My parents used to raise a hog in Calabria every year and right after New Year's Day we would all get ready for the Annual Whole Hog Ritual. We don’t raise a pig in California, of course, but we still maintain the tradition of making our own salumi the old-fashioned way. When it gets cold here in the Bay Area and it is drizzling we buy lots of pork meat and make salsiccia, sopressata, capocollo, pancetta and prosciutto. This year we made our first batch right after Christmas and we started eating the cured sausage this past week, since it takes around three to four weeks to cure. There is nothing like the taste of homemade salumi!
It is actually very easy to make fresh homemade sausage. But the making of cured sausage I leave to my father, the expert salumiere, who knows what he's doing. Calabrians who make their own salumi at home use only salt and the perfect weather conditions to cure them. But all commercially-made sausage is required by government agencies to add preservatives and nitrates.
My cookbook will have the recipe for making fresh Calabrian sausage, but let me show you in pictures the basic method. We always use pork shoulder, and add more pork fat to raise the percentage to about 25%. We then grind the meat and the fat using the grinder attachment on my Kitchen Aid mixer:
We season the ground meat with only the following ingredients: salt, wild fennel seeds, and pepe rosso dolce (sweet Calabrian paprika). We add peperoncino macinato (hot pepper powder) to some for the spicy version. Nothing else goes into the meat.
We make our own pepe rosso from the sweet peppers that we dried during the summer months and the hot pepper powder from our dried hot peppers. We forage for and harvest the wild fennel seeds, since it grows wild everywhere in California. If you want to give making the sausage a try you can buy the pepe rosso, the hot pepper powder and the wild fennel seeds online from these two sites that carry products imported from Calabria:
The meat is mixed until it is a beautiful red color. My grandmother used to say that it wasn’t mixed well until your hands were colored red from the paprika.
The meat is then stuffed into natural hog casings using my mom's old fashioned sausage stuffer. But back in Calabria she and her mother would spend the entire day stuffing casings with a funnel and their thumbs!
Sausages ready to be hung in my dad's wine cellar, where they will cure for three to four weeks:
A photo by Sara Remington of my dad in his wine cellar admiring his salumi:
We still have to make sopressata, but at least we are all done making this year's sweet and spicy sausage, pancetta and capocolli. That prosciutto in the photo above was made last year. Since we still have some left, we are skipping making prosciutto and instead we may make more capocolli.
A close-up of our cured Calabrian sausage attractively sliced and ready for eating: