Salumi are a large family of high-quality cured meats. They are often confused with another Italian meat product known as salame. Salumi are the product family that includes salame. Salame is a term describing a sausage made from ground pork and spices, which is then encased and often cured. Salumi are also made of pork, but often denote products which have been preserved in salt (and spices) and not encased before aging.
There are numerous varieties, each different in its own way and many now are available outside of Italy.
Here are the most famous Italian salumi types:
- Pancetta. This type of salumi is also known as Italian bacon. However, unlike bacon, pancetta is not smoked but cured. Using salt, pepper and cloves among other spices (depending upon the region) pancetta is cured just enough to allow for some moisture to remain before resting for up to two weeks in cool, dark rooms.
- Speck. It shares its name with a German pork product, but while German speck is basically lard, Italian speck is made from hog legs. The meat is seasoned with salt and spices such as pepper, laurel and juniper berries, before being allowed to rest for about a month. Speck is then smoked using flavorful beech wood, ash or juniper for ten days. The meat is then aged for months to produce a smoky and slightly spicy product with a distinct pink/red interior and a small amount of fat.
- Guanciale. It has recently become quite popular and much more available outside of Italy. Guanciale is the cured meat from the jowl of the hog and the name derives from ‘guancia’, which means cheek. The meat is cured with salt, pepper, chili pepper, and sometimes sugar, for a month. After hanging for another month, guanciale is ready to be consumed.
- Culatello. This type of salumi is among the most popular in Italy, but also one of the most difficult to make. Culatello originates from the Parma region. It is made from the leg of the hog, but only a particular portion is made into culatello. The meat is salt cured for three days, massaged and then allowed to rest before being encased. After being allowed to age for up to a year, culatello is finally ready to eat.