Calabria is one of the oldest inhabited regions of Italy, and indeed many suppose it to be the first part of Italy that was inhabited by humans. It was originally known as Oenotria (modern day - Enotria) as it was first inhabited by a tribe of Oenotrians or 'vine-growers', and it therefore has some of the oldest wine producing history in Europe. Luckily for us chefs - it also has one of the greatest cured meat customs in Italy, Calabrians are responsible for Sobressada, Coppa, 'Nduja and Calabrese Salami - the precursor to modern day Pepperoni.
It was at one point known as 'Magna Grecia' or Great Greece, after settlers from Greece colonized it in eighth and seventh centuries BC. Since that time it has been a greatly contested land having been partly conquered by Romans, Byzantines, Arabic Saracens, Normans and a whole host of others. This influence has led to such a wonderful and colourful palette of produce and cuisine, stretching from cured meats and cheeses all the way to their protected Tropea Onions, Clementines and native wines.
To cure meats at home is indeed a matter of precision, know-how and confidence, however probably the most important thing to take into account, is the conditions in which you process cured meat products. There are two simple rules to follow - Clean and Cold. Equipment must be sterile and where possible chilled, hands must be clean and covered with food safe gloves and most importantly, meat must remain cold until ready to hang. If you think you are ready, follow the steps below for this simple Calabrian Salami. You will need a meat grinder, and sausage stuffer for this recipe.
1kg Pork Shoulder, diced.
10g Glucose, Caster Sugar or Dextrose.
4.5g Chilli Flakes
2g Instacure #2
4.6g Ground White Pepper
7g Toasted Fennel Seeds
8g Live Buttermilk or Whey (must contain live cultures!)
18.5g Red Wine
1. Combine all the above ingredients in a sterile bowl and leave in the fridge overnight. Place mincing machine removable parts into the freezer overnight to chill.
2. The next day, set up your mincer with the frozen parts, set to mince on the coarsest grind. Grind the pork mixture, with all the spices included through the mincer. Set the minced pork mixture back into the fridge (to keep everything cold).
3. Set up your sausage stuffing machine with sausage casings (if you are not sure about this part, ask your butcher for some hog casings for making sausages). If you have never done this before, I suggest the following youtube video to help out at this point! (Skip to the sausage stuffing part if you are confident about everything else!).
4. You will want to twist your sausages (as in the video) to the length salami you desire, but then you will also want to use butchers twine to tie off each end of the salamis with a firm double knot (i.e. each salami will have a tight-as-you-can-go knot at each end, tied with the string) so that when you snip in-between the two knots on your string of sausages you are left with a beautifully tied salami with no meat spilling out.
5. Hang these salami up at room temperature on a broomstick or from coat hanger (or butchers hooks if you're fancy) and prick them all over with a needle to help compact the meat and remove any airholes.
6. You will leave your salami at room temperature, with good airflow for the first 24 hours to allow the Lactic bacteria to establish a colony of good bacteria and lower the pH of the sausages - this is a crucial step in creating a safe sausage and a delicious flavour.
7. Finally, once cultured, transfer to a cooler place with some air movement, this would traditionally be a cellar or some people use old fridges as curing boxes. But it has to be somewhere out of direct sunlight that stays relatively cool and humid, perhaps a garden shed? Depending on the size of your sausage (oi oi) depends on how long they will take to cure, we have found hog casing (standard diameter) sausages take about 2-3 weeks to lose around 33% of their weight in evaporation and aging.
The final sausages should be firm to the touch but yield slightly when squeezed. They will take no less than 2 weeks and will have lost between 33 and 40% of their starting mass (it may be a good idea to note down the weight of your sausages at this point). There is no other feeling quite like waiting for your sausages to get to the point where they are ready to eat and these Calaberese should be deep, spicy, anise-y and all round delicious. If you give this a go, be sure to let us know, we'd love to see your results! A.