The Making of Salami, an Artistic Science. (Part 2)

Massimo’s butcher shop is not far from the town square of Montignoso  and standing outside is the master himself. I scramble out of the car, wondering where the laboratory is and introduce myself immediately asking what he considers the ultimate potential hydrogen level of the perfect salami should be.

.
 A complete and utter non-comprehensive blank stare. He must know what I’m talking about. He is a world champion. He thinks I’m nuts. How can this be?
 .

Massimo turns to the Professor Giancarlo and rattles of something in Italian shaking his head. I feel I’ve said something wrong.

The Prof turns to me and says
 .
“ Massimo say he sorry, he doesn’t speak a word of English. How is your italian?”
 .
 This can not be happening.

Teaching the art of string tying. Prof, Massimo and fellow student

“ But don’t worry, I translate. He say you learn how to tie the piece of string.”
 .
Not any old piece of string mind you, hemp, and it must be wet. Pre-shrink it so it cannot shrink anymore.
 .
That’s all good I think to myself after 3 hours of special knot learning. Why such effort to support a Salami when it’s hanging?. Why not use a hook. It’s not for hanging, Massimo explains through Prof, it’s getting the correct pressure of the meat in the natural casing. To much and the casing can burst. To little and the texture can be wrong.
 .
Fantastic. I think and wonder how many KiloPascals of pressure. I ask Massimo. The blank stare again.
.
“Feel” he says
“What?” I say
“Feel” he says again
What on earth am I supposed to be feeling? The pressure? I am starting to feel a bit of that.

Massimo’s secret recipe

And now to add the spice. Something I know and we can finally use the scale I spotted. Wondering about the accuracy, I ask Massimo his Ingredients. He finds a torn off piece of butchers unbleached paper and scribbles it down.
 .
“But where is the nutmeg, the wine, the cinnamon, the fennel?”
 .
“Massimo say he sorry” Giancarlo translates, “but this is a secret.”
 .
Perfect, I think to myself

Sant’Alessandro’s salami in the curing chamber

Hopefully the final stage of the Salami making procedure will be easy. The Drying and Seasoning stage I’ve read about a countless number of times. Set the relative humidity to precisely 75%  and he temperature to precisely 13.2 degrees and wait 36 days.
 .
We walk into Massimo’s cellar.
 .
“What humidity do you have Massimo?”
Blank Stare
“What temperature is it Massimo?”
“It’s winter”
Great, a response.
 .
How does he know if the conditions are correct for his award winning Salami that newspapers have written articles about?
 .
“Feel” he says
“What?” I say
“Feel” he says again
What on earth am I supposed to be feeling?
 “Does the Salami feel wet or dry?” Prof translates.
It felt moist to me.
“If it feels wet, open the window for a while. If it feels dry, throw some water on the floor.”
 .
My question next had everyone blank staring.
“ How wet is wet and how dry is dry?”
.
.
Massimo makes his salami from his heart. He is a true artist that has learnt his trade passed down through three generations. The feeling he has acquired to know wether the salami is curing correctly is one he tries to share with others through the teaching of his craft but one that cannot be taught.
 .
Three years later with constant salami making, I am getting closer to understanding what this feeling is about. I figure I am 85% the way there but the balance of 15% shall take the next 10 years. The largest lesson I’ve had over these three years is that great salami cannot be made using only science. It requires feeling too and perhaps the best ingredient yet is the feeling of passion.
.
.
Written by Oscar Bienz