Traditional Italian Salami

Have you ever wanted to make your own salami? In this post we will be making a more traditional version of salami, one that doesn’t use any nitrites, nitrates, or starter cultures. There are some safety issues we need to cover as well as a few techniques I will share with you. If you follow these simple rules you can make this amazing salami safely at home

Choose your meat

For this type of salami, you will want to use the freshest meats possible. Stay away from any discount meat or big box meats. My advice here would be to go to your butcher and get the cuts you need the day they get fresh product. Older meat will have unwanted contaminants and that’s certainly something you don’t want to add to your salami.

Clean and sanitize your area

Wash everything down with soapy water and come back with a spray sanitizer. This will ensure that you don’t add any unwanted critters to your tasty salami. We use a sanitizer called iodophor, but any sanitizer will do the trick.

Wine and Garlic are your friends

Wine and garlic play a very important role in this salami. The wine is added for flavor and for acidification. Also, the sugars in the wine will help feed the natural bacteria that will be fermenting your salami. Speaking of bacteria, garlic is a great source for lactic acid producing bacteria. By adding fresh organic garlic, you will not only be adding beautiful flavor, but you’ll be adding a source for LAB’s. This will help out greatly during the fermentation process

Get your hands dirty

While it’s very easy and convenient to mix your salami meat with machines these days, don’t be afraid to mix with your hands. Our hands contain natural “friendly” bacteria that are a part of us. By mixing with your hands, you will be adding that bacteria as well which will not only influence the fermentation, but it will also allow you to put your own signature on this salami. What I often do is mix the very chilled meat for 5 or so minutes, then I transfer it to a machine (if I’m feeling lazy).

Ferment with confidence

Natural fermentation with wild bacteria isn’t an exact science. It’s generally much slower and a lot less predictable. I like to test my ph along the way with a 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. This lets me know if I’m on the right track. 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.

Dry your Salami

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. A typical salami can take between 4-6 weeks to hit its target, so you will need an area to hang your salami where the temperature and humidity (as well as air flow) are nearly perfect. Salami was often hung in basements or cellars as the temperature was typically cool with a fairly high humidity and minimal air flow. 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 hang your 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 buying a drying/curing chamber is even easier.

Follow basic salami preparation practices when making this sausage.

  1. Clean and sanitize all of your equipment.
  2. Use only fresh ingredients for this recipe
  3. Keep your meat and grinder parts super cold (below 34F or 1.1C) during the grinding and mixing process
  4. Mix your very chilled mincemeat, seasonings, and starter culture till the mince becomes very tacky
  5. Tightly stuff the mince into casings and prick out any air pockets
  6. Record the starting weight and the target of each salami link
  7. Brush with protective mold culture
  8. Ferment the salami for 1-2 days
  9. After fermentation, hang the salami to dry till the weight loss target has been achieved.
  10. 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 6 months to 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 Handheld 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.

Enjoy the video and the recipe. If you have any questions, feel free to ask away.

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5 from 1 vote

Traditional Italian Salami

Old School Salami
Prep Time2 hrs
Drying time30 d
How much do you want to make? 1000 grams

Ingredients

  • 500 g lean pork
  • 250 g lean beef
  • 250 g pork back fat
  • 27.5 g kosher salt
  • 2 g dextrose
  • 4 g table sugar
  • 4 g black pepper
  • 20 g minced garlic
  • 7 g fennel seed
  • 75 ml red wine
  • mold 600 re-hydrate 1/2 tsp of mold in 1/2 cup of non-chlorinated water. This will do about 5-10 pounds of salami. Let sit at room temp for at least 5 hours before use
  • hog casings I use 32-34mm casings

Instructions

  • If you are using a mold culture prepare at least 2-3 hours before you need it. This will give it a chance to "wake up".
  • Prepare the casing by soaking in water
  • Clean and sanitize all of your equipment and tools
  • Combine the wine and the garlic and let marinate for a few hours.
  • Clean your meat of any sinew or silverskin and cut the meat and fat into small chunks (small enough to fit into your grinder)
  • Chill your meat to below 34f (1.1c). Grind chilled meat and fat through a 6mm plate. Rechill after grinding.
  • Once the meat has been rechilled it's rechilled, add all of the spices, wine/garlic to the mincemeat and begin mixing. Mix well until everything is thoroughly incorporated. It should feel tacky and stick to your hand if you turn your hand upside down, when finished.
  • Stuff the mince into your casings, prick with a sausage pricker, and if you plan on using mold this would be a good time to brush it on. Also weigh your salami and record the weight.
  • Ferment your salami by placing them in an environment that between 65F (18c) and 80F (26.6c) with high humidity for 24 -48 hours. If it's on the cooler side, I will usually leave my salami out for 48 hours and if it's on the warmer side I will usually leave my salami out for 24 hours. You can achieve high humidity by wrapping your salami in cling film or placing it inside of a large zip lock bag. This locks in the moisture.
  • Once you are finished fermenting you can start the drying process
  • The drying conditions should be set to 55F (13c) and 80% humidity. Leave it in those conditions till you lose 40% of the initial weight. The more moisture that is lost the harder your salami will be. I personally like 35% – 40% weight loss.

Notes

  • Clean and sanitize all of your equipment
  • Keep the meat and fat below 34f (1.1c) at all times during processing
  • Use only fresh meat and fat for this recipe
  • Use fresh garlic for this recipe
  • Mix with your bare hands (this will help introduce good bacteria to your meat)

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7 thoughts on “Traditional Italian Salami

  1. Mick Camilleri
    Mick Camilleri

    Brilliant! I had the same issue of the cavities randomly appearing in my salami even though I used a lot of salt and Garlic in one, and the starter culture and Cure#2 in the other. Colour was good, just the gaps. thanks as this helps me focus on the cause to rectify

  2. Keith Cag.
    Keith Cag.

    Hey Eric.
    I have been looking forward to this video since you mentioned to me that Traditional Fermentation salami would be the first video. While under stuffing could definitely contribute to voids during the drying of the salami, CO2 production from wild strains of Lactobacillus could also have been an issue. Any thoughts on this?

    Also, I am curious as to why you did not hold the mince under refrigeration for 48-72 hours to give the good wild bacteria a chance to out grow the bad bacteria? I have seen Marianski mention this step for traditional style salami. Thoughts?

    1. Eric
      Eric

      That is true. Co2 could have been the problem but mine was very minimal. he cases that I’ve seen co2 cause that type of separation it’s been much bigger, and I know I could have stuffed the meat tighter. Funny enough I’ve tried it both ways and didn’t see a substantial difference when it came time to ferment.

  3. Keith Cag.
    Keith Cag.

    Also- What was the amount and type of sugar you used? I don’t see it in the recipe. Thanks!

    Did you measure the pH after the addition of wine? with 75mL, I bet it dropped to 5.5-5.4ish…..

    1. Odino
      Odino

      hi,
      what about the risk of botulism?
      TIA

  4. Keith Cag.
    Keith Cag.

    Thanks for the reply Eric.
    Also, this is the first time I’ve seen traditional fermentation being done at those temperatures. Most times I see the temperature under 64*F to help the good bacteria get established faster than the bad. But I’m no expert on traditional fermentation….just curious of your process.

    -Keith Cag.

  5. Lee
    Lee

    5 stars
    Very similar recipe, save for spices, brought over from the old country when my relatives arrived in Ontario, Canada in the 1950s from Northern Italy, Veneto Region.. I consumed this style of salami my entire life with no ill effects (my relatives never used nitrates or nitrites, simply salt, spices, fresh garlic and red wine).

    These days I use both nitrates and nitrite in my recipes for safety assurance – I simply do not want to chance making someone ill, Using these preservatives leaves my older relatives scratching their heads as they deem it unnecessary.

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