Readers reply: why there is no culture of salami-making in the UK? – The Guardian

Posted By on May 2, 2022

Why there is no culture of salami-making in the UK? Its not the weather, because Lombardy has worse conditions for processing than Norfolk. Lawrence Hallett

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Because of the damp climate. You need low humidity to air-cure without mould spoilage. Thats also why we dont have air-dried hams like those from Italy and Spain. merchycwm

We do make salami in the UK on an amateur basis. You actually require a minimum humidity of around 80%, otherwise the outside of the salami dries before the centre, which causes case hardening. Good salami will have a coating of mould. It needs to be the right mould, so you impregnate the salami with the appropriate one. simonhbacon

Im not sure this is true. I used to live in a very remote mountainous part of south-west China that was famous for its rain and humidity, but the country tradition of killing a pig and curing it for the winter including whole legs was very much alive (even if the pig very much wasnt). Having said that, this used to be the British tradition too, where a pig would be killed and its meat cured to last the family throughout the winter. I suppose this would have been in the form of ham and/or bacon rather than the salami-type sausages you get throughout most of Europe? Just speculation. BluebellWood

Ive just read something from a British charcuterie-maker, a family firm started in the early 19th century, who reckons there was a big tradition of British air-dried pork products, but it didnt survive the industrial revolution. Le74

Im sure the weather must have something to do with it. Here in Spain, for example, chorizo and morcilla (black pudding) are normally salt-dried, whereas in Asturias and the north (where it rains even more than in parts of UK), it is traditionally smoked. Likewise, people in the north dont eat as much cured ham because it doesnt keep with the damp climate. David Smith

I would have thought that the UK climate was usually not severe enough to prevent feeding pigs then slaughtering for fresh meat. Salami-type sausages are basically a way of preserving meat to last the winter. Geoffrey Peter

Its definitely not a question of the weather Germany does have a salami culture and has a lot less mild weather than the UK. However, the lack of homegrown salami ties in with a general lack charcuterie in the UK. Many European countries have long and consequently comprehensive traditions of charcuterie, of which salami is just a tiny part. In the UK, this sort of thing is limited to cooked ham and to sausages that taste more of bread than actual British bread. So the correct question wouldnt be why the UK has no culture of salami-making, but rather why the UK doesnt have many different, local types of charcuterie.

I have no idea it might be because agriculture was industrialised much, much earlier in the UK than on the continent. On the continent, farmers processed their own products until shortly after the second world war, whereas I assume in the UK the processing was industrialised and outsourced a lot sooner. Doing the processing yourself lends itself to the development of many, very regional types of charcuterie.

I can only speak for Germany, but to this day farmers that otherwise work in a farming cooperative will raise one or two pigs and when they are slaughtered on the farm, not in a slaughterhouse their meat is made into local types of charcuterie. Often this is accompanied by a feast where others are invited, and various pork products are afterwards gifted to friends. Additionally, in central Europe, charcuterie is part of the traditional breakfast alongside cheese (and widely available with butchers and supermarkets), and, at least in Germany, its also part of the evening meal (the main meal of the day is the midday meal, so the evening meal is not cooked). Youll want some variety of sliced meats you can put on bread if you eat two meals of this kind per day.

In the UK, cheese and charcuterie have little to do with breakfast, and most Brits I know eat either predominantly in the form of cheese and/or charcuterie boards. There was a time when there was very little variety of cheeses in the UK, but cheesemaking has undergone a revival, and many (but not all) traditional types of cheese are produced again. Maybe charcuterie will undergo such a revival too at some point and local types of charcuterie will flourish. kate7805

In the 1960s, Jane Grigson was writing about the lower-fat content of British pigs becoming less suitable for charcuterie. The prize in breeding and husbandry had seen as lower fat content for most of the 20th century. Official reports had reinforced the trend by suggesting a concentration on just three breeds for British pigs that would concentrate on production of fresh pork and bacon.

The result was the disappearance of higher-fat traditional breeds, such as the Lincolnshire curly coat and the Cumberland, and much of the tradition of preserved pork products that would expect a higher fat content. Made with modern breeds, some of the speciality pork products do continue, such as Cumberland sausage and Lincolnshire chine, but theyre not quite the same product as would be seen 100 years ago. leadballoon

Looking at the question from the other end, it may also have something to do with the easy availability of salt in Britain. With coastlines handy for almost everywhere, and the Cheshire salt mines as well, salt could easily be traded in large quantities throughout the country look how many roads and footpaths are still called Saltergate or Salters Lane and nobody needed to go to the effort of preserving meat in the form of air-dried sausages, which would, as pointed out above, have been a risky business in our damp, maritime climate. SpoilheapSurfer

This is a query rather than an answer, but I understand that the Inquisition required households to keep some pork products in store as a proof of not being Jewish. As Britain had no Jews (until relatively recently), having expelled them in the early middle ages, perhaps there was not as much of a driver to keep pork in long-term storage, and it could be used up as and when available? Paulo777

Ive certainly read that the reason Spanish cuisine is heavily based on pork products was that a sausage a day kept the Inquisition away. Not sure that the rest of the theory holds water, though, as the period during which Jews were banned from England was relatively short: the ban was repealed during the Commonwealth in the mid-17th century. SpoilheapSurfer

The Irish dont do salami either, but we do make a lovely cured pork shoulder, which I have not seen elsewhere in the world. Then there is black pudding and white pudding (mmmm) which is nothing like German cold black pudding blutwurst (dont even try to fry it, retch). Gobsheisse

Just an idea, but in my part of Italy, where people (including my own extended family) still make their own salami, almost all houses have deep stone cellars, where cheese is aged and cured meats are hung. It could be that salami-making is linked to a mixture of common architectural traditions and climate (temperature swings extremes of cold and/or heat).

In these cellars, the temperature stays around 12C during summer and winter (although outside in winter the temperature drops to below -10C and in the summer rises to well over 30C), day and night, and the humidity needs to be quite stable too. It would have been impossible to store food properly in summer or winter in sheds or even parlours.

In the building Im in right now, some of the cellars are three storeys underground, and thats true throughout the town. valleyhumanoid

This is a great article with a bit of marketing right at the very end but quite fascinating. Clough, Damian

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Readers reply: why there is no culture of salami-making in the UK? - The Guardian

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