The origins of the salumi tradition in Calabria probably date back to the times of the Greek colonisation of the Ionic Coast and the cultural and artistic splendour of Ancient Greece.
It is a three thousand year old tradition, though the oldest written account comes courtesy of Varro, a Roman intellectual. He wrote of “minced meat, stuffed into casing”, which the Roman soldiers learned to produce from the southern populations.
Other documents concerning traditions linked to the processing of pork meats in Calabria date back to 1600, with numerous texts that provide evidence that the use of pork meat was already diversified, with various kinds of finished products being made even then.The illustrious witnesses to the excellence of Calabrian salumi also include Giacomo Casanova, who made mention of having lunched at the dining hall of Bishop Francescantonio Cavalcanti during his journey through Calabria. While there, he had the particular pleasure of tasting Calabria’s local salumi, which he judged to be the best he had ever eaten.
With the passing of time, Calabria has remained one of the few regions where pig farming is still deeply rooted. Loaded with ritual values with archaic origins, it has survived and continues to be renewed because it meets both material and more immaterial needs related to sharing and socialising.
All this is documented in Calabrian folklore literature, where proverbs, songs and tales bear witness to the great importance of the customs and economy of swine.
A Calabrian proverb states: “Cu si marita esti cuntentu nu iornu, ma cu ammazza lu porcu godi 'nannu” (Those who marry are happy for a day, while those who slaughter a pig enjoy it for the whole year).
The high quality of Calabrian salumi also benefits from the typical local breed of pig, Nera di Calabria. A hardy breed with black skin, it produces firm and compact meat used to create extraordinary salumi. The production of cured meats in Calabria has retained the features of Calabrian gastronomic tradition, which has its roots in the peasant culture of this proud and noble land.
These traditions have developed into modern pork processing plants that ensure the high quality of their products by keeping the time-honoured production methods alive.
The DOP Salumi from Calabria are obtained by processing meat from pigs raised and slaughtered in Calabria.
The feed for the pigs must predominantly consist of barley, field beans, corn, acorns and chickpeas. In order to have more compact meat, it is forbidden to feed them broth or use by-products from milk processing.
The term “Salumi di Calabria” encompasses four products: Capocollo di Calabria (cured pork neck), Pancetta di Calabria (cured pork belly), Soppressata di Calabria (coarse-ground cured pork sausage) and Salciccia di Calabria (raw sausage).
Capocollo di Calabria DOP is prepared exclusively in the Calabria region using meats from the upper part of the pork loin, which is deboned and then dry-salted or placed in brine, with ground table salt.
This cut of meat must have a three or four millimetre layer of fat to keep it soft during the seasoning stage and to improve its organoleptic characteristics. The salting, which lasts from four to ten days, is followed by washing with water and wine vinegar, then pressing and the addition of black peppercorns.
The Capocollo di Calabria DOP is subsequently wrapped up in a pig’s parietal diaphragm and tied in the direction it was wrapped in using natural twine and then left to season for not less than one hundred days from the date on which it was salted. It has a pinkish or red appearance that can be more or less intense depending on the amount of red chilli added.
Pancetta di Calabria DOP is made by processing the lower part of the pork belly.
The fresh pancetta bacon with rind, which weights between 3 and 6 kilos, must be cut into rectangular shapes and must be between 3 and centimetres thick. After being prepared, it undergoes salting for a period of four to fourteen days.
The part on the surface can be covered with chilli powder and other natural ingredients. The seasoning lasts for at least 30 days. When it is ready to be tasted, Pancetta di Calabria DOP has a rectangular shape with a variable thickness of between 3 and 5 cm.
When it is cut, it has a pink colour with alternating thin streaks of lean and fat, and it has a delicious flavour.
Soppressata di Calabria DOP is prepared with a mixture of medium ground fresh pork meat taken from the thigh, shoulder and tenderloin,The mixture combines the carefully chosen fat taken from the lard from the upper part of the loin close to the neck with natural aromatic ingredients (salt, spicy or sweet red chilli, black pepper and wine).
The lard selected must stay within a variable percentage of between 4 and 15% for each kilogram of meat process. The seasoning lasts at least 45 days.
Soppressata di Calabria DOP has the following characteristics when presented to the consumer: its shape is similar to a slightly flattened cylinder between 10 and 18 cm long with a diameter of between 4 and 8 cm; when cut, it has solid look bordering on soft, with a natural red or bright red colouration depending on the ingredients used.
The words indicated on the label may include “spicy”, “sweet”, or “white”, according to whether the Soppressata di Calabria DOP was processed using spicy chilli, sweet chilli or no chilli respectively.
Salsiccia di Calabria DOP is prepared with a mixture of ground fresh pork meat, lard and natural aromatic ingredients: salt and spicy or sweet red chilli.
The percentage of the lard content in the mixture must stay between 6 and 20% for each kilogram of meat processed.
The mixture is stuffed into natural pork casings, then pierced and hand woven into the characteristic chain or horseshoe shape.
The seasoning takes at least 30 days. The words indicated on the label may include “spicy”, “sweet”, or “white”, according to whether the Salsiccia di Calabria DOP was produced using spicy chilli, sweet chilli or no chilli respectively.
The Local Area
The area that produces Salumi di Calabria DOP spans the whole region of Calabria. The area is predominantly hilly and mountainous, but thanks to its characteristic peninsula it includes over 800 km of coast overlooking the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas.
The combination of sea, hills and mountains generates climatic conditions very specific to that area of the Mediterranean.
Calabria is a land that can boast of a food and wine culture that goes back thousands of years as it has been inhabited by the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Angevins, Bourbons, Spanish and French, all of whom left indelible traces in the local food and culinary tradition.
Curator — Consorzio Salumi di Calabria