Finocchiona is a pork salami which originates in Tuscany. The salami is a common ingredient in many Tuscan foods, ranging from appetizer platters to pasta sauces, and is a popular delicacy in that part of Italy. The unique flavor of finocchiona has made it a treat in other parts of Italy and the rest of the world as well. Specialty stores, especially those which stock Italian foods, may stock finocchiona, and it is also possible to order the salami directly from Tuscan exporters.
As is the case with many salamis, finocchiona starts with a base of ground pork, which is seasoned with salt and pepper. The unusual ingredient in finocchiona is fennel seeds, which give the salami an intriguing sweet, anise-like flavor. They are also behind the name, as finocchio means “fennel” in Italian. After the ground pork is stuffed into salami casings, the finocchiona is cured so that it becomes firm and dry, and joins the culinary tradition of Italian cured meats, many of which are very famous.
There is a long tradition of finocchiona manufacture in Tuscany, and the true origins of the food are not known. Legend has it that the food was developed by a thief, who concealed stolen salami in a patch of wild fennel and discovered that the fennel imbued the salami with a unique and delicate flavor. While this is possible, it seems more likely that an adventurous cook added fennel seeds to a salami mixture simply to see what might happen. By tradition, many cooks use wild fennel seeds, under the belief that they are stronger in flavor.
When finocchiona is given a shorter cure, it is known as finocchiona sbriciolona. Sbriciolona is a more crumbly, fresh salami which reminds some consumers more of sausage than salami. Typically it is served in thick wedges, and many Italians enjoy it on hearty artisan breads. Ground pork which goes into this type of finocchiona tends to be chunky rather than finely ground, facilitating a crumbly finished product.
When finocchiona is given a long cure, it turns into a firm, dry salami which has the texture and consistency which most consumers associate with salami. This end product may be sliced up for antipasto alla Toscano, or included in pasta sauces and other meals. Like other cured meats, the salami tends to be salty with a complex, layered flavor, and it pairs well with strong cheeses and hearty wines.