What do these three things have in common? When you're making over 40kgs of home-made salami and cured meat you gotta sit down every now and again (it’s a big day) and you can't do either of these tings without a single malt scotch to warm you up, it's tradition!
One of the Tuff Arse crew, Dino, has been making his own salami for years, taught to him by his dad Otto, who in turn was taught by his own dad. The tradition is still continued today with a select group of mates and our own kids, with Otto the salami godfather still presiding over proceedings, now in his eighties. So its a three generation gathering of family and friends.
Otto is credited as being one of the key pre-eminent originators of salami making in Australia. Having grown up in a small village in Calabria Italy and immigrating to Melbourne in 1950s, Otto quickly put the skills he learnt in his home town to use creating a variety of Italian food including olives, tomato sauce and a range of cured meats and salamis. His salami is legendary, spoken about in whispers amongst salami aficionado, so salami making day is a truly special day of the year - one that if you are lucky enough to be invited to, you don’t say no.
After a stiff shot of Scotch to get things going, salami day starts with butchering the pig carcass from the wholesale butchers into usable cuts, carefully trimming just the right amount of fat for the right texture, and feeding these into the grinder to turn the meat into mince. Then a bunch of ingredients are added into the mince to create the salami mix. After an hour or so of mixing by hand, the mix is then piped into washed pigs intestines to create the salamis themselves, done using a hand driven cast alloy sausage maker that's nearly 100 years old. At no point in the process are any artificial ingredients or additives used, it’s all natural, it doesn’t get more organic than this. In addition to salami the crew also cured pork belly to make Pancetta, and fillets for Capricollo rolls.The only curing element used is salt, which dries the meat and gives it’s long shelf life. Dried and cured meats originated centuries ago due to the lack of refrigeration, curing meat with salt was the only way to prevent it from going off.
Home made food and nibbles are served all day, interweaved with a lot of discussions about life, love and pig meat. When the mix is ready for making the Salami, a fry up taste test of the mince is done first to make sure it’s right, with final adjustments made (more chilli please) before bagging into intestines. At the end of the day, after everything is done and all the washing and clean up is complete, a meal of pork ragu is cooked with fresh pasta and a glass or two of well earned red in front of the fire. The ragu is yet another use out of the same batch of meat. Dino’s son Harvey also boils down the bones and marrow to make his own home made lard (a natural white fat that can be used for cooking or even spread on toast like butter).
The salami sausages are left to sit and settle over night, then the next day are hung for curing by Dino and his dad. A hickory smoke fire is set for the first few days to infuse extra flavour. After smoking and 4 or 5 weeks of hanging, with meticulous curating to wipe with vinegar and avoid to much mould, the salami is ready!
Wanna know the recipe? We could tell you but we'd have to kill you. Otto has been guarding it for decades, and he has been known to severe the hand of anyone attempting to throw in extra chilli flakes when no-one's looking. The recipie has never been written down or measured, it’s passed from one generation to the next, when they're ready. So thats the 2023 batch done and in the bag.
Oh, and all participants were kept comfortable for the day by Tuff Arse. You don't have to have camp chairs to make Salami, but its a lot more comfortable if you do.