Salami is used as an umbrella term for a variety of cooked, smoked or cured sausages in the U.S., where the field is dominated by a handful of styles. Genoa, hard and cotto salamis are some of the most likely to grace to the deli counter, each with its own distinct characteristic. In Italy, however, the names of individual sausages such as soppressatta, coppa or bresaola are more likely to be used.
Cold Cut Favorite
Ask for a salami sandwich, and the chances are you will be served with thin slices of Genoa salami, an air-dried, hard sausage made from pork and veal, seasoned with garlic, pepper and red wine.
Unlike Parma ham, which is protected by origin, Genoa salami has no close affiliation with the northern Italian port city. Rather, it is an adaptation of a sausage produced in a province of Liguria, and is more delicate and aromatic than spicier southern Italian salamis, such as Calabria’s salami picante or soppressatta.
As with sausages produced in Tuscany, where the summers are long and hot, Genoa salami is air dried. Further north, where the climate is colder and more humid, smoking tends to be the norm [New Yorker].
Genoa is also finely ground, with small flecks of fat and a smooth, greasy finish. The garlic aroma is unmistakable, while some versions incorporate peppercorns for spice.
As its name suggests in Italian, cotto salami is cooked rather than cured. Most closely associated with the Piedmont region, but adapted all over the world, cotto is softer than a cured salami. Presented as large, artificially cased sausages, cotto is made from coarsely chopped pork, beef and offal, using the cheaper cuts, such as pork shoulder, along with chunks of chopped lard. The appetizing flourish comes from plenty of garlic and seasonings, including nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.
Originally, cotto was stuffed into natural intestines and cooked in steam ovens, but many of the leading brands in the U.S. serve it in modest rounds with packaging or casing that needs to be removed.
Eastern European Style
Hard salami is another broad term that can cover a range of sausages not vastly dissimilar to Genoa salami in appearance. However, this is a smoked sausage, usually preferring beef to pork, more closely associated with Eastern and Central Europe than Italy. Introduced by German immigrants to the U.S., many of whom were Kosher, hard salami is dark and garlicky, often with a peppercorn crust.
- Because Genoa and hard salamis are cured, they can be stored at room temperature. Cotto, on the other hand, needs to be refrigerated. The mold covering on Genoa and hard salamis with a natural casing is edible, but for sandwiches, the casing is best removed.
- Chilling Genoa and hard salami makes them easier to slice into thin rounds, either for sandwiches or to roll up for antipasto. Thin slicing also releases the aromas better.
- Cotto salami can be cut into slices or cubes and eaten cold, but comes into its own in grilled cheese sandwiches. In places such as the Dominican Republic, salami is sliced and fried for breakfast, or chopped into cubes and simmered in a stew.