You must arrive at a Burns family event close to the declared start time if you hope to get any of the salami on offer.

My dad typically manages to procure a home-made link cured by a local Italian cousin for whom he’s done a favor. My brother flies home to the Northeast through Albany so he can swing by the importer in Schenectady who sells a Genoa salami he’s been eating since attending college in that city 20 years ago. And I bring one or two samples of the growing number of excellent salamis being made by farmers and butchers in Maine.

Thinly sliced salami. With the new tariffs in place, you can feel especially virtuous about eating it. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

We cut each cured sausage into paper thin slices as Italian custom requires, but there isn’t one of the 23 (and growing) members of what I consider to be my immediate family who doesn’t love the stuff. So it goes fast.

Historically, salami consumption was widespread among southern, eastern and central European peasants because it can be stored at room temperature indefinitely if whole and for up to 40 days once cut, thereby supplementing their meager or inconsistent supply of fresh meat. While we Burnses are partial to salamis made in line with our Italian heritage (the surname is now Irish, but our food traditions hew more closely to the Bartini and Farina maternal lines), many countries across Europe make their own traditional varieties, changing up the meat and spices.

The basic process requires just a few elements: meat, natural or man-made cultures, salt and time. The meat is ground. The cultures and salt in combination allow the meat to ferment and cure, respectively. The meat is then stuffed into casings, and the sausages are hung in a heat- and humidity-controlled environment to age between 2 days and 10 weeks, according to the style.

“I have to pat myself on the back every time an Italian family comes back to our market stall and buys a second salami. That signals that we’re on the right track,” says Yasmin Kuhn. Kuhn and her partner, Stewart White, began making Italian, Spanish and Turkish salamis three years ago using the meat from the Large Black, Red Wattle, Yorkshire, Hampshire and Mangalitsa pigs they raise on their Winterport farm; the land has been in White’s family for over 400 years.

One could argue that sustainability is at the heart of the whole of charcuterie’s centuries-old tradition because it typically involves taking less desirable cuts of meat and transforming them it into a tasty product so that no part of the animal goes to waste.

In this climate of tit for tat international trade tariffs, buying cured pork products is also a step that salami-loving consumers can take to help sustain their local pork providers (as if you needed an excuse to buy good salami). In retaliation to the tariffs President Trump placed on some Chinese imports this year, pork going to China from the United States now faces a 62 percent tariff. It’s a tax that both makes American pork too expensive for consumers in China and creates a glut of domestic pork here, in turn driving the price down so far that American farmers can’t cover their costs of producing it.

Before making salami, Kuhn and White could sell their whole pigs at auction for about 50 cents a pound. “We’d be lucky to get five cents now,” Kuhn said. Making value-added products like salami and selling it for $25 per pound on the farm, on-line at whitesfarmmaine.com, and at the Blue Hill and Marsh River co-ops, sustains their business.

Other Maine outfits making salami from Maine-raised pork, beef and goat include Asmallgood in Rockland, Charcuterie in Unity, Dragonfly Cove Farm in Dresden Mills, Mistybrook Farm in Albion, Piper Ranch in Buckfield and Smith’s Log Smokehouse in Monroe. Buying a little locally made salami can go a long way.

CHRISTINE BURNS RUDALEVIGE is a food writer, recipe developer and tester and cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport based on these columns. She can be contacted at [email protected]

Local Salami and Fennel Pizza
Thinly slicing the salami, fresh mozzarella and fresh fennel is the trick to this pie.

Makes 1 (14-inch) pizza

All-purpose flour for dusting
1 ball of pizza dough
Cornmeal for dusting
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
Pinch of chili flakes
16 very thin slices of local salami
8 thin slices of fresh mozzarella
2 tablespoons grated local hard cheese
1 fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
Handful of picked parsley leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Place a pizza stone on a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface to a 14-inch circle. Transfer the dough to a pizza peel dusted with cornmeal.

Spread the tomato sauce evenly over the base, leaving the edges uncovered. Sprinkle crushed fennel seeds and chili flakes over the sauce. Arrange the salami and mozzarella evenly around the surface and sprinkle grated cheese over the whole pie. Slide the pizza onto the hot stone and bake until the toppings are bubbling and sizzling, and the crust is brown and crisp, 8-10 minutes.

While the pizza is baking, toss the fresh fennel and parsley leaves with the oil, lemon juice, salt and black pepper.

Removed the cooked pizza from oven. Top with the dressed fennel. Slice and serve immediately.

Comments are not available on this story.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.