Salami is one of the most famous of all Italian ingredients and forms part of antipasto platters and pizza toppings up and down the peninsula. Travelling around Italy however, once again, you notice that every region has its own variations and varieties. Perhaps the most famous Tuscan salami, and certainly my favourite, is finocchiona, a pork and red wine salami flavoured with fennel, a combination that has to be tasted to be believed.
Tuscan salami tends to be quite piccante with the same kind of mouth-puckering kick that you get from a good mature Cheddar cheese. Couple that with the sweet, incense like, fragrance of fennel and you have a match made in … well apparently made in a hedgerow! As with most Italian food, there is a story, this time about a thief, a salami, and a fennel bush. The thief stole the salami from the market in Prato, near Florence, and having been chased out of the town, threw it into a hedgerow. When he came back for it the next day, it was infused with the scent of fennel as it had landed in a bush. Another theory is that some butchers used fennel seeds in the salami as they couldn’t afford black peppercorns and people liked the taste.
Finocchiona comes in all shapes and sizes from small compact sausages, about 5 cms (2 inches) in diameter, to looser grain larger sausages about 15 cms (6 inches) in diameter. Although ubiquitous here, finocchiona can be quite hard to find outside Tuscany. However, if you want to try the flavour for yourself, try sprinkling a few fennel seeds on top of some salami on top of a home made pizza. You’ll see what I mean.
Have you tried finocchiona? Would love to hear what you think. What’s your favourite Italian salami?
Here’s a link to an article on how finocchiona is made from Tuscanycious.