TRADITION, HEALTH, TASTE: IT'S ITALIAN
Since the Roman times, Italian parties and banquets wouldn’t had been the same without ‘Salumi’. A veritable tradition of taste and technique, Salumi are among the main characters of the Italian culinary production. It’s very easy to find slices of Prosciutto on tables during an Italian lunch or dinner, or in sandwiches for a good snack or used as a key ingredient for new and creative recipes. Today, Italian production of Salumi is mainly made of cured products, prepared through salting and drying. But they can also be cooked (i.e. Prosciutto Cotto, Mortadella, Zampone and Cotechino) or smoked (Speck). In the past, the Italian deli meat industry was growing with the increasing necessity to preserve meat, but today the intelligent use of modern technology assure a healthier and always tasteful product, mixing traditional techniques with innovation.
An edible aspect of local culture, salumi has long been part of Italy’s food heritage. Ancient Romans had already developed a weakness for ham. In his literary work “De Agricoltura”, Latin writer Catone of the second century B.C. described the method of preserving a pig’s thighs by salting and ripening the meat. Production and consumption of salumi became more and more important through the centuries: from the Renaissance, when splendid banquets became an art form, to the nineteenth century, when the first artisanal food workshops and gourmet stores were established. In the twentieth century, artisanal products gave way to industrial production, which still respected and followed the original traditions. Intelligent use of modern technology ensured high-quality salumi, with production methods that were characterized by continuous improvement while at the same time preserving the cultural heritage and traditions behind these products. Italian production of salumi is today made up mainly of cured products, prepared through salting and drying. But there are also cooked (i.e. Prosciutto Cotto, Mortadella, Zampone and Cotechino) or smoked (Speck) products.
Different types of salumi from Italy can be grouped into two macro categories: cured (i.e. Prosciutto Crudo, Salami, Speck) and cooked (i.e. Mortadella, Prosciutto Cotto). The cured meat maturing process is essentially based on three interconnecting phases: the spreading of salt, the evaporation of water and the variation of acidity. For Prosciutto Crudo, the long period of aging ranges from 8 to 16 months, or as long as 24 months. The different preparation techniques are the basis of the division of these matured products into two large categories: those made from whole anatomic cuts of meat and those based on minced meat. Minced meat-based matured products (i.e. Salami), have different mixture recipes and maturing conditions, depending on their size. After the preparation of the mixture, they are usually packed into natural or artificial gut casings and left to mature in appropriate thermo-hygrometric conditions. The process of preparation of cooked products, such as the Prosciutto Cotto (cooked ham), is made from select, boneless pig legs, 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 unique characteristics, such as consistent texture, perfect moisture and a mild flavor. At the end of the 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.
Less fat and salt, more proteins and vitamins: today Salumi are lighter and contain important nutrients for our diet balance. Thanks to the continuous progress of the breeding techniques, to the choice of raw materials and of technology of production. New nutritional surveys, after almost twenty years, show changes in all the nutritional aspects, from energy input to the significant reduction of salt that in some products has decreased more than 45%. Except in particular cases, Italian Salumi are for everyone, children and kids too. A small ham sandwich, at home or at school, hasn’t got more than 140 kcal and can represent a good snack made with noble proteins, mineral salts and vitamins, especially the B12 vitamin which is necessary for the growth and cognitive development. In order not to exceed calories consumption, it’s sufficient to choose Salumi with less fat such as ham, bresaola or speck. Thanks to its nutrients, essential for the growth and preservation of a good health, and to reduce fat consumption, Salumi can be a good alternative to a main meal or to a snack even during pregnancy and lactation. Easy to chew and digest, with a low salt, fat and cholesterol content, Salumi is also considered as a good food for older people.
Source: Istituto Valorizzazione Salumi Italiani
- It is said that, in the third century B.C., Hannibal stopped his conquering just north of Parma to eat Prosciutto and bread and drink local wine.
- Walking through Rome, you may come across a street dedicated to one of the oldest ways of consuming cured meats: with bread. The Romans liked ham so much that they even devoted to it the name of the oldest street where the biggest markets took place. The street, still named after the Latin word panisperna (panis= bread, perna= ham), is perhaps one of the most ancient existing proofs of prosciutto’s long history in the Italian tradition.
- The Prosciutto Cotto (cooked ham) has a relatively recent origin. Born in the early 1960s, it achieved big success in Italy – especially among kids and teenagers – thanks to its taste and versatility. Qualities like tenderness and delicateness helped it rapidly become one of the most sold and appreciated “salumeria” products in Italy.