For Love of Sopressata

While standing in front of a deli counter at the Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver, B.C., I fell in love with sopressata. The deli guy handed me a piece of the dark, red meat and the lively aroma reached my nose even at an arm’s length. It was thinly sliced and I couldn’t resist the desire to hold it up to the light to peer through it – a red and white stained glass window. The flavor exploded as it landed in my mouth: pork, garlic, red pepper flakes, and a crunch of peppercorn. I licked my fingers and ordered a pound. And there began my fascination with sopressata.

The dried, cured sausage is soft, not hard, somewhat like a pepperoni and often called a salami. In Rome, a cheerful, old butcher told me that in some parts of Italy it is known as a “poor man’s” salami – made from the leftover cuts of the pig. So far, my favorite “slice” came from a little storefront shop on Corso Italia street, in Piano di Sorrento, in the south of Italy. It just so happens that the best focaccia I’ve ever tasted came from the same shop. The memory of those flavors is still vivid.

Though I often recreate the meals I’ve eaten in restaurants, I’ve not yet had the courage to try my hand at curing, mostly because poisoning my friends and family with botulism is a very real possibility. On his blog, Notes from the Food World, Michael Ruhlman posted a recipe adapted from his book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, for making sopressata. Ruhlman, a food god, is also the author of The French Laundry Cookbook, that I previously blogged about. Like a professional athlete, Ruhlman makes it look so easy. But I’m a smart girl and I know my limitations, so for now, until Ruhlman wants to invite me over to make it with him, I’ll stick to buying sopressata wherever I can find it.




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