MANO FORMATE PRODUCTS
Here’s an abbreviated step-by-step guide to our salumi products:
Applewood Smoked Bacon:
Before we smoke the bacon, we season the pork belly with salt, brown sugar, and spices for four days. On the fifth day, we remove the bacon from the cure, wash it, and then hang it for another day. We use a home smoker loaded with applewood to smoke our bacon. The bellies hang in the smoker for two hours, and we make sure the temperature doesn’t get too high or the fat will melt and make a mess. The bacon is then transferred to a 275°F oven for about two and a half hours until the internal temperature reaches 130°F. Fresh bacon, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, freezes nicely for up to four months.
Pancetta is a salt-cured salumi made from a pig’s belly. It’s essentially the Italian answer to bacon, except that it isn’t smoked. We make our pancetta both in slabs and rolled. We rub the bellies with the cure mix (which includes sugar and dried spices such as coriander, mace, nutmeg, thyme, and anise seed) and place them in plastic bins in the refrigerator for five days. We remove the pancetta from the bins, rub the bellies again, put them back in the bins, and refrigerate for another five days. We scrape off the salt mixture, wipe the bellies clean, and lay the bellies in the refrigerator for two more days, uncovered. Then they’re ready to be rolled and hung. They will hang for at least three weeks before they are usable. The salt rub draws out moisture and the result is a sliceable, somewhat moist, and very flavorful meat. You can eat pancetta raw because it’s cured, but we dice it and sauté it for salads and pizzas. Pancetta stays fresh in the freezer, so you can keep it on hand to add to salads, soups, stews, or simply a pan of roasted vegetables.
Mortadella is basically a sausage/luncheon meat made of finely ground heat-cured pork and at least 15% of pork fat. Mortadella originated in Bologna Italy where it was created in the mid 1600s. The mortadella that we produce in our kitchens has pistachio nuts, garlic, coriander, nutmeg, cayenne and black peppercorns. We use the finished product both on our charcuterie plates in in finished dishes like our pressed sandwich or on a pizza.
Salami is an Italian dried sausage, a generic term for pork that is encased and fermented (salami is the plural form of salame). Making salami takes many steps. Among the many steps in making salami include: grinding the meat, stuffing the meat in casings, inoculating, fermenting, and then aging.
We start by measuring the ingredients with a keen eye for accuracy. Trimming the meat is crucial to a high quality product; you have to cut out the silver skin to get beautiful textured salami. The trimmed meat is transferred to a meat grinder and ground to the size and texture for the particular salami that is being made. The meat is than transferred to a work surface where we add the seasonings (pimentón, saba, oregano) and than we use our hands to work the meat. It’s similar to making bread: you have to work it enough but not too much. Certain meats bind more than others, which affects the texture.
The ground meat is then fed into casings. We use a combination of collagen and natural casings (we get ours from butcherandpacker.com). The key with casing salami is eliminating any air pockets. The air pockets will create imperfections, which can affect fermentation, taste, and texture. We always save a small amount of the mixture from each batch as a “test case” to monitor fermentation and pH levels, which we enter into our Salumi logbook for quality control.
Salami production relies on bacteria, just like in cheese, and the white film on the outside of salami is actually a thin layer of mold (like the bloom on cheese). The mold can be white or blue-green and both are completely harmless. “It’s all about the bacteria and mold cultures,” says John. The bacteria is essential for transforming the meat and creating the texture and flavor notes, while the mold assists as a flavor enhancer and acts as a natural regulator for the outside of the salami. As John notes, the Italians never inoculated their meat; they relied on wild bacteria and mold that was naturally found in their meat cellars, much like wine.
We converted an old baking proof box into our salami 'fermenter'. The temperature is set to 75°F to 105°F; (depending on the type of salami), the perfect environment for what John calls “controlled spoilage.” Temperature is crucial; too hot and the fat will melt, and the salami will cook. If it’s too cold, the fermentation process won’t begin. After three to five days in the 'fermenter', we move the salami to the aging room, a 10- by 10-foot converted walkin refrigerator. Monitoring temperature, humidity, and air movement are crucial to the production of slow-aged, traditional-type salami. From beginning to end, the process can take as long as six months to develop the flavors and texture we desire. Salami can last up to ten years at room temperature; it just gets drier as it ages. Just be sure to store it in a breathable material like paper or cheesecloth, not plastic wrap.
The next time you visit the girl & the fig, order a charcuterie plate and taste our meat goodness!