Italian artisan sausage and salame making

Think of how generations have changed. These days if you ask a child which is the best day of the year he/she would probably say: “My birthday” or “Christmas time”.

During post war days when my dad was at school and the teacher would ask the same question to her pupils, they would reply in unison:“It’s when we slaughter the pig, Miss!”.

After to second world war Italy, like the rest of Europe, was left quite poor. Most people would rarely eat meat and usually they had to wait until Sunday to get a more substantial meal. Most families would keep animals, like chickens, cows, rabbits and pigs in order to feed themselves.

The butchers

So can you imagine when the family would slaughter the pig; That was the day when  there would have been plenty of food on the table and all the family, relatives and friends would gather for a real feast.

In Italy there are still families in the countryside who keep their own pig and make their own sausages, salami, ham and steaks.

If the pig has had a good life, has been fed with good quality food and has been killed humanly, the meat will be delicious and it will taste completely different to what you can buy at a supermarket.

The chief butcher

So here we are again, in north eastern Italy, in the region of “Friuli Venezia Giulia” where every year in late December, our friends known as “the brothers” host the traditional mega pig festival in celebration of all things that are PIG.

The guys, all strong, tough country men, work very hard to make fab salami, sausages and cotechino from scratch and in a completely natural method. No additives or preservatives: just meat, salt and pepper and more spices.

Getting ready to make salami

It really is hard work: first you chop and select the meat and then you mince it to create all sort of different cured specialities.

To make Italian sausages the meat used mostly is the pancetta (bacon), some fillet and 25 % of fat.

mincing pork meat

mincing pork meat

The meat is being minced twice at 8 mm or 0.3 inch and then it is weighed in order to know how much salt and spices (pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon) to add.

weighing pepper

Adding salt to pork mince for salami making

The guys give it a good mix (by hand of course)

mixing pork mince

And they add some wine for extra flavour

Adding wine to pork mince for sausage making

The bowel of the pig is washed and used to encase the mince so it is all completely natural. These days, to save on some extra work, butchers buy cow’s and sheep’s bowels too which have already been washed and cleaned.

The mince is then stuffed into the bowels

Sausage making in Italy

Sausage making in Italy

Sausage making in Italy, stuffing bowels with mince

The stuffed bowels are cut with a cotton string and turned into sausages, salami, sausages, “ossocollo” which is made up of cured pork  on the inside surrounded by sopressa salami, flavoured with spices and aromas and matured over a long period in the cellar.

tiying sausages

They are then prickled so that the bowels will lose some liquid.

prickling sausages

Fresh sausages will last in the fridge for a few weeks after that they need to be kept in the freezer.

Nothing is wasted: the fat of the pig is kept to melt over a source of heat and used in cooking.

Italian soppressa

Sopressa is made with just about everything: the hams, shoulders, sides, and so on. About the only thing that doesn’t go into it is the skin.

Blood sausages made by Italian artisans

With the skin chopped into pieces, the meat and the fat they will make cotechino which is traditionally eaten on New Year’s party with lentils and polenta.

The name “Cotechino” derives from the Italian word for pig skin; cotiche, and as you might imagine, it contains a fair amount of them.

Italian cotechino

Italian artisan sausages

The ribs are kept for delicious summer barbecues.

Zampone has the same recipe of cotechino, except the mixture is stuffed into a deboned front pig leg, instead of casings. These sausages are supposed to bring fortune in the new year (with the lentils bringing money).

The best way to enjoy zampone and cotechino is by barbecuing them so they will release some of the fat. This makes them even more tasty.

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15 Responses to Italian artisan sausage and salame making

  1. Angie@Angie's Recipes

    Sausage making is a serious and happy business for the Brothers :-))
    Have a wonderful weekend, Alida!

    • Alida

      Yep, very serious indeed, food always is in Italy.

  2. Steve Snell

    Good post! Very interesting and great photos. Thanks.

    • Alida

      I am pleased you enjoyed it Steve.

  3. cheri

    Hi Alida, interesting post, I had no idea that sausage making was so much work. What a wonderful way to get together with family and friends.

  4. Gingi Freeman

    OMG!!! I would pay good money to be able to help with something like that!! How marvelous! I am just a sucker for tradition and food construction as an art form.. and this is so it!

    • Alida

      Maybe you can come along next time 🙂

  5. elisabetta

    Fabulous post again Alida. Indeed the humble pig was always a praised animal, its products feeding families throughout the year. Nothing was wasted. Let’s pay homage to our porky friends – enjoy them!

    • Alida

      Surely I did and I ate a lot of porchetta too!

  6. La cucina di Molly

    Mamma mia quanta bontà, interessante vedere come con tanta passione questi artigiani, producono i salumi! Bel post! Felice weekend, baci!

    • Alida

      Si i migliori salumi dagli artigiani!

  7. Chiara

    bellissimo post Alida, hai mostrato e descritto bene il lavoro del norcino ! Un bacione

    • Alida

      Una delle tante cose belle delle nostre parti 🙂

  8. John Sebastian

    I love Luganega sausages from Treviso, I know there are many regions in Italy with their own unique flavours, many years ago my mother-in-law would get the sausages for me (Bless her soul) I miss her very much.

    • Alida

      Mmm.. Luganega is really good. I come from a village quite near Treviso.

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