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Pepperoni


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Wikipedia has some interesting background:

It is a descendant of the spicy salamis of Southern Italy, such as salsiccia Napoletana piccante, a spicy dry sausage from Naples or the Soppressata from Calabria. Pepperoni is a popular pizza topping in American-style pizzerias. Also, it is sometimes used to make sub sandwiches. ...

The term pepperoni is a corruption of peperoni, the Italian plural of peperone. While in Italian peperoni refers to bell peppers, in Italian-American cuisine the word "pepperoni" evolved to indicate a kind of spicy sausage.

Even in the US, is pepperoni confined to the menus of poor pizzerias? All the good pizzerias I've been to seem to call it by its proper name: salame or soppressata. And the only pepperoni I've seen for sale in stores are also low quality and mass-produced.

Now, I love good salami and I think it's one of the best toppings for a pizza. I just made a pizza with Creminelli felino. But I grew up eating pepperoni pizzas. What a travesty. I think we should all teach our children about the evils of pepperoni and only feed them pizzas topped with artisanal salami.

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I think it's becoming standard in the foodie subculture to be anti-pepperoni. But really, if you're operating a business in the US, selling to Americans, saying on the menu that you're serving "pizza salame piccante" and using a high-quality, artisanal product doesn't change the fact that you're selling a pepperoni pizza. I happen to enjoy pepperoni on pizza, on Italian subs and as an hors d'oeuvre. Some pepperoni is pretty tasty, and most isn't great -- just like salume of any kind, just like hamburgers, just like lots of things. But when it's good it's good.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Wikipedia has some interesting background:
It is a descendant of the spicy salamis of Southern Italy, such as ...the Soppressata from Calabria

Nota bene, I can imagine it's a descendant, but the language here may be confusing. Modern Italian salami products at premium delis in my region often include Sopressata, and there are different producers, the grain's coarse and the seasoning varies, but characteristic flavoring is wine. (That and Finocchiona, with fennel seed -- both thin-sliced -- are almost fixtures among post-tasting snacks the last 10-15 years in local blind wine-tasting groups I know -- along with other cold meats, cheeses, artisanal breads -- this is making me hungry.) But those products would be immediately recognized by most people in the US as "salamis," as are cheaper generic "salamis" -- commonly a US pizza topping too, but all very distinct from "pepperoni." Like Steve I think US "pepperoni" has its place, and not all satisfying foods need to be "artisanal."

Related threads about food content on Wikipedia appear here and there. Being self-edited, W. is good at presenting its contributors' convictions, but their relation in turn to real food facts and (especially) histories varies.

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Ruhlman and Polcyn give a recipe for an artisanal peperone in their book, _Charcuterie_, which they claim has an ancient history.

Sopressata comes in at least two styles, one sweet, which has more of a detectable wine flavor as well as a tart flavor from fermentation and whole or slightly crushed black pepper; and one spicy, which is often described as "Calabrese," where the hot pepper tends to be the dominant flavor.

On pizza, if it's good, it's good.

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Why don't we just call low-quality pepperoni pepperoni, and call the better stuff its proper name?

David beat me to the punch with that reference to Ruhlman & Polcyn. I can testify to the existence of high quality pepperoni: click here.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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American's tend to generalize Italian cured deli meats as salami, whereas some of them are dried sausages such as Abbruzesse Soppressata which is in a natural casing versus Capicola or hard salami in a fibrous casing. I would not waste Soppressata on a pizza, I would stick with pepperoni. Leave the Soppressata for eating with crackers and cheese like a well aged swiss or sharp cheddar enjoyed with a Brooklyn Brown ale.

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Sopressata comes in at least two styles, one sweet, which has more of a detectable wine flavor as well as a tart flavor from fermentation and whole or slightly crushed black pepper; and one spicy, which is often described as "Calabrese," where the hot pepper tends to be the dominant flavor.

Certainly. Kent's quality US source Creminelli also describes his own Sopressata (flavored with garlic "dissolved in" wine).

But I hope we answered Kent's questions above about why not call quality pepperoni "salame or soppressata." To millions of folks in the US, those terms denote things very different from the pepperoni (cheap or artisanal) that I understand Kent to be referring to, and those meanings were established long before the fashion began (a few years ago) to talk about artisanal "salumi" on the Internet.

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But I hope we answered Kent's questions above about why not call quality pepperoni "salame or soppressata."  To millions of folks in the US, those terms denote things very different from the pepperoni (cheap or artisanal) that I understand Kent to be referring to, and those meanings were established long before the fashion began (a few years ago) to talk about artisanal "salumi" on the Internet.

Actually, I mean to suggest the inverse. Don't call high quality salami pepperoni, call it what it is, which is salami picante, soppressata, etc. Meaning is lost when you apply the US-only term pepperoni to several different types of salami.

David beat me to the punch with that reference to Ruhlman & Polcyn. I can testify to the existence of high quality pepperoni: click here.

Since pepperoni is a not an Italian term for a salami of any kind, what exactly is this recipe? I think the only reason to call it pepperoni is if it is some of kind unique American style. If it is patterned after soppressata, then let's call it that. You can also call it pepperoni to win over Americans that are more used to that term, and to imply that this should be used on a pizza, but let's use that as a secondary name.

American's tend to generalize Italian cured deli meats as salami, whereas some of them are dried sausages such as Abbruzesse Soppressata which is in a natural casing versus Capicola or hard salami in a fibrous casing.  I would not waste Soppressata on a pizza, I would stick with pepperoni.  Leave the Soppressata for eating with crackers and cheese like a well aged swiss or sharp cheddar enjoyed with a Brooklyn Brown ale.

People put prosciutto on pizza, which is about the same cost per pound as a good soppressata.

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Related threads about food content on Wikipedia appear here and there.  Being self-edited, W. is good at presenting its contributors' convictions, but their relation in turn to real food facts and (especially) histories varies.

What exactly about this particular Wikipedia article do you find incorrect?

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Earlier:

is pepperoni confined to the menus of poor pizzerias? All the good pizzerias I've been to seem to call it by its proper name: salame or soppressata.

. . .

Why don't we just call low-quality pepperoni pepperoni, and call the better stuff its proper name?

"It" above seems to refer to better stuff that you're finding occasionally dubbed "pepperoni." You very clearly argued against that. My point is, why does the problem arise in the first place? "Pepperoni" and "sopressata" have long-established understandings in the US. Where have you seen sopressata labeled pepperoni on a US pizza without that causing gross confusion? (I don't mean among salumi connoisseurs.)
What exactly about this particular Wikipedia article do you find incorrect?

I posted there not about this article but about W. as a food-history source, whose pitfalls many people have noticed, as in the recent linked threads. Sorry if that was unclear. But were someone to read into that W. article more linkage between the terms sopressata and pepperoni than is usual in the US, it might encourage the confusion we're talking about.
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Where have you seen sopressata labeled pepperoni on a US pizza without that causing gross confusion?  (I don't mean among salumi connoisseurs.)

Not often, true. But that Ruhlman & Polcyn recipe is an example.

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Where have you seen sopressata labeled pepperoni on a US pizza without that causing gross confusion?  (I don't mean among salumi connoisseurs.)

Not often, true. But that Ruhlman & Polcyn recipe is an example.

They have another recipe for sopressata that looks a lot more like sopressata than their recipe for peperone.

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I guess I don't understand what your point is, Kent. Is it that most pepperoni isn't very good? Or that there's no authentic Italian product called "pepperoni"? Or that we should do away with "pepperoni" as a term applied to a spicy sausage?

I like good pepperoni but agree that most of what goes by that name is not very good; I don't care if it's authentic; and I think it's an impossible dream to do away with the term because it identifies a type of sausage that Americans are familiar with in a way that the more precise Italian terms wouldn't do.

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Where have you seen sopressata labeled pepperoni on a US pizza without that causing gross confusion?  (I don't mean among salumi connoisseurs.)

Not often, true. But that Ruhlman & Polcyn recipe is an example.

They have another recipe for sopressata that looks a lot more like sopressata than their recipe for peperone.

They are two very different recipes. Their recipe for peperone is entirely lean beef; the soppressata is 80/20 pork.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I'm also curious if it's really an Americanism or accepted throughout the Anglophone world.

I guess I don't understand what your point is, Kent. Is it that most pepperoni isn't very good? Or that there's no authentic Italian product called "pepperoni"? Or that we should do away with "pepperoni" as a term applied to a spicy sausage?

Tell our children about what pepperoni really is. Let them know that this is a strange American term that refers primarily to crappy salami, and that there's an entire world of fine salamis out there waiting to top their pizzas.

And not just children, everyone.

They are two very different recipes. Their recipe for peperone is entirely lean beef; the soppressata is 80/20 pork.

That's quite an unusual. Most commercial pepperoni aren't even all beef. I think they need another name.

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What do they say about it? Sorry, I don't have the book.

Everything I've read, and confirming with Italians, that pepperoni is not an Italian term for sausasge. Do they say that this particular sausage has Roman origins under a different name, or specifically as peperone?

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Here's the intro to the Ruhlman & Polcyn recipe (p 185 in the first edition):

This heavily seasoned sausage, dating to Roman times, is widely produced in America (where we spell it pepperoni), by virtue of its importance on pizza. Because of this mass production, the version most of us know is a pale imitation of the original peperone. True peperone (the name means large pepper , or large strong-tasting fruit) is a very lean, tangy, highly spiced sausage.

I don't think that this is an American conspiracy, either. In The Oxford Companion to Food, under "Sausages of Italy," we find:

Salami made in S. Italy and Sardinia are distinguished by their spiciness. They include...

Peperone, long, narrow, and highly spiced.

Across the channel, in Larousse Gastronomique, we find the entry "peperone":

Also known as peperoni [sic]. A spicy Italian salami or sausage of pork and beef, which may be eaten raw. It is a popular topping for pizza.

(Oh, and to clarify above, the Ruhlman & Polcyn soppressata recipe is 80 lean/20 fat but 100% pork, no beef.)

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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  • 2 years later...

I had a slice of pepperoni pizza today and remembered this topic. Has any new information come to light regarding the origins of the product?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I don't have any info on the origins but I'm sort of puzzled by the insistence this is American. When I lived in Philly I lived practically next door to the famous DiBruno Bros Italian specialty shop and they sold, among all their fabulous meats, pepperoni from Sicily, from Abbruzze, and one handmade one of their own. They were fabulous; I used to buy them all the time to use in antipasti and cooking.

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In Australia it's 'pepperoni', too. And salami is used as a fairly generic term: it applies to a wide range of cured sausage products made, supposedly, in the style of sausage-makiers from Italy and Hungary and God-knows-where else. I've even seen cured chorizo spoken of as a Spanish version of salami. And I really don't see the big deal. Most of the consumers who buy the product speak English, not Italian. The terms pepperoni and salami and, I guess, parmesan, too, have become corrupted. Like, I guess, the word bolognese. But any more, they're not used as Italian words. They've been adopted into our language and, like any word that hops from one dictionary into another, the meaning changes--sometimes in subtle ways that only people really familiar with the topic would appreciate, sometimes in ways that are quite dramatic. I think, for most applications--the pepperoni pizza, the sandwich-grade salami that's mass produced in a factory in North Melbourne, the affordable, locally-made cheese that calls itself parmesan but doesn't attach itself, like Italian versions of the same thing, to a specific region of Italy--these Anglified usages work just fine. And, shit, if I was running a pizza shop and wanted to upgrade my mass-produced pepperoni to some fancy artisan/organic/etc stuff, I'd still call it pepperoni--as for most of my consumers, that sausage maybe mistakenly named pepperoni really is still pepperoni. And they pay my phone bill.

Chris Taylor

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I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

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Here's the intro to the Ruhlman & Polcyn recipe (p 185 in the first edition):

This heavily seasoned sausage, dating to Roman times, is widely produced in America (where we spell it pepperoni), by virtue of its importance on pizza. Because of this mass production, the version most of us know is a pale imitation of the original peperone. True peperone (the name means large pepper , or large strong-tasting fruit) is a very lean, tangy, highly spiced sausage.
I don't think that this is an American conspiracy, either. In The Oxford Companion to Food, under "Sausages of Italy," we find:
Salami made in S. Italy and Sardinia are distinguished by their spiciness. They include...Peperone, long, narrow, and highly spiced.
Across the channel, in Larousse Gastronomique, we find the entry "peperone":
Also known as peperoni [sic]. A spicy Italian salami or sausage of pork and beef, which may be eaten raw. It is a popular topping for pizza.
(Oh, and to clarify above, the Ruhlman & Polcyn soppressata recipe is 80 lean/20 fat but 100% pork, no beef.)

Linguistic is not my thing but like most Italians, when I first visited the US, and I heard of "pepperoni" pizza, my thought where in order: 1. why it is written with two p, 2. where is the pepper? since I was expecting a bell pepper on my pizza :laugh:

While the suffix "one" means big in Italian, when I say peperone, I don't think at a "big" pepper. Notice that "pepe" in Italian is pepper as in the spice: pepe in grani, grains of pepper in italian. While peperone is referred to the capsicum.

If there was such a salame (another misproununced Italian word in English) in the ancient Rome, with such a name, I don't know. If there was a thin salame heavely spiced, oh well, I would not be surprised.

From Wikipedia in Italian a list of the most traditional italian salami by region

Here

No mention of this peperone anywhere

Other thing for Kent. Although I see that you are saying call the stuff with their name: "pepperoni" the American salame and other salami with their name. I can tell you that to me what is produced in the US and that I tried still doesn't taste like the stuff with the same name I have in Italy. I learned from the Charcuterie thread that the cure used in the US is different. Well, I don't know if it's that or something else again (maybe Jason Molinari could answer) but the American produced salame tastes off to me, I don't like the aftertaste.

I don't have any info on the origins but I'm sort of puzzled by the insistence this is American. When I lived in Philly I lived practically next door to the famous DiBruno Bros Italian specialty shop and they sold, among all their fabulous meats, pepperoni from Sicily, from Abbruzze, and one handmade one of their own. They were fabulous; I used to buy them all the time to use in antipasti and cooking.

Has the law changed? Because, I was left that while you can import prosciutto, mortadella, speck, you cannot import salame.

I know DiBruno well, because my husband went to University in Philly, but there is not such a thing as "pepperoni" from Abruzzo or Sicily. They might buy some sort of salame that has been spiced with spices more typical in those regions and decided to call like that.

Edited by Franci (log)
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