The different types of products existing in Italy can be essentially grouped into two macro categories: cured and cooked. The most common of the first group are: prosciutto crudo, salame, speck, pancetta, culatello, coppa, bresaola and lardo. On the other hand, prosciutto cotto, mortadella, wurstel, zampone and cotechino are most eaten cookedproducts in Italy.
Among these, some are very famous also abroad:
Prosciutto crudo (cured ham) is the result of centuries of tradition handed down from ancient Rome and one of the most popular and imitated Salumi worldwide. Its ingredients are rather simple, but the final product is excellent. Climate condition in the production area is a critical factor for the final result. This product is made from select legs of large pigs raised on a special diet rich in corn and vegetables. The legs are rubbed at length with salt, then left to sit. Subsequently, they are washed, brushed, dried, checked for potential flaws and left to dry. A long period of aging begins, which ranges from 8 to 16 months, but can also be over 24 months. This process allows the hams to acquire their unmistakable organoleptic characteristics, such as low salt content, delicate, tasty and aromatic flavor. The most famous are Prosciutto di Parma PDO, Prosciutto di San Daniele PDO and Prosciutto Toscano PDO.
Mortadella often calls to mind childhood flavors. The flavor is full-bodied and the savory taste of the ingredients is well-balanced by lardons, which give a mild flavor to the salume. A cooked product with fine texture, often in an impressive shape, mortadella consists of a mix of selected, finely minced pig meat with fat lardons from the throat area, the most valued. Subsequently, the meat is mixed with salt and natural flavoring and then put in a natural casing.
The most important and difficult part is the cooking phase in special ovens, where the air is heated to the proper temperature by indirect contact with steam. Mortadella has a cylindrical shape and comes in small, medium and super-size; when supersized, it weighs more than 100 kg. From a nutritional standpoint, it boasts quite a profile. Besides having a relatively low sodium content, it’s a good source of complete proteins, mineral salts and B group vitamins. It can be eaten sliced, preferably very thinly cut, or diced, and served with an aperitif; it’s also a good ingredient for pasta, savory pies or salads. Mortadella Bologna, a centuries-old salume, has received PGI recognition.
Salame (salami) is considered the tastiest among Italian Salumi and is made using one of the oldest forms of curing meat. Through the centuries, it has evolved into several varieties that today form a veritable family that includes regional and local specialties all over Italy. Salamis differ in the way the meat is minced (fine, medium or thick) and through the spices and ingredients (garlic, cayenne pepper, fennel seeds, wine), which give each type their individual characteristics. The meat, fat and other ground ingredients are put into a casing and left to age. It’s only toward the end of the aging process that each salami acquires its typical aroma. The shape is generally long, the size varies and the meat inside is red with white/pink fat; the aroma is strong and appetizing, the taste well-defined.
Prosciutto cotto (cooked ham), on an industrial and production technology level, is always at the center of research by producers. The quality of Italian cooked hams depends on several factors: raw ingredients, composition of the brine (namely, the flavoring of raw ingredients), processing technology and cooking methods. Cooked ham is made from select, boneless pig legs, which are rubbed during processing to help the absorption of aroma and spices such as salt, pepper, bay leaves and juniper.
Hams are then put in special molds to give them a rounded shape. They are cooked (9-12 hours) in steam ovens that give hams their organoleptic characteristics, such as consistent texture, perfect moisture and a mild flavor. At the end of cooking, hams are heat pressed to make them compact; then, they sit to cool at room temperature before being put in a refrigerator, pasteurized and packaged. It is rich in complete proteins and B1 vitamins, with only 69 calories per serving.