Considering Adrian Richardson, TV chef and owner of Melbourne restaurant La Luna, wrote a cookbook entitled Meat, we thought he’d be the man to talk us through the process of curing the stuff. We spent a day with Richardson in the La Luna kitchen, where, over the next three months, 15 or so pigs will pass through.
“We’re tradesmen, we make food,” explains Richardson with a certain level of pragmatism, as he and his fellow ‘tradesmen’ (seasoned butcher Angelo Marchetti and sous chef Robin Turner) expertly butcher a 150kg pig.
Adhering to the nose-to-tail philosophy, every part of the pig will be used in some way. Even the fat that isn’t used for curing will be rendered down for roasting potatoes.
Aside from salami, there are a great many cured morsels that come from the pig. When a pig passes through the kitchen at La Luna, the neck becomes capocollo, the trotters are used to flavour stock or are turned into a terrine, the belly is rolled into pancetta and the legs become prosciutto.
Cotechino, a cooked salami, is created from the pig’s skin, ears and (gulp) even a bit of eyeball. Nduja, a spicy paste-like Calabrian salami, is made with minced jowl, offcuts and an Italian ‘sauce’ of peppers, garlic and chilli.
Richardson appreciates the versatility of the pig. “You can do so much with it,” he says. As for making everything himself, he considers it one of the most important parts of his job. “I could buy [salami] from the butcher down the road, but I wouldn’t know what’s in it. We have a lot of coeliacs come in and I can tell them exactly what’s in the salami they’re about to eat.”
How it’s done…
Making sopressa salami at La Luna
- The whole pig is butchered.
- The back fat and flare fat along the kidneys are cut out. The flare fat is put aside; it will be mixed with salt and used to cover prosciutto.
- The back fat is put through the mincer.
- The pork meat is minced. “You’ve got to use good quality meat, not just off-cuts…premium stuff goes in there,” says Richardson. This includes parts of the loin, shoulder, and rump.
- The pork mince is spread out on a stainless steel bench. A mix of salt, some black pepper, allspice, ground nutmeg goes on top. The amount of salt equals 2.8 per cent of the weight of the mince.
- The minced fat is placed on top and the mixture is kneaded for about 10 minutes, working the salt into the meat.
- Brandy is added to the mixture, which is then kneaded again. The mixture is smeared around until it looks uniform. Marchetti calls this process “purring like a cat” as the meat is being pushed forward, similar to a cat stretching out its paws.
- The meat mix goes into the sausage filler.
- Casings (or ‘bung’), which have been stored in salt, are soaked in water and lemon juice.
- Bung goes onto the filler spout and the mixture is piped in, ensuring no air gets into the casing.
- String netting goes around the whole salami and it is pricked with tiny holes.
- The salamis are hung in a room upstairs – ideally the humidity is at about 70 per cent. The curing process has begun.
- The sopressa (weighing in at about 5kg each) will cure for about six months. How do you know it’s sufficiently dried? “By feel. It’s got a tension to it,” Richardson says.
- Once it’s adequately dried, sopressa is sliced and served. It can be cryovaced so that the drying process stops and the salami hold its moisture.
Richardson’s latest book The Good Life features a salami masterclass so you can make DIY cured meats at home.