If I was to get all swanky on ya, I would call this salami “finocchiona salami”, however whenever I use some authentic name I seem to get emails from twerps telling me that it isn’t in fact XYZ because of this this and this. So I am not going to.
To be a true finocchiona it should have both fennel pollen and fennel seed in. I doubt the port should be in there either. No doubt it also has to be made by a certain old man named Giovanni who lives in a hut in the back of Tuscany somewhere. You can only contact him by a secret bird call, and he will only make finocchiona salami when he has the exact breed of pig required and at the right time of year so that the one certain kind of natural mold will settle on said salami, which of course gives it is characteristic taste.
I am guessing only part of that is true..
As with all historic Italian food, its origins are somewhat shaky at best, and often involve a story of love, betrayal or both. This time, the story goes that a thief stole a salami (thieves in Italy never steal Ferrari’s apparently, just salami) and ran from the bungling coppers. He hid the salami in a field of fennel (I shit you not) and when he came back to it months later he found the salami was scented with fennel.
However the whole fennel salami started, I know one thing – it tastes bloody fantastic, poetic story or not.
This here be mine and Becky Selengut’s version of the classic. The more I cure the more I like to cut flavors right down and keep it simple. Start with great pork and work with just a couple of flavors at the most. When dealing with whole muscle cuts like lonzino or bresaola I have even stopped using any herbs or spices at all – just salt and pepper. Let the pork shine people!
So here we are just talking fennel and white port. The white port was really an afterthought to be honest. We opened the fridge to get the pork out, and saw the bottle of white port Becky brought over a long time ago to do a previous salami with. OH! fennel and port we thought. That cannot be bad. Turns out it really isn’t.
Most of us know fennel seed pretty well. A lovely pungent anise flavor that can be a bit of brute if not treated with a delicate hand. Fennel pollen is more like it’s quiet brother, not as in your face but far more interesting once you get to know him. Fennel pollen is much more delicate and gentle than the seed. It is also far more complex. It has layers of flavor that a fennel seed just doesn’t have. Course all of this will often yield a relatively high price tag for the stuff, which isn’t so good because frankly the stuff is really addictive. Thankfully a meat curing mate of mine runs a great food imports business online and has some great stuff at rock bottom prices. Thanks Scott! (also perhaps one of the best company names out there.. go check it out to see).
So. that is it really. A simple thick salami cured with fennel pollen and white port. I cannot even begin to tell you how happy this salami makes me. It is light, clean on the palate, rich from the hand cut fat pieces and just absolutely perfect for a spring picnic (or setting by the sodding fire trying to warm up, because here in Seattle we have had the coldest, wettest April on record).
Fennel pollen and white port salami recipe
1) In this recipe the fat is hand cut. You can grind it if you like, but you won’t get such awesome separation of meat and fat.
2) The directions here are more of an overview – for detailed instructions on how to make salami at home, read my post here – the technique is the same, just different herbs.
3) Some ingredients are given as a percentage of the trimmed meat+fat weight. You will need to work out how much you need for you given meat+fat weight.
pork shoulder, trimmed of sinew and most fat – 4lb
pork fat back – 1lb
total meat weight – 5lb
kosher salt – 3%
cure #2 – 0.25%
Dextrose – 0.5%
Sugar – 0.2%
freshly ground black pepper – 0.4%
fennel pollen – 0.65%
T-SPX fermentation culture – 2teaspoons
Distilled water – 1/4 cup
white port – 1/4 cup
beef middle casings – 6 ft or so
1) soak the casings overnight in cold water. Rinse a couple of times during soaking, change water once. rinse casings through
2) Cut the pork shoulder in to 1″ cubes
3) Hand cut the back fat in to 1/4″ cubes, or if grinding cut in to 1″ cubes
4) mix the salt, cure2, dextrose, sugar, pepper, fennel pollen together in a small bowl
5) mix the pork shoulder very thoroughly with the spice mix
6) dissolve the T-SPX in the distilled water – let sit for 30 minutes to “wake up”
7) grind the meat through the large die, grind fat if not hand diced
7) Add the the TSPX solution and white port to the meat+ fat mix
8.) Using a mixer, or your hands, mix the meat until the meat gets sticky and seems to bind together well
9) Stuff into the beef middle casings, squeezing down as you go to get a tight pack
10) Prick casings to remove any air bubbles
11) hang to ferment at 75F 90% humidity with some air movement for 36hours.
12) Check pH – you want something between 5.0 and 5.3
13) if pH is good, hang to dry at 55F 75% humidity for about a month – or until salami feels hard throughout and has lost at least 35% of its starting weight. If pH is still high, let ferment for another 12 hours, and retest.
All of these specialist ingredients can be ordered online at: