Zampone, The Lesser-Known Grail of Italian Salumi

If you could make caviar from hogs instead of sturgeon, this is what it would taste like. Incredibly rich, dense, and enveloping, zampone sausage is like a rare specialty. But like many of the best meat dishes, its flavours come not from maxing out your credit card, but from slowly cooking some of the cheapest cuts. Be forewarned; unlike our previous fish taco and banh mi recipes, you may be hard-pressed to produce this at home without your own meat grinder.

My friend Shane’s apprenticeship at The Whole Beast has lead him through some culinary adventures, like drilling holes through a perfectly good refrigerator in order to dry-cure sausages. The 2012 cookbook Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing has been a particularly fond companion. Yes, that’s spelled correctly—the commonly known “salami” is a subcategory of salumi, a term that covers all types of Italian cured meats, including mortadella, prosciutto, and pancetta.

The hardbound edition opens to the glossy photo insert of pork leg, plump from poaching and glazed from braising—a traditional Christmas-time dish. Take Shane’s charcuterie ambitions, add in a couple of heritage Tamworth pork legs from Stillmeadow Farm donated by The Village Butcher and you get how I found myself standing in a windowless cooler watching a man cut a leg off a pig carcass with a hacksaw.


Much like how Champagne can only come from one specific area of France, many types of salumi have PGI status: Protected Geographical Indication. The story goes that in 1510 the city-fortress of Mirandola in the province of Modena was under siege from Pope Julius II. In order to use up every part of the few remaining pigs, a chef inside the walls used the full leg and trotter as sausage casing. This unique preparation, zampone, outlived the ill-fated townsfolk, who were overrun by the papal army in 1511.

The first step was to hollow out the legs by sliding a knife around the hock up to the knuckle joint, then pulling the meat and deboning it. We put that in a grinder along with some pork rind and fat. After grinding, we added some northern Italian seasonings: garlic cloves, cinnamon, black pepper and salt, then stuffed it inside the hollowed-out legs.


Our next goal was getting ahold of some butcher twine and a needle so we could hold the ends shut. Capital Iron surrendered the twine and allowed Shane to pick up a new pot, big enough to fit both of our legs (the pig legs, that is.) Beehive Wool Shop sold us a single sharp needle, and then we dropped by Olive the Senses to meet with our friend Mike Ireland. Mike recommended their dark balsamic to garnish the sausage. For the lentil side dish we were making, Mike recommended some Hojiblanca extra virgin olive oil and Pinot Noir wine vinegar. “The Hojiblanca from Spain is pretty amazing; Spain is kind of taking the world by storm in the olive oil industry,” said Mike. “It’s incredibly well-balanced, and though it’s one of the more mild blends of olive oil, it is incredibly flavourful.”


We sewed up the ends, pierced the skin of the sausage in several places to allow air and steam to escape, then poached them with some onions and carrots around 140º for an hour and a half until the skin was soft. After that, it was into the oven at 450º for 30–45 minutes until the skin was crispy. Meanwhile, we cooked up the lentils by simmering them for 40–45 minutes in the stock.

Finally, just as it was getting dark, we sliced our zampone into roundels and plated it with the balsamic drizzled overtop. We drained the lentils and tossed them with the red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt, then broke out the remnants of a six-pack of Lonetree Cider. As we were spooning out the lentils, the clouds that had been threatening rain all day burst open in a classic display of Victoria weather. With the streaming comfort food on our plates and the warmth of good company, it was a little taste of Christmas in April.


Written By:

Vancouver-born photographer, writer and designer Sol Kauffman has had his hands dirty in restaurant kitchens for years, washing dishes and slinging pizzas. In 2008 he moved to Victoria to pursue a BFA in Creative Writing at UVic ...

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