Similar to salami, soppressata has its own tradition, taste, and history. From its robust flavors to a snappy texture, the meat is undeniably irresistible and enhances whichever recipe it becomes a part of. Fortunately, one doesn't necessarily have to be a foodie to have tried a bunch of Italian meats and determined why soppressata is indeed the best among them. If you've ever tried Italian cuisine, you may already be familiar with this type of meat. If you aren't, here's a guide to introduce you to the finest meat in the Italian culinary world.
What Is Soppressata?
Soppressata is a creation of the southern regions of Italy, including Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia, Molise, and Abruzzo. Due to the distinct method behind its creation, the meat has an oblong shape. Pressing Italian meats is a crucial part of preparing them, and with soppressata, the process takes about a week.
As the pride of many southern regions in Italy, this meat comes in a variety of flavors. There's also diversity in the choice of pork meat cuts in different places. For example, some people only use a knife for cutting it.
The Importance of the D.O.P Label
D.O.P. stands for Denomination of Protected Origin, and the certification ensures the strictest production standards for preparing the meat. Furthermore, it also ensures that the meat is prepared only in certain geographical areas.
Hence, Sopressata di Calabria (D.O.P.) has to be made in Calabria with pork from locally-raised hogs. Similarly, other areas, such as Gioj in Puglia, boast lean pork meat with a small lard piece placed in the center. All in all, the process of curing Italian meats is different across different regions.
How Is it Made?
Since it's a mixture of minced pork, people often season it with a variety of ingredients such as dried chili peppers, salt, and black peppercorns, to name a few. Some people also like adding red wine to give it another layer of flavor. Nonetheless, experimenting with this type of meat is relatively easier and often does not go wrong. In fact, the wine and spices together create a rather colorful spectrum.
While it is a hallmark of southern Italian kitchens, it has a number of variations. Some recipes include chili pepper paste, while others include fennel seeds. Regardless of the recipe, the final mixture goes into synthetic or natural casings.
Interestingly, the name soppressata also comes from the flat and oblong shape of the meat. Those who prepare it also press it between weights for days before hanging it dry for two to six months.
Types of Italian Meats
Salami is a type of cured sausage made using ground or minced lean meat and fat. Salamis are also made using meats from turkey, goose, and wild boar. Soppressata, coppa and mortadella are only some of the many salamis of Italy.
This slab of pork leg is usually cold-smoked which is what makes it different from other meats in the region. Other cured Italian meats are rarely smoked.
Prosciutto is a type of ham that is aged and salted but never smoked. Different regions in Italy prepare it differently. Hence, the names also differ across different regions. For instance, Prosciutto di Parma and Prosciutto di Modena are hams in the Emilia Romagna region, whereas Prosciutto Toscana is more prominent in Tuscany.
Pancetta is prominently referred to as the bacon of Italy, but it is usually unsmoked. This spiced and salted pork belly meat is often rolled into a cylinder-like shape and then aged.
As a specialty of the northern regions of Italy, Cotechino is prepared as a cured pork sausage.
This meat is a specialty of the southern regions of Italy, where people cure, age, and pepper it adequately.
Soppressata Vs Salami
While soppressata is a type of salami, it differs from the latter due to its leaner cuts. The long pressing also leads to a unique oblong shape, whereas salami usually comes in a cylindrical shape and contains ground meat.
Even though the curing process is pretty much the same for both meats, soppressata and salami differ in a number of ways. Salami does not have a defined and unique shape, and you can also prepare it with different ingredients, such as by mixing fat with lean pork meat and adding spices to it.
Soppressata Vs Pepperoni
The method of preparing old-world pepperoni involves stuffing the ground meat into a sheep's intestine. On the other hand, American-style pepperoni is shaped through a synthetic casing.
With soppressata, there are also a number of options to choose from, but the ingredients vastly depend on the region. The typical Calabrian cured meat contains salt and pepper that strengthen its flavor brilliantly.
When it comes to Italian meats, you can count on both pepperoni and soppressata to treat your palate. While they're both ready-to-eat products, soppressata usually comes pre-cooked, which makes it easier to consume.
Similarly, it is also easily recognizable, thanks to its distinctive oblong shape. Furthermore, the week-long pressing process flattens the meat and removes air bubbles.
Its firm texture and thicker consistency certainly set it apart from other types of meat and also make it chewier. While pepperoni can only be seasoned with peppers, sugar, and salt, this oddly shaped meat has various spices, from garlic and red wine to rosemary and cinnamon.
Soppressata Vs Capicola
While the two Italian meats are more similar than different, the differences certainly stand out. While capicola is aged for about six months, soppressata is only aged for about a month. The former only uses the shoulder of pork, whereas the latter can consist of more parts, including filets or scraps.
Similarly, you can have capicola as an addition to a meal but soppressata as a complete appetizer. The seasoning also differs in many ways. There are a number of ways to season soppressata, but with capicola, the choices are limited (mainly paprika and wine). Another rather crucial distinction is that of the casing. For salami, it's less wide than soppressata.
Types of Soppressata
Unlike other Italian meats, soppressata has a wide range of varieties you can choose from. Here are some of them:
Soppressata di Basilicata
Traditionally prepared in Calabria, Apulia, and Basilicata, "di Basilicata" is the only variety of this meat which has a protected designation badge. This means you can only find it in the areas above.
Soppressata di Calabria
Preparing "di Calabria" can be quite a challenge as it requires pigs over eight months old and over 308 lbs in weight. You cannot freeze the meat beforehand, and you can only use meat from the shoulder and ham.
Traditional to Liguria and Tuscany, this type of is vastly different from other types of the same meat. It uses a huge chunk of leftover pig products instead of picking the meat cuts carefully. This means it includes the entire head. Furthermore, it is also larger than traditional salami and has extensive white marbling.
Why Should You Pick Soppressata Over Other Italian Meats?
For one, it's a traditional deli meat that you can use as a topping or filling for absolutely anything. You can also accentuate its flavor by pairing it with additional ingredients such as cheese. Not all Italian meats go well with different pairings, but this certainly does.
That isn't it. It also makes a wonderful pizza topping, and you can use the spicy variety of this meat as a substitute for pepperoni. The bold flavor is only one characteristic that sets it apart from its counterparts. In fact, many chefs also prefer slicing it thicker than salami so they can highlight the grind of the meat.
Despite having an intense flavor profile, soppressata pairs extremely well with other flavors. For one, it goes well with most cheeses except the salty ones. Then, unlike other meats, you can also add a hint of a sweet element to it, such as jam or honey. You can also swap your usual meat of choice for this meat in pasta or risotto.
Health Benefits of Soppressata
It adds a lot of nutritional value to your diet. It has crucial B vitamins that help your body metabolize energy from everything you consume effectively. Apart from Vitamin B1 and B2, it also contains D.R.I. (Dietary Reference Intake) for Vitamin B12.
There are small quantities of magnesium and iron, along with zinc, also present in a single serving of the meat. However, the amount of sodium in soppressata can be detrimental to health if you consume the meat excessively.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it's important to limit sodium consumption to 2,300 mg each day. Too much sodium can result in high blood pressure and eventual water retention.
However, soppressata can be a great choice for those looking to limit their consumption of carbohydrates. It may also depend on whether the meat you buy has used sugar in the seasoning mix. It is possible to boost your carb intake by pairing the meat with something else.
Storing It Is Relatively Easier
In the past, people chose to store many Italian meats, including soppressata, in jars with olive oil. However, today, that isn't the case. Thanks to refrigerators, it's much easier to store them and ensure that it doesn't dry out. All you need to do is wrap it in parchment paper, and you'll have fresh meat for an extended period right at your disposal.
It Has a Variety of Flavors
The flavor of this meat varies from area to area. Some varieties taste savory, while others taste sweeter. Depending on the spices in its seasoning, the flavor profile can differ across different regions. However, most varieties tend to have a bearable spicy kick since dry chili flakes are a common component of their seasoning.
You Can Eat It Raw
People often wonder if it's safe to eat meat raw. Luckily, the answer is yes. All you need to do is slice it not too thin or thick and then remove the peel before eating it. Furthermore, adding it to healthier treats such as potato salads or roasted green beans can also take the recipe up a notch.
It's safe to conclude that Italian meats are some of the finest meats in the world. While the process of preparing and storing them can be challenging, the recipes you can create with them are endless. This is why soppressata is one of the most sought-after meats in the culinary world.
From traditional to modern cuisines, it adds a variety of flavors and textures to several recipes. Furthermore, nothing beats its supremacy when it comes to using it as a filling or topping for absolutely anything. With a wealth of flavors, tradition, and history, soppressata is indeed one of the best Italian meats in the world.