One of our hobbies here at the Play Gourmet Center For Making And Eating Things That Taste Good (TM pending) is making and curing meats and salamis. We have been doing it for a little bit now and happily sharing our products.
We have shared in the past our love for making sausage, and since I can remember I have loved eating salami with my dad. The trait is definitely hereditary, because our little Play Gourmet is addicted to it as well. So the natural progression for us, from making sausage and eating salami, was to learn how to make salami.
After about 5 seconds of research, you learn that you need a curing chamber. And here is where we discovered a real hole in the market. If anyone sees a chamber for your house that is commercially available, please let me know. We did not let that stop us however, we decided to build our own. We started with a cheap drink fridge off of Craig’s List, and modified it with a temperature controller, humidity controller, humidifier and fan. Ever since, we have been researching recipes from different regions of Italy and curing our own salami’s. Not to mention a big pig leg, that we will be happy to post about some day.
As wonderful as the salamis are, the stories and background on the recipes are almost as fascinating to us. Many recipes call for different types of meats depending on what was available in the region from which the salami hails. Sometimes, I need wild game for the recipes, and that is where the inspiration for this post comes from. Brian, our neighbor, was nice enough to share some of the wild game that he has procured, whether it be from hunting or relationships in the industry. I always try to recreate the recipes I read about by using the most authentic ingredients as possible. And finally, I had the meat to recreate one of the most intriguing salamis I have encountered, Piacentino.
Piacentino is a Salami from a region of Italy called Piacenza. This region is in the northern third where its heavily wooded and cooler during parts of the year. The area has lots of deer and wild boars, and uses a combination of these meats for their salami. Lucky for me, I have plenty of these two animals from Brian.
The commonality among most salamis is that they incorporate 90% of the same ingredients, but there is usually one or maybe two spices that really differentiate them. The differentiating spice in Piacentino is mace. Nutmeg is a tropical evergreen. This tree was brought to Italy many moons ago, to appease the royalty. It has a fruit with a pit, and that pit is ground down to give us the spice that we call nutmeg. There is a membrane that surrounds that pit, and it is dried and ground down and that is what they call mace. Mace is used to season many dishes in this part of Italy, including baked pasta dishes.
Now that we have the meats, we first chop them up.
Then we grind it. Different salamis use a different coarseness. For this, we go with a grind slightly thicker than hamburger meat.
Next we add our spices, and curing agents, plus some bacteria to help it ferment.
Now another cool thing about this salami is that my Dad was here to give me a hand. So together, we stuff the salami into our larger diameter salami casings.
And after that, we tie them up for hanging.
And it is only fitting that we make this together given that I have eaten salami with him my entire life. I can remember us heading to the store before a game on the weekend, with only one thing on our grocery list. And now we are making it ourselves.
So this is where all the heavy lifting stops, but only about 1/30th of the time is spent. From here we will let the heat of the outside or oven kick start the fermentation process, before adding it to the curing chamber. And now the next generation does his job to check that moisture is evaporating and the volume is reducing at a controlled rate. And also checking to make sure we get a nice thin coat of that pretty white mold over the outside.
And a month later…
Finally for the pay off…
You would never guess this salami was made with wild game. There is no hint of gamey-ness, but the flavor is very rich and savory. This is definitely one of my favorites.
Now it’s time to plan for the next batch.