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Genoa salami vs. hard salami, and prosciutto opinions

  • b

What is the difference between genoa salami and hard salami? I know genoa usually has the little peppercorns, but other than that, I find them very similar-tasting. I usually buy the cheap vacuum-sealed packets of both from Hormel (usually 3 for $5), but how much does the taste improve as you pay more for salami? Same with pepperoni -- I prefer it sliced thin and cold, rather than cooked crispy as a pizza topping, but how much better is the really expensive stuff?

I also love prosciutto -- it is probably my favorite salted, cured meat. But there's a "wet" kind and a much dryer kind that is considerably more expensive. What accounts for the price and taste difference there? I know prosciutto goes great with melon, but on the rare occasions I treat myself to a half pound from the deli, I usually end up eating the stuff plain, by itself, slice by slice... it's that damn good.

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  1. Genoa is only cured, not smoked. Hard salami is smoked.

    Genoa is mostly pork with a bit of beef. Hard salami traditionally was made with more beef than pork.

    Genoa salami was traditionally moistened with wine or grape must, which added to its comparative softness.

    Genoa is an Italian sausage. Hard salami has its origins in central Europe.

    Proscuitto di Parma and its peers (like San Daniele)are not smoked, only salted (no other flavorings or cure) and then air dried. "Proscuitto", unqualified, simply means cured ham (ham being the hind leg of pork, either fresh or cured). So you can have wet-cured proscuitto just like wet-cured (or "city") ham in the US, versus country hams (which are dry-cured and smoked in the US generally).

    2 Replies
    1. re: Karl S.
      b
      bob oppedisano

      Thanks for noting how "Genoa" type salamis are usually softer than other types. However, I know of no Italian salami that is smoked: there are such meats, of course, including speck, but for the most part, salumi are salt- and air-cured. North of the Alps and Dolomites, it's a different, smokier story.

      1. re: bob oppedisano

        Yes. My references to "hard" salami were meant to exclude French, Italian, Iberian et al. styles of firm sausages, given the context of the OP's question, which seemed inspired by the standard US delicatessen usage, where "hard" salami universally refers to smoked products in the German, Swiss, Central European fashion.

    2. It's hard to tell, but I'd guess that your "wet" prosciutto is domestic and the "dry" is imported.

      Wrap a slice around a hunk of fresh mozzerella.
      Also, try to wrap a piece of white fish with bitter greens and prosciutto and bake it. Wonderful flavor- I think it's a Charlie Trotter recipe.

      1. Wrap prosciutto around figs (cheese-filled or not) or asparagus, I put a little balsamic vinegar, parmesan, salt and pepper inside; then bake or grill it for a couple of minutes. The proscuitto will shrivel up like bacon, it makes everything taste so good.
        I usually get Hormel genoa (di lusso), but recently my deli had sicilian di lusso, also Hormel, which had the peppercorns in it, my husband had always reminisced that that was how salami used to be.
        Now proscuitto...I used to think all the di parmas were good, but then I tried the Academia brand which ruined it for me, it's really hard to find and nothing else I've ever had was so soft, it melts in your mouth. That's why I'm on a kick this summer.

        1 Reply
        1. re: coll

          I worked in a deli all through my college years- and we sold this delicious salami. Since then, it has switched owners and stopped selling it. I can't find it anywhere! It was so wonderful- I wish I could get it.

          Rockaway Park, NY (Queens)

        2. Yo Lou, ya gotta go for da real deal. Assuming you have access to a good Italian delicatessen (or even a Wegman's), ask them to let you try the different kinds of salami, both domestic and imported. I have the benefit of DiBruno brothers and other Italian purveyors here in Philly. There is a huge difference between those and the mass-produced domestic stuff like Hormel. Spend a little more. It's worth it.

          1. A word of advice on how best to enjoy Genoa (which I much prefer over hard salami): get it sliced so thin it almost looks like it has tiny holes in it. This way, it almost melts on the mouth when you slowly savor it, and does not overwhelm the palate with the taste of the cure. Makes a huge difference.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Karl S.

              This is exactly how Faicco's Pork Store in Brooklyn does it.