Genoa salami is a cured meat product which is closely associated with the Italian city of Genoa. Although many other cured meats are made in Genoa, this particular salami appears to have captivated the popular imagination, and it is among the most well known of Italian foods.
Salami is made by chopping meat and spices and stuffing them into a casing. The resulting meat is cured, usually through a process of drying and smoking. Once cured, a salami can be stored at room temperature until it is cut open. The curing technique ensures that meat is available year round. Several meats are cured in this way, since the casing makes a convenient wrapper for the meat.
Several things distinguish salami from other cured stuffed meats. The meat in salami tends to be coarsely cut, so large chunks of meat and fat are present in the finished product. In addition, the dry cure used to preserve salami results in a very dry meat which is also slightly crumbly. Salami also tends to be more spicy than some cured meats, and it may have a slightly fermented flavor, depending on how it was handled and cured.
Typically, Genoa salami is a pork salami, although some producers mix in beef and veal as well. In addition to the loosely chopped pork, Genoa salami also includes garlic, salt, fennel seeds, whole peppercorns, and a small amount of white wine. The peppercorns create explosions of spice in the finished product, making Genoa salami a rather zesty food to eat. By tradition, white peppercorns are usually used in Genoa salami, with black peppercorns studding cotto salami.
Although salami is not cooked, the curing process renders it safe to eat. Many people use salami on sandwiches and take it on picnics, since it stays stable at room temperatures. The meat pairs well with mild, creamy cheeses and dense, chewy breads. It can also be used on antipasto platters, or sprinkled onto salads and pizzas. When selecting Genoa salami in the store, look for a firm specimen without soft spots or areas of slime. A small amount of white mold on the external casing is acceptable, although it should be scraped off before eating.