Have you ever traveled to a country just to eat meat? That’s exactly what we’re doing, specifically to eat cured Italian meat! While I have been to Italy many times Dave has never been to Europe and I thought we needed to fix that.
The beauty of running a pop-up restaurant like Loka Snacks is that we can make our own schedule and if we want to take a month off there’s no one to ask for permission but ourselves.
We chose Italy because Dave taught himself how to cure meat based on Italian salumi books, many of them in Italian despite not speaking Italian.
And while he makes amazing charcuterie he really wanted to go to the motherland of cured meat to see if he was authentic in his methods and if there were secrets he was missing.
So we’re off on a salumi pilgrimage! For the next five weeks we’re using a Eurail pass to discover as much salumi as we can.
The Difference Between Salumi and Charcuterie
When it comes to cured meat it seems like there are so many complicated terms and not everyone agrees.
Charcuterie is the French term for cured meat, smoked meat and sausages. This includes traditional French charcuterie like terrines, rillettes, saucisson sec, jambon sec.
Salumi is the Italian term for cured meat, smoked meat and sausages. The plural of salumi is salume. This includes coppa, culatello, guanciale, lardo, pancetta and more.
Salami is a type of salumi, just like felino or sausage.
Side note: Some may argue that charcuterie and salumi aren’t exactly equivalents as charcuterie once referred to cooked meats like pates, if you want to be picky the Italian equivalent of charcuterie is affettati but in present day most people use the terms interchangeably.
How to Cure Meat
It seems complicated but Dave says it’s really all about salt and time. The tradition of curing meat preserves as much of the animal as possible, aiming to throw as little as possible out.
Traditionally it was used because meat was expensive and you wanted it for as long as possible. Today Dave believes it’s about respecting the life of the animal that died, so we use every part we can.
The first cure he taught me was how to make pancetta and if you do it once you’ll never want to pay for crappy supermarket pancetta again.
Salumi generally falls into 2 category, cured whole muscles (think pancetta or prosciutto), which are cured with the salt box method (see above) and then air cured.
Then you have salumes which are ground meat in a casing, some are cooked as sausages like chorizo and others are dry cured by air like nduja, soppressata or calabrese.
There is so much to learn in Italy and 5 weeks seems like a lot but mastering salumi takes a lifetime.
Italy is about the size of Arizona so travel by train in Italy is relatively easy and doesn’t take long to reach a new destination. While most people think of Italian food as one type of cuisine but really it spans different cultures and territories that existed before the republic of Italy was formed.
You can see this with all the different types of salumi in Italy.
We created this Meataly image (t-shirts to come!) to outline what salumi we wanted to hit in each region but there are many more salumi from each region. Even prosciutto isn’t limited to Emilia Romagna, you can also find it in Umbria.
We have our work cut out for us.
Interested in planning a trip to Italy too?
Get our FREE 42 page Modena guide If you’re interested in planning a trip to Italy check out the guide we wrote for Modena, while some of the information is specific to Modena (because you should go) there is a lot of information about Italian ettiquette like when to eat dinner, how to ask for the cheque, how not to look like an idiot in Italy.
Pancetta Image Source