The guest writers for this, and the next blog are Aida Innocente and her uncle and aunt, Gino and Mary Innocente. They have documented the steps in the processes of the annual custom of making salamis.
Gino Innocente arrived in Australia from Caselle di Altivole in November 1954. He was 17. He lived with his brother Angelo and sister-in-law Elsa in White Avenue, Lockleys till he married Mary Rusalen in 1963. Mary had migrated with her family from Fossalon near Trieste in 1950. The Rusalen family were originally from Istria. Gino and Mary moved into the house they built on Carlo Street, off Frogmore Road, after the wedding.
Gino and Mary shared their memories of making salamis with their niece Aida. The words in italics denote the Veneto dialect (v.) or Italian name for the item described.
The autumn killing of the pig was an important tradition in Italy. Contadini (peasants or country people) reared the piglet. All families had a pigsty. The pig products gave rural families an important food boost for the entire year. Nothing was wasted: the head (scrogno v.), the feet, the ears, the bones, even the tail were eaten. The blood was used to make a torta (cake). The blood was caught when the pig was slaughtered, and the torta was made immediately. It was a sponge-like, soft cake. The lard was encased and the tallow (strut v. or dezfrit v.) was clarified and put in jars. Both were used in place of oil. Lard was also used for making soap. In Australia excess lard was often thrown away! Gino remembers that one year there were over 100 kilos of lard from the two pigs they had bought from a farmer in Virginia who promptly took 40 kilos off the final price.
In Italy there was a tax on killing pigs. The dazier (v.) from the Comune (local Council) wasn’t a well-liked official!
In Australia salami making occurred in May and June. The process involved several stages.
Firstly, the pig was sourced. Pig farmers from Mount Compass and the Bolivar area (often clients of Angelo’s half-case company), were used. Three months before the salami-making day the pig was chosen. Male pigs were preferred. The meat of sows is considered tougher. If the sow is in season the salami will go bad. This would also delay the salami-making.
The farmer was advised one week before the pig was required as he arranged the slaughter with the abattoir. In the early years the farmer himself would slaughter the pig! The carcass was taken home in two halves and hung in the shed overnight.
The week leading to the salami making was very busy. Salt, pepper, different sized casings all had to be procured. A local Findon butcher and in later years Master Butchers were our suppliers. Casings are the intestines of animals. Ox bungs were used for capocollo (cured meat from the neck or shoulder – we added the fillet to the capocollo) and pancetta (cured belly of pork); ox middles for salamis and smaller casings for sausages. Sheep bungs were used for the sopresse (aged large salamis). Casings are full of salt and Gino’s job was to wash them thoroughly. Lemon and vinegar were added to the final rinse. You had to order more than needed as you could not afford to run out of casings!
The shed was cleaned; the copper prepped for the boiling water required throughout the day (keeping the hot water coming was Mary’s job on the day) and a big hole was dug in the backyard where all excesses were buried. Cloths used to dry the skins and all things organic also went in the hole. Lockleys has sandy soil and unbelievably by the next year everything had decomposed. Angelo dug the hole in the same place every year for almost half a century!
Gino made salamis every year from 1957 till 2014.
It was an important Italian tradition that was carried on in Australia. The Veneti in our community had great pride in their salamis and everyone thought their salamis were the best. There was a lot of healthy rivalry. Guests, when they came to visit, in fiò (v), were offered bread and salami for supper. Nothing could be better. Serving the capocollo for the first time was always a special occasion shared with family and friends because it was the most prized of the pig’s produce!
In the next blog we will describe what happened on the salami-making day!
Aida, Gino and Mary Innocente
2 May 2021