One of the musts for Easter lunch in many parts of Italy, and certainly in my family, is the antipasto of boiled eggs, salami, oil preserves, especially artichokes and often one or more savoury Easter breads. Excluding the bread, what I like the most is the salami. A few different kinds can be served at the same time and everyone tries and decides for a favourite. Here in Germany there are quite a few nice salamis but none that can compete with Italian ones, at least according to the opinion of my patriotic taste buds :-). The risk of spending a sad salami free Easter was swept away by the arrival, some days ago, of a packet from Italy, containing, along a few other delicacies, three different salami. I didn't really manage to resist till Sunday and had to open at least one: the Salame Felino.
The Italian "felino" translates into the English "feline", but don't worry. Unlike what someone jokingly brought me to believe as a young boy, there's not cat in this salami, only nice and delicious pork. Felino in this case is the name of the town which gave birth to this pork product. This town is situated in the Parma province, today sadly more on the papers for the Parmalat bankruptcy than for the great number of delicious food products typical of the area. This salami has a quite long history. It is praised in some publications from the XIX century, making it one of the oldest salami specifically linked to a certain region. As a matter of fact a big part of the Parma province presents the ideal climate for dry curing meats, giving us delicacies that start from many different salami kinds, to the fantastic culatello and finishing with the famous Prosciutto di Parma (just to name a few).
The Salame Felino is characterised by its long cylindrical shape (50 or more cm long and 5 thick) with slightly swollen ends. It is made up of 75% lean pork meat and 25% pork fat which are cut, mixed together and flavoured with sea salt, whole black pepper and small amounts of saltpetre. Some producers add a very small amount of garlic macerated in white wine too. The mixture is then used to fill natural pork casings, tied in the typical shape and left to ripen for at least a month. Real fans will buy it young and let it ripen further. I was never able to resist :-).
Traditionally the salami is cut into slices that should be so thick as to hold one single pepper grain and the slices should be cut at 60 degrees to the salami axis. This apparently excessive detail is important when cutting young salami in general. Using this technique the salami meat will not "crumble" but instead remain together when cut into slices. I usually follow these tips, especially regarding the slice thickness: this way you'll be able to sample the full flavour of the salami with each slice. In this case that means a pleasant flavour of the cured pork meat without too many other flavourings to distract your taste buds. A flavour that great goes together with some simple crusty country style white bread and with light red or rose' wines.