If you have ever enjoyed a charcuterie plate, you may have wondered about the exotic-looking bits of meat in front of you. The world of charcuterie falls into two main categories.
First, there are whole-muscle cuts, like capicola or prosciutto, which are generally dry-cured over months or sometimes even years.
Secondly, you’ll find encased sausages, made from ground meat stuffed into lamb, pig, or beef casings (depending on the size desired), giving them a characteristic sausage shape. Encased sausages may be fresh, cooked, or dry-fermented;
Hard salami falls in the fermented category.
What is Salami?
Salami (plural: salumi) as a category boasts hundreds of local varieties distinguished by the combination of spices used, the ratio of meats, and their fat content.
Pepperoni, loukanika, and soppressata are all salumi;
What do they have in common?
All salumi are cured sausages made from ground or chopped meat. Salumiers (Salami-makers) mix the ground meat with chunks of fat, spices, sugar, salt, and often wine.
After marinating the mixture sufficiently, they stuff the spiced meat into a casing. The salumi hang to dry in temperature- and humidity-controlled chambers for several weeks to cure and ferment until they have lost approximately 30% moisture and microbes have acted upon them to produce acid that drops their pH to safe levels.
What is Hard Salami?
Probably originating in Poland, Germany, or the Czech Republic, this variety usually consists of a mixture of pork and beef.
In the United States, many brands of hard salami are beef-only. Hard salami is relatively mild, spiced only with white pepper and a little garlic.
Unlike other salumi, it generally uses no additional moisture (like wine) in its recipe, resulting in a hardier, drier sausage. Its texture is quite stiff and chewy, and it is dark in color because of the beef.
It is also usually smoked during or after the curing step. A hard texture is typical of smoked sausages since smoking pushes additional moisture out of the outer layers.
Genoa vs Hard Salami
Genoa salami is almost always a pork sausage, but some salumiers also mix in veal. Its flavor is bright and acidic due to the strain of lactic acid bacteria used in fermentation, and it is spiced with garlic, wine, and both black and white pepper.
Because it contains more fat than hard salami, Genoa salami is lighter in color and appears more marbled. It also has a softer texture and retains more moisture.
In contrast to hard salami, Genoa salami often contains visible peppercorns, a tart flavor, and a greasy texture.
Dry Salami vs. Hard Salami
Dry salami is not so much a type of salami as a description. In reference to salami, “dry” indicates a low ratio of fat to ground meat, which results in a drier and slightly stiffer texture. Most hard salami is also dry salami.
Cotto Salami vs. Hard Salami
The word “cotto” is Italian for “cooked.” Cotto sausage has been entirely or partially cooked at some stage in its preparation.
In truth, these sausages should not go by the name “salami” since they are cooking substitutes for the fermentation or curing step.
Cotto salami is not a homogenous category. In some cases, the stuffed sausage casings are boiled. In other cases, the Cotto salami undergoes a high-temperature smoking step, which cooks the meat.
Most often associated with Italy’s Piedmont region, Cotto salami uses a large diameter casing and often displays visible specks of black pepper.
Hard Salami Pairings
As an Eastern European staple, hard salami pairs well with other flavors from the region. Try it with rye bread, pickles, and a cold Pilsener.
If you don’t feel bound by geography, serve hard salami as part of a cheese tray! Since it is a fairly mild sausage, it supports pairings with very flavorful cheeses.
Asiago, aged gouda, or a strong cheddar would all be excellent choices.
Slice salami no thicker than ¼ inch and allow it to “sweat” at room temperature for half an hour before serving so that flavors can fully develop.
Whichever cheese you use, you won’t go wrong adding some olives and crusty bread.
Best Hard Salami Brands
Can You Freeze Hard Salami?
Hard salami, and other types of salami, will keep for several months in the freezer. However, freezing them is usually unnecessary unless you have purchased pre-sliced salami.
As long as salami remains unsliced (this is called a “chub”), it is stable nearly indefinitely, even when unrefrigerated! Once sliced, it is best to store the salami in the refrigerator and consume it within three weeks; past this point, it will begin to dry out.
If you wish to freeze sliced salami, wrap it tightly in airtight packaging labeled with the date and use it within three months.
How to Make Hard Salami
Hard salami recipes vary considerably; some brands may include additional ingredients (for example, Olli brand is extremely non-traditional in that it includes red wine) or deviate from this procedure.
What follows is a fairly standard hard salami recipe that a home sausage-maker could prepare with minimal equipment and some basic knowledge of the process.
Hard Salami Recipe
- Use a ½ inch plate to grind the meat and frozen fat together.
- Add all other ingredients and gently mix, then regrind mixture through a ⅛ inch plate.
- Stuff beef casings and ferment at 20°C (68°F) and 90-85% humidity for three days.
- Next, cold smoke the stuffed sausages at 18°C (64°F) for 12 hours, then continue to ferment them at 16-12°C (60-54°F) and 85-80% humidity until sausages have lost at least 30% of their moisture (by weight).
- This should take 6-8 weeks. Optionally, you may instead choose to perform the cold-smoking step after drying is complete.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Calories in a Slice of Hard Salami?
Per 28 grams (2 ounces), hard salami contains about 110-120 calories, including approximately 9 grams of fat. Of course, the exact amount will depend on the specific salami recipe.
What Kind of Meat is Hard Salami?
Hard salami is usually a mixture of beef and pork. However, the United States has variations that are all beef.
Is Hard Salami or Genoa Salami Better on Pizza?
Genoa is generally more fatty so will contribute more of those attractive fatty flavors. However, some could argue that the drier, less fatty nature of hard salami can add some contrast to the already very fatty pizza.
Both varieties will give you a similar product. Preference will come down to your particular taste.
The distinction between hard salami and other variants can be quite subtle. However, these seemingly insignificant differences can make or break a pairing.
We created this guide to help give you the facts so you can make an educated decision with buying, pairing and using hard salami in the right context.
We hope you enjoyed our comprehensive article on hard salami! Leave a note below if you have any questions/comments. Also, if you have any suggestions, we'd love to hear what you think of hard salami.