Elders say the salami should be made after a full moon – it has to do with the optimal cycle of the female pig.
All over Melbourne, people of Italian extraction are gathering to carry on this winter tradition their grandparents brought from the old country, and that’s what 34-year-old Steven Napoli did on Tuesday at his Altona Meadows house.
Linda Catalano, co-founder of the Melbourne Salami Festa, said for Mr Napoli’s generation, it was a “conscious decision” to keep it going and it was becoming part of Australia’s foodie culture.
Non-Italians are among fans of a growing number of salami making courses, she said.
Mr Napoli said that after his Nonno Anthony, 94, and late Nonna Maria migrated from Calabria in 1952, they were staunch exponents of the annual salami making, which doubled as family reunion.
They would slaughter a pig in the yard of their Williamstown house, and cut down its parts; every part was used – as sausage, ham or used in soups, pasta dishes or blood pudding.
The women would cook a hearty lunch.
Steven remembers that as a child, the day was as exciting as Christmas, but the salami part was a closely guarded secret: the kids were only allowed to tie up the salami ends.
“The biggest thing I remember is that everyone got together,” Steven said. “It was just a family day.”
About 15 years ago, the ritual stopped: Anthony and Maria were getting older, and Steven’s father Frank was working hard at the family fruit shop in Williamstown.
It was Steven who revived it, five years ago, for his own family – he and wife Kyra now have three children, aged five years old, three years old, and four months.
Steve’s father Frank, 60, is pleased his son is “taking over the tradition from the old generation. And he loves doing it”.
On Monday night Steve mixed the meat to the family recipe including salt, pepper, and capsicum puree to add a red tinge and a sweet flavour.
On Tuesday, for compressing the meat into casings and hanging it, Steven was joined by Frank, his uncle Joe, his cousin Tony Napoli and friend Michael Cini.
Frank and Uncle Joe advised that when stuffing the casings, which are made of lamb intestines, pack them tight, because air pockets can bring mould.
Hang your meat in an well ventilated, cool space, with 80 to 90 per cent humidity.
Steven has the perfect alcove at the rear of the house: a patio fenced in by flywire.
The casings cure for eight weeks, and the 50 kilograms of meat produced – including prosciutto, pancetta and capocollo, all made from different parts of the pig – can last a year.
Yes, Steven realises that he could buy salami at a supermarket but says his is fresher and tastier.
“There are no preservatives, and you know what’s gone into it.”
Steven looks forward to salami day and hopes his kids will too. “I love it. I absolutely love it.”
Carolyn Webb is a reporter for The Age.