Lunch Meat of the Week – Mortadella

November 15, 2018 at 6:02 AM | Posted in Lunch Meat of the Week | Leave a comment
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Mortadella Bologna

Mortadella (Italian pronunciation: [mortaˈdɛlla]) is a large Italian sausage or luncheon meat (salume [saˈluːme]) made of finely hashed or ground, heat-cured pork, which incorporates at least 15% small cubes of pork fat (principally the hard fat from the neck of the pig). Mortadella is a product of Bologna, Italy. It is flavored with spices, including whole or ground black pepper, myrtle berries, and pistachios.

Traditionally, the pork filling was ground to a paste using a large mortar (mortaio [morˈtaːjo]) and pestle. Two Roman funerary steles in the archaeological museum of Bologna show such mortars. Alternatively, according to Cortelazzo and Zolli Dizionario Etimologico della Lingua Italiana 1979-88, mortadella derives its name from a Roman sausage flavored with myrtle in place of pepper.

The Romans called the sausage farcimen mirtatum (myrtle sausage), because the sausage was flavored with myrtle berries, a popular spice before pepper became available to European markets. Anna Del Conte (The Gastronomy of Italy 2001) found a sausage mentioned in a document of the official body of meat preservers in Bologna dated 1376 that may be mortadella.

Mortadella originated in Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna; elsewhere in Italy it may be made either in the Bolognese manner or in a distinctively local style. The mortadella of Prato is a

Mortadella Bologna IGP from Italy

Tuscan speciality flavored with pounded garlic and colored with alchermes. The mortadella of Amatrice, high in the Apennines of northern Lazio, is unusual in being lightly smoked. Because it originated in Bologna, this contributed to the naming of the American sausage meat “bologna”.

Mortadella is very popular in Spain and Portugal, where a variety with pepper and olives is widely consumed, especially in sandwiches. In eastern Spain, the standard mortadella is often referred to as mortadela italiana (Italian mortadella), to differentiate it from a local variant named catalana.

Mortadella is also very popular in Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and Venezuela, thanks to the Italian immigrants who settled in these countries in the early 20th century. In these countries it is spelled mortadela, and its recipe is quite similar to the traditional Italian, with additional pepper grains.

In Brazil, São Paulo has a very popular mortadela sandwich sold in the Mercado Municipal.

In Puerto Rico, “smoked mortadella” is sometimes confused with commercial salami, or with salami cotto, because cafeterias, panaderias, colmados, and restaurants buy the bulk of whole smoked mortadella. While salami may contain pork, beef, veal and small pieces of fat uniformly distributed within the sausage, mortadella has the traditional larger chunks not so uniformly distributed. Its diameter is much larger than that of hard salami and more closely resembles salami cotto (cooked) in size, hence the confusion of some people. It is smaller in diameter than the traditional mortadella de Bologna because the smoking process causes some shrinkage. It is best served at room temperature to bring out its rich flavor.

Mortadella with olives from Portugal

A similar commercial sausage product that omits the cubes of pork fat, called bologna, is popular in the United States. A variety that includes olives and pimento is called olive loaf.

Mortadella was banned from import into the United States from 1967 to 2000 due to an outbreak of African swine fever in Italy. This ban was a pivotal part of the plot of the 1971 film La mortadella starring Sophia Loren. The title for the United States release was Lady Liberty.

The ban in the United States was lifted due to the Veterinary Equivalency Agreement that allowed countries to export products that had been shown to be disease-free as part of an overall agreement that would allow products deemed safe in the United States to be exported to the European Union.

 

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