If you don’t wish to appear ignorant – at least food-wise – never go into an Italian food store asking for salami tout court: you will be greeted with a questioning look that borders on pity.
In Italy, the varieties of locally produced salami – not to mention other cured meats – certified and non, can even be as many as twenty: today we'll focus on the Italian delicacy called ciauscolo salami.
Ciauscolo Salami: What is it?
Weighing between 400 and 2500 g, ciauscolo is one of the most delicious Italian salamis: this variety of cured meat is cylindrical in shape with a soft consistency, pinkish in colour and very finely ground. It is made from mixed pork meat which is seasoned and then extruded into a casing. In 2006, ciauscolo obtained the national classification of Protected Geographical Indication (IGP) and in 2009 the European IGP trademark. Liver ciauscolo is a variation on the aforementioned recipe and contemplates the use of pig’s liver, grated orange zest and nutmeg: it is darker in colour and more strongly flavoured than the traditional variety.
Where to find the authentic Ciauscolo
In a well-defined area of the Marche region - in central Italy, on the Sibillini mountains -, when winter comes round, the family pig is sacrificed according to an ancient ritual still practiced today: ciauscolo has always been produced by numerous families. The products destined for sale are subject to a series of regulations, starting from the area of production: only salami produced in a specific area is entitled to adopt the name of ciauscolo. It hails from the provinces of Ancona, Macerata and Ascoli Piceno but it is now well known throughout Italy and elsewhere.
A focus on the ingredients
Like every great product, the basic ingredient is of fundamental importance. The pigs in question must be of an Italian breed and mainly fed on maize and other cereals until they reach the required weight. The best cured meats are obtained from animals weighing 150 kg upwards. The suitable cuts are those of the belly, shoulder, ham and loin trimmings. Then the mixture is seasoned with salt, spices, red wine, crushed garlic and fennel seeds. Fennel seeds are actually the unique and unmistakable ingredient which confers freshness and aroma.
The meat must be finely ground using the smallest hole on the mincing machine, 2 or 3 millimetres in diameter. It is ground three times on a finer setting each time to obtain a mixture that is almost creamy in texture and more or less soft in relation to how much fat has been added. Now the mixture must be set aside to rest for 24 hours, before it is ready to be stuffed into its casing, nothing but a natural bovine or pig intestine. At this point, the sausage shape is tied with hemp twine, an operation that can only be carried out manually. From now on, the product has to go through the air-drying and curing phases.
In the next 15 days in which the product is left to rest at a temperature between 8 and 15 degrees, a light smoking process is admitted, even though this is not the case in all areas of production. Now the phase known as “sfumatura” can start: it consists in seasoning the product for about 3 weeks next to a slowly burning fire, like that of a domestic hearth, just as it used to be done, when the fire was left to smoulder under the cinders while the farm workers were out in the fields.
How to serve Ciauscolo Salami
The most distinctive feature of this type of salami is its consistency: ciauscolo can be spread onto bread, better still if warm; it has a creamy texture and is very soft. It makes an excellent ingredient for adding to fillings and stuffings.
A dish well worth tasting is Spaghetti al Ciauscolo, made by heating the salami in a little oil and garlic and adding the spaghetti as soon as they are cooked. An excellent combination is that of buffalo mozzarella DOP from Campania, served with ciauscolo spread on a warm tigella, a sort of flatbread.
Perfect when paired with a fine locally produced red wine, such as a Rosso Piceno DOC, a Rosso Conero DOC or a Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG.