The hunt is on…….. all of the necessary ingredients have been researched and located through various vendors. My tracks cover a visit to our Heritage pork producer, here I look to gain further understanding of their operation along with deeper insight to the history, quality and flavor profile of the pigs. My go-to spice vendor has a new selection of salts / spices to fit the various flavor profiles envisioned. The last piece of the puzzle, the highly prized and very unique southern Italian chilies are on a plane over the Atlantic, soon to be in my kitchen. Anticipation and excitement has most definitely grown over the past few weeks, there have been regular visit from various delivery companies each carrying a new surprise and putting me one step closer to some quality time in the kitchen.
Now to start thinking about the recipe, getting started is rather easy and straightforward. As one learns in the early days of studying and training to become a chef, many foods have a “standard of identity”. This means specific ingredients are required with particular percentages which define the recipe and provide a foundation to build upon. As a chef it is manipulating these ratios along with the quality of ingredients and manufacturing techniques used that define the ‘art’ of product and recipe development. In my conversations with Armando, this is an area he talked most about and its importance in the craft of making salami. To this day, he still challenges himself fine tuning his skills with advances in manufacturing and new technology designed for Italian cured meats.
Before mass production can begin, testing on multiple levels to ensure product integrity, flavor and quality is required. In the kitchen I will use fresh ground pork and pork fat, the ratio of fat predetermined by the understanding of what the expectations are for the finished product. Working with 3 – 5 pounds batches of fresh ground pork, I will start with three versions of the rough draft recipe, and each seasoned with slight adjustments to the ‘flavoring’ ingredients in the recipe. Testing at this level has to be very precise so each ingredient is weighed and checked twice before mixing everything together. In order to understand and project the final flavor profile of the dried salame, raw product is formed into patties, cooked, tasted and finally evaluated with focus to flavor profile only at this time. It only takes a few taste tests before the goal is achieved.
Next is to scale up this formulation into 100 pound small scale production batch, here this allows for hands on feel for how all will work from manufacturing point of view. The raw materials for the recipe with the winning flavor profile now become the manufacturing test batch. Each step that occurs in large scale manufacturing will be closely followed, starting with the specific grind of the pork / pork fat down to the smallest of details including temperature and time. Once all ingredients have been combined, the exact process of being stuffed into casings, tied and then hung to dry until ideal moisture content is reached will be followed and well documented. It is keeping highly detailed notes along with testing that guarantee a successful product for the market place. Now the waiting game is on, a 30 -45 day period where time, temperature and science all work together with the end goal to deliver a high quality artisan salame.
It is this entire process that truly defines the ‘salumieri’s “art” in the craft of a true artisan salame. Next time your entertaining or sharing Sunday dinner with the family, bring up and share the story behind the artisan product you’ve brought to the table. It is sharing of these messages that will keep history and traditions alive and important in our lives……
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