How many salamis are hanging here? There’s no prize for guessing, because I haven’t a clue. I was too tired to count. Ismaele Turli, the butcher, guessed they contained about 100 kg (220 lb) of pork. I wouldn’t be surprised. It seemed as if we’d never finish filling pig’s intestines: I’d put another length tied at one end on the stuffer and then grasp the crank and turn it clockwise while Ismaele gyrated the sack slightly as it filled, saying ‘Boh’ when I was to stop and hold the open end of the sack as he tied it three times very tightly so as not to allow in any air. Another length of intestine, more turns of the crank, another ‘Boh’ and another closing of the end.
After about 15, the routine changed. I used a small tool that looked like a green plastic doorknob with needles stuck into one side to prick the salami all over, after which I massaged it vigorously to compact the meat and press the air out and shoved it over to Ismaele to tie tightly like a corset producing an hourglass shape and further expelling air, as it no doubt did to the women who used to wear them. Then they were ready for hanging from the broomstick to drip and dry. They’ll remain there from 7 to 10 days until Ismaele’s experience tells him the skins feel dry enough to be sure they have begun to dry right into the centre of the salami at which point he’ll move them to his maturing cellar under his restaurant.
I went to visit Ismaele at his farm in Pieve Fosciana to see whether he’d be a suitable addition to the salumi (cured pork) course I organize for pig rearers, butchers and chefs. During the courses I’d watched Italian butchers making salami, but I hadn’t done it myself, and I only helped this time because Ismaele had had the crazy idea to turn two whole pigs into salami in honour of my visit. His assistant Donatella had to return to her young children after lunch, leaving me to fill her shoes. As the regiment of salamis grew, Ismaele and I passed the time talking about the value of old breeds of pig, the flavour of the meat that comes through in the salami if you don’t use preservatives (which aren’t necessary), how people have forgotten what real food tastes like in these days of chemical additives and much else. We agreed we could offer a sausage-making session and lunch in his restaurant for amateurs who want to produce a good Italian sausage at a fraction of the price you pay at the deli. For the professionals, he offered to allow them to make their own salami at his place. That clinched his place on the course, because I was realizing that I hadn’t truly understood the process despite the number of times I’d watched it and written down the percentages of salt and spices and the temperature and humidity for drying. It’s good to be reminded of what I want my guests to experience on my adventures.
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