If you’ve been to gourmet pizza restaurants like BC Pizza in Greenville, you’ve probably seen the term “salumi.” But since the word has come into fashion only recently, you may not know exactly what it means.

Salumi is Italian (it’s the plural form of salume), but it’s not a misspelling of salami, although salami is a form of salumi. Confused yet?

 

Salumi refers to Italian-style cured meats in the same way that “charcuterie,” refers to the French equivalent. And what’s not to like about that?

Most salumi is made from pork. A notable exception is bresaola, which is made from beef. Salumi is usually cured with salt, which kills bacteria, and dehydrates the meat. As the meat is cured, it becomes firm and the flavor intensifies

Salumi can be smoked (like speck), or unsmoked (like pancetta). Encased (like salami), or not (like lomo). And cooked (like Italian sausage) or eaten raw (like Prosciutto Crudo). It’s often thinly sliced and served as part of an antipasto.

Because it’s cured, most salumi lasts a long time if stored properly. But once it’s sliced, it should be eaten quickly. Otherwise, it dries out. Salami, which is made with ground pork and a variety of seasonings, lasts a little longer because of the added fat — usually from 20 – 25%.

Many Italian pizzas feature some kind of salumi. The most popular are pepperoni and Italian sausage. But many other Italian meats make delicious pizzas too. Coppa, capicola, and sopressata are all great meat pizza toppings.

Because of the cost of meeting U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards, few Italian salumi makers can afford to import their products into the United States. Which is too bad, because they’re really wonderful. What sets them apart is the quality of the pork, which in most cases comes from pigs that were naturally raised on a farm.

Outside Italy, most Italian butchers sell some salumi. And prosciutto and pancetta are available in most groceries. There are several American producers who are making salumi the way they do in Italy.