Fall in love with Italian deli meats
A classic Milano sandwich: Prosciutto, Bufala mozzarella, olive oil, arugula leaves and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.<br />Image courtesy San Daniele & Mastro Credits: A classic Milano sandwich: Prosciutto, Bufala mozzarella, olive oil, arugula leaves and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.<br />Image courtesy San Daniele & Mastro
Fall in love with Italian deli meats
What is prosciutto?
Prosciutto is a dry cured ham that has been aged for 10 months in a series of temperature and humidity controlled rooms. These rooms match the classic seasons of Italy, starting in the cool and dry winter, the warmer and moister spring, aging over the long, warm dry summer and resting in the fall.
A prosciutto slowly becomes drier as it cures and ages. This creates the true and intense flavour of the ham that can only be achieved with time and patience.
How to order prosciutto
You can purchase prosciutto in the pre-sliced section of the deli, or ask for it at the service counter. If ordering, ask for it to be sliced as thin as possible - it should be slightly transparent. Each slice is very flavourful, so only a few slices per person are required.
Entertaining tips for prosciutto
• Classic serving is with melon, cantaloupe or a fresh fig. The true Italian manner is to alternate bites between the prosciutto and fruit; but many enjoy wrapping the prosciutto around the fruit.
• As with all Italian specialty deli meats, be sure to let your meat warm to room temperature before serving. This allows the aroma to compliment the taste.
• The Milano is a classic baguette sandwich made with prosciutto, Bufala mozzarella, olive oil, arugula leaves and a few drops of balsamic vinegar. It brings together the buttery meat with the creaminess of bocconcini cheese and the slight bitterness of arugula. Drizzle a little olive oil and pepper to taste.
• An amazing alternate is to make mini grilled cheese sandwiches out of the Milano. The arugula can be replaced with fresh basil. The sandwich should only be lightly cooked; you want the prosciutto and cheese warm, but not overcooked or runny.
Canadian Living recipe with prosciutto: Spinach Salad with Crispy Feta and Frizzled Prosciutto
Smoked prosciutto, or speck
What is Speck?
Smoked prosciutto - also known as Speck - originated in the Alto Adige region, in the mountains on the border of Italy and Austria. While similar to prosciutto, it is both salt and smoke cured, as well as spiced.
The ham has the bone removed at the start of the process; it is then spiced with 10 different spices, notably juniper berries. After one month the ham is naturally smoked with hickory for 48 hours. It then dry cures for a further five months. The curing time is less than with prosciutto because the bone is removed at the start of the process versus the end of the process.
The combination of smoke and salt curing with herbs and spices provides the unique taste that people love.
How to order smoked prosciutto
Purchase the same as regular prosciutto. You can buy smoked prosciutto in the pre-sliced section of the deli. It is available at a limited number of stores in the service deli, where you should ask for Speck. If ordering, ask for it to be as thin as possible, it should be slightly transparent. Each slice is very flavourful - only a few slices are required per person.
Entertaining tips for Speck
• Incredible mixed with scrambled eggs and caramelized onions
• Speck has so much flavour, it is perfect alone wrapped around the end of a long bread stick. This makes an elegant appetizer.
Canadian Living recipe with smoked prosciutto: Prosciutto Brie Pizzettes.
What is mortadella?
Mortadella combines the most flavourful cuts of meat with spices to provide a surprisingly delicate and aromatic taste.
How to order mortadella
You can purchase mortadella in the pre-sliced section of the deli or ask for it at the service counter. If ordering, ask for it to be as thin as possible, without getting holes. If ordering from the deli, try and purchase just before eating, when the product will have the most aroma.
Entertaining tips for mortadella
• Make a classic panino - a sandwich using a fresh small loaf of bread - with just mortadella. Kids love this simple sandwich.
• Mortadella is available in "light" and "hot" varieties
• As with all Italian deli meats, bring to room temperature to capture the full taste and aroma of mortadella
Canadian Living recipe with mortadella: Rapini Ricotta Calzones.
What is capocollo?
Capocollo is a spiced and cured pork shoulder. It is prepared and cured similar to ham with additional spices, most notably fine ground pepper.
How to order capocollo
You can purchase capocollo in the pre-sliced section of the deli or ask for it at the service counter. Capocollo comes in many variations: mild, hot and extra-hot. The sliced format is extra-lean and also is available in mild and hot. A true Coppa is cured in the same manner as prosciutto for the most flavour.
Canadian Living recipe with capocollo: Fusilli with Smoked Gouda.
Dry-cured Italian salami
What is dry-cured Italian salami?
Dry-cured Italian salami has nothing in common with its cooked cousin except in name. Dry-cured Italian salami starts with the finest cuts of pork. It is ground into small pieces and made in different sizes and shapes depending on the variety such as Genoa, Sopressata, Casalingo and Cacciatore. The salami is then moved to a temperature and humidity controlled room for 30 to 50 days, also depending on the variety.
• Genoa salami is finely ground meat and spices shaped with a medium diameter to reach its famous taste and texture.
• Sopressata and Calabrese are coarser ground meat and spices shaped with a large diameter and then pressed flat. Sopressata and Calabrese slices can appear oval or oblong due to the pressing, which allows these larger-sized salamis to still dry cure and reach a firm texture.
• Casalingo is coarse grind of meat and spices in a smaller diameter for a slightly firmer texture.
• Cacciatore translates to "hunter's sausage". It is a medium grind in a small sausage style, providing all the flavour of course meats and spices with a firm texture.
Dry-cured salami combines the meat's sweetness and aroma with the boldness of dry curing for a distinctive, delicious taste.
How to order dry-cured Italian salami
Available in the pre-sliced section of the deli; small pieces also known as "chubs"; or ask for your choice of dry-cured Italian salamis at the service counter. If ordering, ask for your salami to be thinly sliced.
Canadian Living recipes with dry-cured Italian salamis:
• Genoa Salami, Tomato and Cheese Pitas
• Calabrese Potato Provolone Pizza
What is pancetta?
Pancetta is dry-cured Italian-style bacon. Lean pork bellies are salted and spice-cured, rolled and then aged for 50 days. The roll is then thinly sliced and can be eaten in a sandwich or used for many recipes.
The intense flavour of pancetta comes from the meat's curing process.
How to order pancetta
You can purchase pancetta pre-sliced or in a flat piece for cooking. At the deli counter ask for pancetta to be thinly sliced.
Canadian Living recipe with pancetta: Kale and Pancetta Quiche.
Discover tantalizing Italian deli meat sandwiches and appetizers in the Photo gallery: Italian deli meats.