found especially in the mountain side of the Dolomites), though it can also be made from other game meats, sheep, goat or deer, whichever is available. I have tasted sheep pitinia, roe deer, goose, as well as deer and enjoyed all! It’s a shame that these products are of very small production and rarely, if ever, put in the forefront by chefs and specialty stores as they are a great addition or component to a dish, as seen below, and are worth knowing.
In Bari, Puglia, a small monthly farmers’ market features a sheep producer who makes a delicious salsiccia di capra. I also found a butcher who sells salsiccia d’asino (donkey meat sausage), something I first ate a few years back when I was in Alba, Piemonte.
Piemonte is a known gastronomical region, for its wines, vitello tonnato, agnolotti del plin, and of course, tartufo bianco d’Alba! This town has great food shops. I found, while walking its streets, a butcher specializing in horsemeat and donkey meat, with different types of salumi made from those meats. There is also a shop with products from buffalo, so all kinds of cheeses (from mozzarella to a castelmagno-type they call castelblu) and buffalo-meat products, from fresh to smoked and salami di buffalo ( most are sous-vide). By the way there is another Moris shop in Torino, to my great delight!
All these great products showcase the variety produced at the local levels, across the country. They are mostly small productions, therefore, more difficult to export or have a greater reach, however it would be nice to see more restaurants and chefs introducing these products in their menus and showcase these small producers’ rarer, lesser known products. I hope to find more next time!