26 November 2012

The new header photo (above and left) on my blog is a salumi board of meats we cure at Il Buco in NYC, all made in the on-premises salumeria.  From top to bottom and left to right you see finocchiona, lonza, toscano, coppa, lardo, mortadella, and fioccho, a small cured muscle of the leg.  I will soon begin posting regularly about salumi making, with the intention of providing technical and historical knowledge about its production.  For me, the history is an element that is missing from all the activity we see nowadays, is sometimes lost to innovation, yet is essential to the understanding of the craft of salumi and to its manufacture.  it is a long tradition we stand within.  I am aware that there are often questions about the technical and scientific aspects of salumi making among practitioners, while at the same time salumieri are eager to find and absorb this frustratingly hard-to-find information.

My mentor and friend, François Vecchio, feels the current exploding interest in salumi is in direct response to the USDA's oversight and regulation of the industry, and the resulting leveling of quality and uniqueness seen in most salumi produced in the U.S.  François is Swiss-Italian and has an understanding of these regional differences in his bones.  I try to avoid throwing about the term "terroir," as it is traditionally specific to wine, but it's an analogous idea with salumi.  I can't say that the causes are parallel, but European districts and towns have long traditions and local methods, and, undeniably, there exist local conditions that create these foods; the pigs have a tradition of breeding, are given a certain feed, breathe the local air, are fed whey from the formaggificio up the road, and so on.  All contribute to  their individuality and distinctness.

Beyond our excellent and definitive Southern hams, in the U.S. we don't yet have long and varied traditions of curing like we see in Europe.  Here, François is our link to the European tradition we emulate and which is the foundation of our craft.  The artisan cheese industry to burgeoning, and the interest in meat curing is simply exploding, among both chefs and home-curers.  It will be interesting to see who is curing ten years hence, and what the quality is.  I'm very excited about all the activity, because twenty years ago you couldn't give away this much pork fat.