The Making of Salami, an Artistic Science. (Part 1)

How is it possible that a man like Massimo can throw a couple of ingredients together, mix them up in an unpredictable manner, stuff them into a beef middle and, after hanging the fresh sausage in an old cellar for a couple of months, go on to win the artisinal salami championships in Italy?

Massimo Bacci champion 2010

The answer was simple I told myself: infuse some passion, foster some ingenuity and devour every conceivable article off the web on how to measure, mix, stir, stuff, ferment, cure, hang, dry and serve this century old food I love so much.

The first thing I realised was a climatic chamber simulating old cellars in Northern Italy would be required. Months later prototype one was born: a converted fridge to control airflow, temperature and humidity. That’s the trick.

Prototype 1 Climatic Chamber

Then throw science at it: carefully control all the parameters precisely to the nth degree. Measure, weigh, graph, record, check, double check. Grams, percentages, degrees, ph values, acidic, alkalies, evaporation rates. Even isoelectric points of protein molecules cannot be ignored.

Early days weight monitoring

But why was my salami so inedible? The forum said all I had to do was monitor the weight loss. Those guys surely are the experts.

More Science, this time of our pigs. Breed, genetics, food, living conditions, specifically reared, humane and organic. Revisit temperatures, grind size, cold chain, humidity, speed of airflow. On and on and our salami has improved slightly, the cat is showing interest.

Then realisation slowly dawns. There are some things that cannot be learnt off the internet. My brother, after desperately requesting his help and I, are now the most knowledgeable salami makers in South Africa with salami science Phd’s not having produced one good artisanal Salami yet. I have only one option left: go to Italy and find someone to teach me the age old tradition, learn the ancient art the proper way.

Massimo Bacci

Sometimes the stars align and I was fortunate enough to meet the best attested norcino ever. He would teach me the art of Salami Making. Thank you so much Massimo. Gracie Mille.
If your artisinal salame is considered the best in Italy,  could it be considered the best in the world?

Mortadella con lardo. Award winning Salami

On the way to meet the master, zipping up the narrow streets to Montignoso, a small town in Tuscany and beeping before bends to ward off oncoming traffic, I am disorientated by the breathtaking beauty and dawning realisation I might just learn something. This beautiful ancient art of Salami making.
Sitting next to me, Professor Giancarlo Russo, Lecturer at Universita’ Gastronomica di Pollens and Co-author of Slow Food Guide Salumi d’Italia.
He is explaining, between beeps, how this road is similar to the one on the way to the International Alpine cheese Olympics in Galtür where he was is international judge.
What? National Salami Championships, Cheese Olympics, Professors, Masters? A dawning realisation I might not learn anything, I’m out of my depth. There’s at least the consolation, I can discuss the isoelectric points of protein molecules.

Professor Giancarlo Russo

 To be continued…

Written by Oscar Bienz