For many Italians, entertaining is an art form. Having guests come over to your home is a popular way to socialize and celebrate the little things in life. The most important components of hosting are, of course, the food and drink being served, the rest of the entertainment occurs naturally through the art of conversation, music and storytelling. A traditional staple of every Italian host’s household is a delightful variety of smoked and cured meats that are finely sliced and arranged onto a wooden board. The Italian term for this is “salumi” but you may hear this commonly referred to as “charcuterie”, a French term adapted to the English language.
A salumi board is somewhat of an art form. Getting creative with the arrangement of meats, cheeses and extras is half the fun; the other half is eating it! There are several common meats that you’ll almost always find on a salumi board and we are going to break down the taste profiles of the most popular picks in order to help you construct the most perfect salumi board of your own.
The Salami Family
Salami has colloquially become an umbrella term for many kinds of cured meats, often purchased as dried hard sausages that are then sliced into smaller pieces. These salami range from oblong “sopressata” from southern Italy, to gamey “cacciatorini” or fennel-infused “finocchiona” or commonly called “pepperoni” in the states. These salamis contain a perfect ratio of marbled fat, protein and spice and are cured, dried and smoked to perfection. While most salamis are made with pork, there are also beef, boar, goose, donkey, goat and even horse salami on the market. These encased salami pair best with sheep-milk cheese, or a blended cheese made with both sheep and cow milk providing sweet notes and smooth flavor. All of these salamis have incredibly unique aromas that bring a lot of variety of deliciousness to the table and any of them would make a perfect addition to your salumi board and pair wonderfully with crispy and fluffy fresh baked bread.
One common type of sliced deli meat that most people don’t realize falls into the salami family is “mortadella”. This is the beloved deli meat of italians young and old and could be considered a must-have item in the house for any-time sandwiches. While its consistency may seem similar to bologna, there are variations in recipies of mortadella. Some contain sliced pistachios, spice blends, pepper corns and red peppers. The taste is smooth, comforting and for many, and very nostalgic. Mortadella has such an inviting flavor that it can be paired with any of your favorite cheeses, mix and match with this meat or explore with truffle infused cheeses for a bit of fun.
Cured and salted meats that are made from entire cuts of muscles consist of some of the most delicious options on a salumi board. An international favorite is “prosciutto”, thinly sliced cured pork that has a strong and aromatic flavor. You can find it on pizzas, sandwiches and even in omelets and, of course, a must-have on a salumi board. “Spek” is a rich specialty made from fatback or pork belly. It’s also cured and seasoned with a mildly smoky flavor and wonderfully buttery texture. Don’t forget the “coppa” or “capicola”, a southern Italian favorite that is heavily seasoned with prominent marbling. Lastly, we arrive at “pancetta”, or Italian bacon. It’s an excellent cold cut that has bold flavor and can be used in many difference recipies from pasta sauces to pizza toppings. These whole-muscle salumi are paired well with a range of cheese from crudely cut cubes of parmigiana reggiano or grana Padano, as well as softer cheese like pecorino romano or fresh mozzarella di bufala.
The final components to creating the perfect salumi spread are the delicious extras used to decorate the table with both color and flavor. Come into Doris Italian Market and visit our deli to choose from a selection of marinated olives and cornichons! Add some crunch with sweet and sour mini pickles, dried figs, apple slices and crunchy crackers. September 7th is national salami day so get creative and, most importantly, have fun with your friends and family around the table as you indulge in the culinary art of the salumi board.