SALT LAKE CITY, June 6, 2014 — When it comes to traditionally made Italian salami and prosciutto, Utah is not the first or even the fiftieth place a food hound would think to look. Yet, tucked into the northwest corner of Salt Lake City, you will find Creminelli Fine Meats, a salumi operation straight out of Italy.
Cristiano Creminelli exported himself to the United States in 2006 from his hometown of Biella after discovering the American market was wide open for traditionally made salami, prosciutto, and other Italian cured meats. Making artisanal salumi has been the family business for over 400 years. If asked, Creminelli will say that he has always known that this would be his life’s work.
When he is not tinkering and adjusting the ventilation system that pumps mountain air to the curing rooms, Creminelli is experimenting with new salami recipes, producing such winners as whiskey salami, made with local High West Distillery’s “Son of Bourye,” and a salami made with the god of all meats, bacon. Bacon is his favorite American food discovery, and this is sweet serendipity for salami enthusiasts everywhere.
At Creminelli’s the entire process is carefully controlled from the breed of pig, the Duroc, down to the hand-tying of the strings at each end of the salami. Duroc pigs are a heritage breed very similar to the prosciutto pigs available in Italy. These piggies are raised happy in open pastures, without ever ingesting growth hormones, or antibiotics.
The no-antibiotic rule gets down to the nitty-gritty of salami making science. Traditional Italian salami is cured with salt and herbs and fermented with a lactobacillus culture. Any antibiotic residue in the meat would disrupt the delicate process of the bacterial action.
Salamis are cured and dried at ambient temperature following methods that have been practiced since Roman times—never cooked (except for a few varieties)—and nitrates are never added.
The curing process occurs in ventilated rooms, where moisture is removed from the meats, resulting in a shelf-stable product. The salamis are shelf-stable in the sense that if you want to throw one in your backpack for a hiking trip, no problem. The same rules of freshness for cheeses apply to salami—refrigeration is not required for a day or so. Since the salami has an active bacterial culture, like yogurt, keeping it cold retards the growth of the bacteria.
Too much warmth for too long will result in ammonia build-up as the bacteria overgrow, and the salami will become unpalatable.
Traditionally cured meats can smell funny to American noses. The smell comes from the bacteria and highly desirable mold that grows on the outside of the salami casing while it cures. The mold belongs to the penicillin family and enhances the flavor. Though the smell can seem sketchy, it is the same thing you find with fine cheese.
Give that Camambert de Normandie a big sniff the next time you have some. The smell will be atrocious, but the flavor divine. It is the same story for traditionally cured meats.
When you purchase cured salami, it comes with the powdery mold still on it. This is perfectly normal; just remove the casing before eating. Creminelli demonstrates the proper way to slice and eat salami in this video.
American salami is semi-cured at a high temperature which means it is cooked. It has a strong vinegary tang not found in its Italian progenitors. When tasting Creminelli’s fine Italian salami, you will find a vast range of flavors. Some are mild, and soft such as the Milano. The Campania with its gentle heat that hits you slowly on the back end of the bite is dreamy on a pizza.
The Tartufo is quite possibly the most brilliant of Creminelli’s salami creations with a subtle earthiness that when combined with a slice of parmigiana reggiano, brings you to a point of overwhelming deliciousness that is almost painful.
The tradition of Italian salumi does not start and stop with salami. Whole cuts of meat, both pork and beef are cured with salt and air dried to perfection. Creminelli’s prosciutto crudo is made from whole hams that are salted, never cooked, and then cured for at least ten months.
The resultant product is silky smooth with snow white fat from the cap on the outer portion of the ham while the meat is rosy with a very salty and sweet almost honeyed finish. Creminelli’s prosciutto is a masterstroke addition to any dish from pizza to breakfast sandwich, elevating the mundane to the exceptional.
Creminelli Fine Meats ships straight from the factory for those of you not lucky enough to live in Utah.
Father’s Day is coming up and Creminelli’s has a gift pack, “The Padre” with three salamis: Wild Boar, Whiskey, and Bacon. Yes, this year, you will be dad’s favorite.
With 400 years of family artisanship backing him up, Cristiano Creminelli has changed the food landscape of Salt Lake City. Since he set up shop, problems associated with importation are now gone and Italian salumi is fresher and better than it has ever been.
It is possible that being in America grants Creminelli new latitude to experiment with flavor combinations and ingredients that would have been harder to pull off back home. Traditional or experimental they are all works of art and customers can’t seem to get enough of Creminelli’s creations.
The story of salami as told by Cristiano Creminelli: