Salami and Sausages

  • Post last modified:5 July 2023
  • Reading time:14 mins read
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Art of Salami and Sausages

Sausage is a convenience food available in a great number of varieties and flavors. Sausages are an excellent source of high-quality protein, containing all the essential amino acids in appropriate amounts necessary for the growth, maintenance, and repair of body tissue. Sausage also provides significant amounts of vitamins and minerals.

The word sausage originally comes from the Latin word salsas, which means salted or preserved. In the olden days people did not have refrigeration to preserve their meat and so making sausage was a way of overcoming this problem. Sausage-making evolved as an effort to economize and preserve meat that could not be consumed fresh at slaughter. In sausage making, quality standards are maintained while using most parts of the animal carcass.

Sausage grew in popularity and brought fame and fortune to many sausage makers and various cities. People living in particular areas developed their types of sausage and that sausage became associated with the area. For example, Bologna originated in the town of Bologna in Northern Italy, Lyons sausage from Lyons in France, and Berliner sausage from Berlin in Germany. Today more than 250 varieties are sold, and many of these can be traced back to the town and country of origin.

The contemporary role of sausage fits conveniently into our modern lifestyles as an elegant appetizer for entertaining as well as the main course in “quick-and-easy” meals. Furthermore, sausages are a relatively safe product to consume because of the added effects of salt, pH, cure, drying, and cooking to preserve the product all of which eliminate harmful bacteria.

Salami is a cured sausage, fermented and air-dried. Salami may refer specifically to a class of salumi (the Italian tradition of cured meats), where an individual sausage or style of sausage (e.g. Genoa) would be referred to with the singular Italian form salame. Alternatively, in general, English usage, salami may be singular or plural and refer to a generic style or various specific regional styles from Italy or elsewhere, such as France or Germany. The name comes from the Latin/Italian root sal-, meaning ‘salt’.

Historically, salami has been popular amongst Italian peasants due to being a meat product able to be stored at room temperature for periods of up to a year, supplementing a possibly meager or inconstant supply of fresh meat.


Sausage (pronounced SAW-side) is a prepared food product usually made from ground meat, animal fat, salt, spices, and sometimes other ingredients such as herbs, and generally packed in a casing. Sausage making is a very old food preservation technique.

Traditionally casings have been made of animal intestines, though they are now often synthetic. Some sausages are cooked during processing, and the casing may be removed at that time. Sausages may be preserved by curing, drying in cool air, or smoking. The distinct flavor of some sausages is due to fermentation by Lactobacillus during curing.

There is no consensus if similar products not packed in casings, such as pâté, meatloaf, scrapple, and head cheese should be considered sausage.

Besides being eaten on its own, sausage is also used as an ingredient in other foods.

Types of Sausage

Sausages are made from beef, veal, pork, lamb, poultry, wild game, or any combination of these meats. Sausage making has become a unique blend of old procedures and new scientific, highly-mechanized processes. Traditionally, the sausage was formed into a symmetrical shape, but it now can be found in a variety of shapes and sizes to meet consumers’ needs. Many sausage products are vacuum packed, fresh dated, and 100% edible.

Sausages can be classified in a variety of ways, but probably the most useful is by how they are processed. Processing methods give sausages easily recognizable characteristics.

Cooked Sausage

Made with fresh meats and then fully cooked. The sausage is either eaten immediately after cooking or must be refrigerated and is usually reheated before eating. Examples include Braunschweiger, Veal sausage, and Liver sausage.

Cooked Smoked Sausage

Much the same as cooked sausage, but it is cooked and then smoked, or smoke-cooked. It can be eaten hot or cold but is stored in the refrigerator. Examples include Wieners, Kielbasa, and Bologna.

Fresh Sausage

Made from meats that have not been previously cured. This sausage must be refrigerated and thoroughly cooked before eating. Examples include Boerewors, Italian Pork sausage, and Fresh Beef sausage.

Fresh Smoked Sausage

This is a fresh sausage that is smoked. After smoking, the sausage can then be refrigerated and cooked thoroughly before eating. Examples include Mettwurst and Roumanian sausage.

Dry Sausage

Made from a selection of meats. These are the most complicated of all sausages to make, as the drying process has to be carefully controlled. Once produced this type of sausage can be readily eaten, and will keep for very long periods under refrigeration. Examples include Salamis and Summer sausage.


Salami is a cured (fermented and air-dried) sausage of Italian tradition. The name comes from the Italian verb salare, meaning ‘to salt.’

Historically, salami has been popular amongst Italian peasants due to being a meat product able to be stored at room temperature for periods of up to a year, supplementing a possibly meager or inconstant supply of fresh meat.

Ingredients of Salami

A traditional salami is made from a mixture that may include the following:

  • chopped beef, pork, donkey
  • wine (not always)
  • salt
  • various herbs and spices.

Other types of salami, such as imported brands from Italy or Spain typically substitute herd meats, such as donkey or ox into the mixture, which is then left to cure separately, leaving a marbled effect. The raw meat mixture is usually allowed to ferment for a day and then the mixture is either stuffed in an edible natural or nonedible artificial casing or hung to cure. The casings are often treated with an edible mold (Penicillium) culture as well. The mold is desired as it imparts flavor and prevents spoilage during the curing process.

More modern (but still traditional) mixtures include additional ingredients to assist in the fermentation process. These ingredients aim to take the guesswork out of traditional curing and can be found in many of the finest salami varieties in the world, although some producers eschew the nitrates and nitrites due to health concerns.

Manufacturing Process

Though uncooked, salami is not raw; they have been prepared via curing. The term cotto salame refers to salami cooked or smoked before or after curing. This is done to impart a specific flavor but not to cook the meat. Before curing, a cotto salame is still considered raw and is not ready to be eaten. Most kinds of salami made from donkey or ox are considered “cotton”.

Salami is cured in warm, humid conditions to encourage the growth of the bacteria involved in the fermentation process. Sugar is added as a food source for the bacteria during the curing process, although it tends not to be added to horse meat due to the latter’s naturally high levels of glycogen. Lactic acid is produced by the bacteria as a waste product, lowering the pH and coagulating and drying the meat.

The acid produced by the bacteria makes the meat an inhospitable environment for other, dangerous bacteria and imparts the tangy flavor that separates salami from machine-dried pork. The flavor of salami relies just as much on how this bacterium is cultivated as it does on the quality and variety of other ingredients. Originally, the bacteria were introduced into the meat mixture with wine, which contains other types of beneficial bacteria; now, starter cultures are used. The whole process takes about 36 weeks, although some age it more for additional taste and some can cut it down to about 24 weeks for a sweeter taste.

The curing process is determined by the climate of the curing environment and the size and style of the casing. After fermentation, the sausage has to be dried. This changes the casings from being water-permeable to being reasonably airtight. A white covering of either mold or flour helps prevent the photooxidation of the meat and rancidity in the fat.

Under some conditions, the nitrate probably comes from the breakdown of proteins. Salt, acidity, nitrate levels, and dryness of the fully-cured salami combine to make the raw meat safe to consume.

Varieties of Salami

Varieties of salami include:

  • Beerwurst, Beer Salami is a cooked sausage of German origin; beef and pork, chopped and blended; seasoning includes garlic; cooked at high temperatures; smoked. Packaged in slices or bulk rolls for slicing.

  • Calabrese Salami is a dry sausage of Italian origin; usually made from all pork; seasoned with hot peppers.

  • Cooked Salami is made from fresh meats, which are cured, stuffed in casings, and then cooked in the smokehouse at high temperatures. May be air-dried for a short time; softer texture than dry and semi-dry sausages. Cooked salamis are not dry sausages. They belong to the cooked sausage group and must be refrigerated.

  • Cotto Salami is cooked salami; contains whole peppercorns; may be smoked as well as cooked.

  • Easter Nola is a dry sausage of Italian origin; coarsely chopped pork; mildly seasoned; spices include black peppers and garlic.

  • Genoa Salami is a dry sausage of Italian origin; usually made from all pork but may contain a small portion of beef; moistened with wine or grape juice; seasoned with garlic; a cord is wrapped lengthwise and around the sausage at regular intervals.

  • German Salami is less highly flavored and more heavily smoked than Italian; contains garlic.

  • Hungarian Salami is less highly flavored and more heavily smoked that Italian salami; contains garlic.

  • Italian Salami includes many varieties named for towns and localities, e.g., Genoa, Milano, Sicilian; principally cured lean pork, coarsely chopped and some finely chopped lean beef; frequently moistened with red wine or grape juice; usually highly seasoned with garlic and various spices; air dried; chewy texture.

  • Kosher Salami is all beef-cooked salami. The meat and the processing are under rabbinical supervision. Mustard, coriander, and nutmeg are added to regular seasonings.
Article Reference
  • Jessica Souhami (2006), Sausages, Frances Lincoln Ltd.

  • Jim Bacus. “Utilization of Microorganisms in Meat Processing – a handbook for meat plant operators”, Research Studies Press.

  • Campbell-Platt, G and Cook, P. (Eds) (1995) “Fermented Meats”, Blackie Academic and Professional, Glasgow.

  • Rombauer & Becker (2000), The Joy of Cooking, Running Press Book Publishers.

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