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Kent Wang

North American charcuterie producers

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What do you think of North American charcuterie producers such as P.G. Molinari & Sons (San Francisco), Zerto, Citterio, Schaller & Weber (New York), Groezinger, Espanola.

These are the major brands available in the finer delis Austin, TX. Some of the aforementioned brands are US-based, while some are European but sell their products in the US. For those that have had quality charcuterie in Italy, Germany or Spain how do these brands compare?

Of these brands, which of their products do you like?

Just off the top of my head, my favorites are the Molinari Toscano-style dry salame, Groezinger Moldavska sausage and Schaller & Weber summer sausage.

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I forgot Piller's (Ontario) which makes a tasty Gypsy Salami.

Tasting notes

Pancetta: Zerto vs Molinari. Zerto is the clear winner here. The Molinari is packed with a layer of herbs on the outside which gives the meat an off, chemical taste. I'm not sure whether this is actually due to the herbs or the use of preservatives but my suspicion is that the herbs are at fault. The Zerto pancetta does not have any herbs and does not have an off flavor.

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Sopprassata

Zerto mild - Very salty, the saltiest of these three, so salty that it is unsuitable for eating by itself.

Zerto hot - Very edible, not nearly as salty as the mild. A moderate amount of chili-based heat.

Molinari - Superiour altenative to the Zerto mild. Proper degree of saltiness, fattier and richer than Zerto mild.

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Le Cochon D'or (Quebec) baked rosemary ham. Intense rosemary flavor evenly distributed throughout the meat with additional complexity from onion and garlic with some sweetness from sugar. Good texture, not overcooked, with plenty of intact muscle fibers that make it clear that you're biting into a piece of meat and not rubber.

Karl Ehmer (NY) Plockwurst Cervelat. Although in appearance it is difficult to distinguish from a salami, the texture is much more tender and flavor more mild, somewhere in between a hard salami and a soft bologna. Composition is medium-high fat. Mostly or entirely pork, though cervelats may also have beef. I don't know what plockwurst means; please explain if you know.

Piller's Canadian Old Forest salami. Not very dense or hard for a salami, mild, uninteresting flavor.

Zerto Genoa salami. Dark red in color, coarse ground, with a scattering of whole black peppercorns. Quite salty, difficult to eat more than a few slices in a row though not as salty as the Zerto mild sopprassata. Very pungent overall flavor.

Vismara (Italy) Genoa salami. Medium pink in color, very coarse ground, very high fat content. It is difficult to believe that the Zerto and Vismara genoa salamis are even in the same category as the differences between the two are so stark. Possibly due to the higher fat content alone, or possibly due to superior seasoning, the Vismara is much more pungent in flavor than the Zerto. The first flavor that hits you is smokiness, followed by the rich grease and ending with a salty, satisfying finish. Of the three salamis here, this is by far the best.

Side note: What is a genoa salami? I found this on Google: "Italian, usually made from pork but may have a small amount of beef; it is moistened with wine or grape juice and seasoned with garlic."

I'm still uncertain where Zerto is based, but I think Canada.

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i haven't done any side-by-side tastings, but the molinari dry sausage is always in my refrigerator. i find it has just the right mix of tang and fat for my taste.

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i haven't done any side-by-side tastings, but the molinari dry sausage is always in my refrigerator. i find it has just the right mix of tang and fat for my taste.

Which one is that? I couldn't find it on their website. Maybe it is the Italian Dry Salame? Or is it really a sausage?

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gallery_36558_2964_67409.jpg

Both by P. G. Molinari & Sons ($15/lb).

Coppa (left): smokey, buttery, moderate salt, black pepper finish.

Hot coppa: intense, lingering, chile-based heat overwhelms mellow, smokey notes.

A thread about coppa.

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Genoa salami, also spelled as Genova Salami

Volpi Genova salame, made famous by the ancient port of the same name is made of extra lean pork and lightly seasoned with natural spices. This salame, with a classic taste of garlic is stuffed in natural casings and slowly air-dried to perfection.

from the dItalia web site.

I also like the Molinari dry sausage. I have trouble finding it here.

I have memories of wandering into the Molinari Deli on Columbus in San Francisco many years ago when I lived there. It always smelled soooo good in there with all the sausages hanging and the cheeses and other good stuff.


It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Someone had posted on a similar thread that the Volpi products, out of St. Louis, were among the best in the country. Haven't had the opportunity to try them myself.


Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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Haven't lived in the States for 7 years so I can't comment on the brands you mentioned. When I was there last the big news was Boar's Head :wacko: (just one of the reasons I left) Now, I travel to Italy a lot and I know a little about good salumi and I can say one thing with a lot of confidence..... there are three quality levels of Italian salumi:

1. Factory made salumi which is probably still much better than most of the salumi you get in the States.

2. Artiganale made salumi, usually DOC or DOP, organisations like Slow Food and Paolo Massobrio are going through great lengths to bring these to our attention.

3. Homemade. Here is the best kept secret of Italian salumi. Here you taste what love can make. Everyone passionate about food makes some sort of house salumi and that includes a lot of people. You can not compare this salumi with anything else. It is simply the best.

A couple of tips:

- It is better to buy a large piece and cut what you need by hand with a razor sharp knife than to have it sliced for you at the deli counter. All salumi deteriorates when it comes in contact with air, so unless you plan to eat it in the next couple of hours don't cut it. If you go to an Italian's home he will cut it off a little at a time...especially if it is a home made one. I have stopped using my electric slicer all together for this and it is ok if the pieces are just little chips and uneven.... you are with friends.

- Let the slices come to room temperature before eating them.

- If it is a greasy salumi, look for a wine that is high in acid like a young Barbera or better yet a Grignolino.

- Italians do not serve bread or crackers with fine salumi.

- Really great salumi should taste like pork...avoid salumi with seasonings other than salt and pepper and maybe a little garlic.

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I like the Volpi products quite a bit. I also think Usinger's, out of Milwaukee, does a decent job.

I'm eager to try the Fra'Mani products which are just hitting the market. The company was formed by Paul Bertolli (Oliveto) who penned an important chapter about Charcuterie in his book Cooking By Hand.

=R=


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Volpi Genova salame, made famous by the ancient port of the same name is made of extra lean pork and lightly seasoned with natural spices. This salame, with a classic taste of garlic is stuffed in natural casings and slowly air-dried to perfection.

This is only a description of the Volpi product and not of all genoa salame. The Vismara, for example, is by no means lean at all. I'm still uncertain what classifies as a genoa salame.

I have memories of wandering into the Molinari Deli on Columbus in San Francisco many years ago when I lived there.  It always smelled soooo good in there with all the sausages hanging and the cheeses and other good stuff.

Wow! I'm going to have to go to there next time I'm in SF.

Haven't lived in the States for 7 years so I can't comment on the brands you mentioned. When I was there last the big news was Boar's Head  :wacko: (just one of the reasons I left) Now, I travel to Italy a lot and I know a little about good salumi and I can say one thing with a lot of confidence..... there are three quality levels of Italian salumi:

1. Factory made salumi which is probably still much better than most of the salumi you get in the States.

2. Artiganale made salumi, usually DOC or DOP, organisations like Slow Food and Paolo Massobrio are going through great lengths to bring these to our attention.

There is a noticeable difference with the really big macro producers like Boar's Head, Applegate Farms, etc. Especially with salume, lower-end products often have an unmistakeable off-flavor. I'm not sure if it's from the preservatives but I'd venture that as a guess. The Applegate Farms prosciutto ($10/lb), for example, has an unpalatable pine and hickory taste and lacks the buttery smoothness of San Daniele's product ($20/lb). At half the price, I sometimes buy it to make asparagus or shrimp wrapped in prosciutto but I would not think of eating by itself.

3. Homemade. Here is the best kept secret of Italian salumi. Here you taste what love can make. Everyone passionate about food makes some sort of house salumi and that includes a lot of people. You can not compare this salumi with anything else. It is simply the best.

I love homemade products too but charcuterie seems to me to be one of those things that might benefit from the proper smoking, curing, etc. facilities that a large factory would be able to afford. What is it about the homemade charcuterie that you've had that you find to be objectively superior? Can you attribute the difference to any technique employed by the household that differs from factory processes?

- It is better to buy a large piece and cut what you need by hand with a razor sharp knife than to have it sliced for you at the deli counter. All salumi deteriorates when it comes in contact with air, so unless you plan to eat it in the next couple of hours don't cut it. If you go to an Italian's home he will cut it off a little at a time...especially if it is a home made one. I have stopped using my electric slicer all together for this and it is ok if the pieces are just little chips and uneven.... you are with friends.

Good advice. Perhaps the ultimate solution is to have a meat slicer at home!

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What is it about the homemade charcuterie that you've had that you find to be objectively superior? Can you attribute the difference to any technique employed by the household that differs from factory processes?

Yes the home cured meats are usually just cured with salt, herbs and garlic, no nitrates. Most (maybe all) factories use nitrates.

Good advice. Perhaps the ultimate solution is to have a meat slicer at home!

What I mean is, even though I have a professional quality meat slicer I don't use it. I slice by hand, in front of my guests, at the table. It is just more personal.

It is like the difference between cut Parmesan and broken Parmesan.

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I love homemade products too but charcuterie seems to me to be one of those things that might benefit from the proper smoking, curing, etc. facilities that a large factory would be able to afford. What is it about the homemade charcuterie that you've had that you find to be objectively superior? Can you attribute the difference to any technique employed by the household that differs from factory processes?

If you wander over here, you'll see some amazing stuff being done at home. It's only scary the first time you do it! And, the advice that the various participatants on this topic have provided has been beyond invaluable.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Volpi Genova salame, made famous by the ancient port of the same name is made of extra lean pork and lightly seasoned with natural spices. This salame, with a classic taste of garlic is stuffed in natural casings and slowly air-dried to perfection.

This is only a description of the Volpi product and not of all genoa salame. The Vismara, for example, is by no means lean at all. I'm still uncertain what classifies as a genoa salame.

I hope these definitions will help. As a rule, they will tend to be different from producer to producer according to their own recipes, ingredients and quality of the meats used.

Salami -- (dry sausage)

General classification for highly seasoned dry sausage with characteristic fermented flavor. Usually made of beef and pork; seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper and sugar. Most are air dried and not smoked or cooked. The cooked salamis are not dry sausage.

ALESSANDRI AND ALPINO SALAMI are Italian-type salamis of American origin. (see below, Italian Salami).

ARLES is a salami of French origin; similar to Milano, but made of coarsely chopped meat. (See below, Milano Salami).

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 in bulk rolls for slicing. (See below, Cooked Salami).

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, 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 sausage. They belong to the cooked sausage group and must be refrigerated.

COTTO SALAMI is a cooked salami; contains whole peppercorns; may be smoked as well as cooked. (See cooked Salami).

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 an all beef cooked salami. The meat and the processing are under Rabbinical supervision; mustard, coriander and nutmeg added to regular seasonings. (See Italian Salami).

SICILIAN SALAMI -- See above, Salami, Italian.

These come from the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council's web site.

I would imagine fat content varies from producer to producer. And a personal perference as to which is better probably prevails also. I do like the Volpi but really prefer the Molinari, and sliced thin, thin, thin. I am not fond of the flavor of the Boar's Head, to me it tastes like the stuff they sell at Albertson's.


It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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I like the Volpi products quite a bit.  I also think Usinger's, out of Milwaukee, does a decent job.

I'm eager to try the Fra'Mani products which are just hitting the market.  The company was formed by Paul Bertolli (Oliveto) who penned an important chapter about Charcuterie in his book Cooking By Hand.

=R=

I'm just outside the Bay Area and also looking forward to Fra Mani's Salumi. Even more so since I recently learned that an eG member is supervising production. Here is Ore's fantastic food blog where he details his slow food cooking school experience and learning to make culatello and other non-salumi items.

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Wow...came across this by accident!

(I was searching for how to make sushi rice!)

Check out the site on ronnie_suburban's post above for more info on Fra' Mani...or just ask!

Ore, those Charcuterie pics at your blog are phenomenal. I had no idea you were at Fra'Mani. How's business?

=R=


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Biz is extremely well.  The fermentation rooms are full and my cantina is starting to fill up so i guess i'm doing a good job!

Congrats on the early success! I really should not wait any longer to place an order.

=R=


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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gallery_36558_2964_169108.jpg

Both by Groezinger (USA).

Kielbasa (left): garlicky, smooth texture, light salt.

Moldavska stick: darker color, drier, smoky, greasy finish.

I like the kielbasa a bit more.

If you've never had Polish sausages before, they are quite different from Italian salami. The flavor is much more mild, in all respects, less salt, less spice, less herbs. The texture is also very soft and smooth, almost like a bologna.

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Some more soppresattas today.

gallery_36558_2964_37354.jpg

Molinari (left), Citterio (right). The Molinari I have already reviewed above.

The Citterio is much wetter, has a much coarser grind, seemingly richer fat content and less spice. It is currently my favorite soppresatta though Molinari would be my favorite for the drier style.

I also tasted soppresattas from Volpi and Columbus. The Volpi (I only tried the regular and not the hot soppresatta) is nearly devoid of spice and clearly my least favorite. The Columbus is very unusual with a strong fennel, medicinal (not in a bad way) element. Columbus makes quality products so check it out if you're looking for an unorthodox soppresatta.

Also picked up the Karl Ehmer chicken bologna. I had low expectations for this as I expected it to be bland and dry but it's quite the opposite. It has a serious amount of seasoning, a lot of garlic with a mild mix of herbs, a mild amount of chicken flavor and is quite moist.

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I live in Seattle so my cured meat needs are handled by Salumi pretty much exclusively. Living half a dozen blocks away from them makes it even easier.


Bacon starts its life inside a piglet-shaped cocoon, in which it receives all the nutrients it needs to grow healthy and tasty.

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Citterio makes several small salume products -- maybe 1-2" around and 6-10" long -- called, for example, Abruzze and Calabrese. These are in my opinion the best of the Citterio products and the best mass-produced salume products available in most of the large New York gourmet markets. The size is great because you can buy a whole one and, as Swiss Chef advises above, just cut off what you need when you need it. Once you get into pre-sliced salume, things go downhill quickly.

The best salume you're going to get around here, though (again tracking what Swiss Chef says), is from the places that make their own. I go to Calabria up on Arthur Avenue, people who live downtown probably have better access to Faicco's, and there are various non-Italian places in the East Village and in Yorkville that make some great stuff (including the Schaller & Weber store, where they seem to have about a thousand items that never make it into commercial distribution).


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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