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Pitina – Italian Meatball Salami

Pitina. A remarkable Italian Salami originating in the Dolomite valleys of Tramonti di Sopra, Tramonti di Sotto, and the River Cellina, in the northeastern Italian province of Pordenone in Friuli. This dry cured meat is not your typical salami. It’s actually more like a meatball than a salami.

Pitina was a salami born out of necessity, mainly to preserve game and because there was very little equipment needed to make pitina, this charcuterie became widely available to most homes.

Today I’m going to take you through the process of how we make pitina. Unlike the poriginators of this charcuterie we do use a few modern conveniences to make this salami. Things like a grinder and a ph meter come in very handy for quick processing and reliable results. If you don’t have a grinder you can make this “old school” by mincing you meat and fat finely with a sharp knife. The results will be the same😀.

Today we will be using a few unique ingredients in this recipe. These ingredients are in the recipe to ensure that you produce a safe product. The first is Insta Cure #1. We use Insta Cure #1 to protect our meat against harmful bacteria (botulism). We are using Insta cure #1 is in the recipe because the total time it will take for this salami to be finished will be 30 days or less (You would use Insta cure #2 for projects that take longer than 30 days to make). Another unique ingredient is dextrose. Salami is a fermented sausage and in order to ferment a sausage you will need bacteria. The product we will be adding is called Flavor of Italy and it’s a starter culture for fermenting meat. It contains all of the necessary bacteria to safely and effectively ferment our sausage. Finally dextrose is a simple sugar that is used to feed the bacteria in our salami.

Let me break down the starter culture for you a little more. Flavor of Italy contains several different family groups of lactic acid producing bacteria (much like sauerkraut or pickles). Under the right conditions, these bacteria eat the added sugar (dextrose) and release lactic acid. It’s this very process that starts to acidify your meat, lowering the pH. When it comes to salami making the “safe zone” is a pH that’s under 5.3. Each start culture is slightly different but for Flavor of Italy our target ph will be between 5.2pH and 4.9pH.

The absolute most reliable way to test the pH of your salami is with a pH meter. If you plan on getting into this hobby you’ll want to get a reliable pH meter. This isn’t something that you want to go cheap on. A good quality pH meter will last you a long time and offer you the peace of mind of knowing that you are producing a safe product to eat. We use the pH meter from Apera Instruments PH60S-Z. This Pocket pH Tester has blue tooth capability, can be calibrated for extreme accuracy, and is very easy to use. They also make a (non bluetooth version) PH60S. The great thing about pH meters is that you can use them for all sorts of things other than salami making. We use ours to make beer/wine, cheese, fermented foods (kim chi, sauerkraut, hot sauce), kombucha, and gardening/hydroponics. There are many different styles of pH meters but if you stick to the ones that I linked above (the swiss spear units) you can do everything i mentioned without a problem.

The last thing and quite possibly the most important thing you need in order to make this salami is a place for it to dry. Salami is often hung in basements or cellars as the temperature is typically cool with a fairly high humidity. If you have a basement or cellar that’s not very drafty and has an average of 55F (13C) with a high humidity (80%) then you can place this salami in there with no worries, but for the rest of us, the best option is to have a drying chamber. A drying chamber provides a controlled environment so that your salami can dry evenly.  Building a drying chamber is relatively easy but if you don’t want to build one and have some rainy day money laying around Dry Curing Chamber is even easier.

Follow basic salami preparation practices when making this sausage.

  1. Clean and Sanitize all of your equipment.
  2. Keep your meat and grinder parts super cold (below 35F) during the grinding process
  3. Rehydrate your starter culture (in non-chlorinated water) for 30 minutes prior to use.
  4. Mix your very chilled mince meat, seasonings, and starter culture till the mince becomes very tacky
  5. Record the starting weight and the target of each salami link
  6. Allow the salami to ferment for 18-24 hours (these parameters are for Flavor of Italy starter culture)
  7. After the pH target has been hit, cold smoke this salami for 2 hours then place it in an area to dry till the weight loss target has been achieved.
  8. Remove from the drying chamber, slice thinly, and enjoy

Here are a few things you might find useful when making this salami

How do you store your salami when it’s finished

Storing your salami properly is just about as important as making your salami. You’ve spent so much time patiently waiting for your salami to dry properly the last thing you want is to have it ruined by storing it incorrectly. In all my years of salami making the advice I’m about to give is from personal experience.

I have found that the best way to store your salami is by vacuum sealing it then placing it in your refrigerator till you are ready to eat. This method will keep your salami in “stasis” for as long as a year! By vacuum sealing your salami will keep it from losing any more moisture and as an added bonus the time it remains in the refrigerator will help equalize the moisture that inside and allow the salami to “age” which will develop its flavor. It’s a win win!

Can you freeze your salami? Technically you can and many people do BUT freezing your charcuterie (salami or whole muscles) will affect the texture when it’s thawed and eaten. As the salami thaws moisture crystals (that were frozen) will be released changing the overall texture. I don’t personally recommend freezing but if you don’t mind the texture change it is certainly an option. If you are looking for an affordable vacuum sealer, consider checking out the Heavy Duty Kitchen Vacuum Sealer from the Sausage Maker. This vacuum sealer is versatile and really does a good job. It has lots of features and really makes a tight seal on your meats (which is what you want). A more economical option for more short-term storage is this Hand Held Vacuum Sealer with Zip Lock Bags also from The Sausage Maker. This is a great option for fast convenient vacuum sealing especially if you plan on taking slices off your salami frequently. This option allows you to use a small handheld sealer with special bags that can be reused time and time again.

The only thing you need to remember about vacuum sealing your salami is that all of the exterior mold coverage needs to be removed. Mold needs oxygen to survive and the moment you vacuum seal a salami with mold on it, the mold will begin to die and turn slimy. To remove the mold just wash the outside of your salami with vinegar. That should take care of it.

Enjoy the video and the recipe. If you have any questions, feel free to ask away. If you make this at home, I’d love to hear about how it came out!!

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5 from 8 votes

Pitina

Italian Meatbal Salami
Prep Time2 hours
Drying time30 days
Total Time30 days 2 hours
How much do you want to make? 1000 grams

Ingredients

  • 600 g lean beef
  • 300 g pork shoulder
  • 100 g pork belly
  • 25 g Salt
  • 2.5 g insta cure #1
  • 3 g black pepper
  • 2.5 g fennel seeds crushed
  • 30 ml Red wine
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1.8 g Dextrose
  • Flavor of italy starter culture re-hydrate 1/4 tsp of starter in 1/8 cup of distilled water for every kilo (2.2 pounds) of meat/fat. Let this rest for 30 minutes
  • Additional wine for dipping salami meat balls
  • corn flour (polenta flour)

Instructions

  • Clean meat/fat and cut into small strips. Place in the feezer to chill for 45 minutes
  • Grind the meat on a 6mm plate. (You can also finely mince the meat by hand if you don't have a grinder). Rechill before mixing (keep the temperature of the meat below 34f (1c) at all times during processing.
  • Add the starter culture, the wine and all of the rest of the ingredients to the chilled mince meat. Mix to combine till the meat mass gets sticky. If you grab a small handful it will stick to your hand if you hold it upside down.
  • Grab a handful your meat mixture and form the meat into a meat ball. I personally make 200 gram size balls. Dip the meatball into some red wine then roll it in some medium ground corn flour (polenta flour), and place it on a tray.
  • Ferment your pitina by placing them in an environment that between 75F and 85F (24c-29c) with high humidity for 18-24 hours. You can achieve high humidity by covering the pitina in cling film. This locks in the moisture. A good place to ferment is in your oven with the light on but the oven off. (EVERY STARTER CULTURE IS DIFFERENT. THESE INSTRUCTIONS ARE FOR THE FLAVOR OF ITALY STARTER CULTURE). The goal of fermentation is to reach a pH between 5.2 and 4.9.
  • After 18 hours test the ph of your pitina. Once you hit your goal you can move on to the next step. The goal for fermentation is anything between 4.9 and 5.2. I personally try and get
  • Cold smoke for 1½ to 2 hours. Keep temps under 85f
  • After you have finished cold smoking place the pitina in an area to start drying. Ideal temperatures are 55f (13c) with an 80% humidity. Let dry for 3-4 weeks. The longer these dry the more firm they will become. I let mine dry for 4 weeks.
    We use a dedicated drying chamber to dry our salami but if you have a cellar or basement with the above mentioned parameters you can dry that in there without any issues.
  • After it's finished drying, thinly slice and enjoy. Store what's remaining in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

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25 thoughts on “Pitina – Italian Meatball Salami”

  1. Charles Bruckerhoff

    5 stars
    Hello Eric,
    I’m new to sausage making. Got equipment and supplies from TSM, so in a week or so, will be ready to dive into it. In preparation, I’ve watched several of your videos, today Pitina. Superb training. That Italian Meatball Salami will be first. Question: is cold smoking necessary? I’m not set up for smoking yet. Have a great day.

    1. Great to hear. I wouldn’t say cold smoking is completely necessary. The smoke adds a layer of protection to the exterior of the salami so that unwanted molds dont grow…

      1. Charles Bruckerhoff

        5 stars
        So, if I can’t cold smoke here, but want hickory smoke flavor on my sausages, is an alternative method/process to spray diluted liquid hickory smoke on the casing at some point?

        Thanks Eric.

  2. Can you vac seal patina ? And does it mold?if so just brush off befoe vac seal or if you vac seal does it turn polenta flour slimy

  3. Hi guys, I’ve been making Pitina more in the traditional manner without a fermentation process; I didn’t use dextrose or starter culture. However, I do use pink salt No. 2 to ensure protection from bacteria. I roll the finished product in polenta, don’t smoke and dry in a drying chamber I made: 55 F/ 75 % humidity for about four weeks. All well and good. Question: Could I stuff the mixture in a casing (eliminating the polenta coat), poke numerous holes in the casing and hang to cure in my drying chamber? Thanks, Sal

    1. Sure. At that point t’s a regular salami. I would advise that you ferment though. The lower ph is another safety hurdle that guarantees a safe product..

  4. hi

    would there be a problem with the pitina picking up a green mold? especially with the polenta coating?

    the cold smoke does bring the surface ph down to an inhospitable level, but have you had issues with aspergillus mold and pitina?

    1. not really. You could spray them with a touch of vinegar or even potassium sorbate. Cold smoking for longer (12-18 hours) would really help with mold on the surface

  5. 5 stars
    Hi Erik,
    the recipe is excellent, I already tried it once according to you and it worked. But today I really succeeded. (sarcasm) I poured 75ml of red wine into the meat. I shrugged and finished it, but I wonder if it will have any negative effect. (Yes the meat didn’t stick, I adjusted it with a little more meat)
    thank you very much for your work

    1. Too much wine will affect the texture. The end result will still be edible but it might not bind together properly. Not that big of a deal (unless you plan on selling it😅)

  6. 5 stars
    Eric,

    I followed the recipe and used instacure and the salami culture. Up until hour 21 or 22 in the oven with the light on the temperature stayed at 85 degrees. When I checked them at hour 24 the temperature in the oven shot up above 90. I tested the internals on some of salamis and the internal temperature in a few were up to 96 degrees. The ph on all, regardless of temperature, was at 4.8 to 4.9.

    I then put them in the refrigerator. Did the elevated, 96 degrees, ruin them or are they good?

  7. Hi Eric,

    Some follow up questions:

    1. Some other recipes on the internet, when refrigerator curing, to rotate the pitina every day (turn them upside down). This would make sense to me if they were sitting on a flat plate, but if they are sitting on a rack with air-flow around them, would this serve any purpose?

    2. I had, without buying any special equipment, tried to smoke the pitina, but it just didn’t seem to have any real effect. So is just curing them in the refrigerator without smoke going to get a lesser effect?

    3. Speaking of refrigerators, I tried wrapping in dry aging steak wrap, but with the pitina coating it just doesn’t stick well. I have some drying in a steam table pan with a lid on in the refrigerator, and others drying on racks in the open air in a refrigerator. The open air onces seem to be firming up nicely after 10 days, and the ones in the pan seem to be staying moist. Any thoughts on the outcome of this experiment?

    1. I never rotate my pitina and it always dries evenly. The smoke step is there to act as a second layer of protection against mold. If you don’t smoke you will have all kinds of mold grow on your meat. As far as your experiment, I would love to hear how it turned out. I’m sure by now they are ready?

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