Finocchiona: A Tuscan Salame

I sorta kinda cajoled Tara into having the Frittata con Cipolle yesterday morning, which was somewhat unkind of me, as she’s not fond of the texture of cooked eggs. In shopping for ingredients, I thought it would be best to offer something more than simply the onion frittata.

We agreed upon a demi-baguette, an easy enough choice. Some fontinella cheese was also agreed upon. And as we walked to the Deli counter, I saw the perfect choice: Salame.

Now before you get all bent out of shape, “salami” is the plural of “salame”, so I believe I am using the word correctly.

There were all sorts of Italian meats in the deli counter, and lo and behold, right in front was a Finocchiona. I had no idea what that meant.

What I do know is that cured meats are a big deal in Italy. Each region has a cured meat which is particular to that region. Prosciutto is the pride of Parma. Mortodella (from which we get our boloney) comes from Bologna. And finocchiona?

Tuscany…specifically the town of Prato! I had ignorantly stumbled upon the Tuscan Salame.Legend has it that finocchiona owes its origins to a thief at a fair near the town of Prato, who stole a fresh salami and hid it in a stand of wild fennel. When he returned for it, he found it had absorbed the aromas of its hiding place. There are two varieties of finocchiona, sbriciolona, which is very fresh, and something of an acquired taste, akin to fresh sausage, and finocchiona proper, which is firmer, and is what you’re more than likely to find in your local deli.

What comprises finocchiona? Well, fennel we’ve already mentioned (finocchio means ‘fennel’), but it also has been made with peppercorns, garlic, and 4 year-old Chianti (which ensures that it’s a Tuscan Salame).

Finocchiona is a wonderfully full spiced meat. The Chianti within it is apparent, and the fennel gives it that little zing that I like in all of my cured meats. It would make a great antipasti and it’s best sliced not too thinly, served with saltless Tuscan bread.

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