It is salt that gives the name to salumi, Italian cured meats. The Latin salumen means “salty things” and, if in the past it mainly referred to fish, today it is typically used for meat. The preservative properties of salt were already well known in ancient times: it removes free water and regulates fermentation, which – when it comes to meat, matured at the right temperatures and humidity – allows the development of favorable bacteria. Salt and – in some cases – herbs, pepper and other natural spices are normally used to produce Italian cured meats: an abundance of over 700 regional varieties of salumi that pays homage to our rich gastronomic tradition.

Although recent recommendations by the World Health Organization strongly suggest a significant reduction in the salt intake in order to prevent high blood pressure levels, decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases, gastric cancer, obesity, osteoporosis and kidney disease, there is no need to remove salumi from the list of Italian delicacies that we can indulge in. 

In recent decades, Italian cured meats have not only become leaner but have reduced their salt content, thanks to innovations deriving from the genetic selection of pigs, their targeted feeding and new processing and preservation methods. Since 1993 up to today, the presence of salt in some cured meats has fallen by up to 45%. The cured meats with the greatest reduction in salt are rolled pancetta (-47%), San Daniele PDO raw ham (-36%), Modena PGI zampone (-27%), pure pork frankfurters (-21%) and Mortadella di Bologna PGI (-20%)

The reduction of salt used in Italian salumi is due to several factors: the higher quality of the meats (which are now more mature and therefore less rich in water), the improvement of hygienic conditions in farms, the adoption of advanced production techniques to control the drying and maturing periods and to attention paid to the quantity and quality of the spices used. Organic farming, which has been successfully implemented for more than twenty years across the country, has also proven to be of great help in reducing the salt content in salumi.

All in all, there is no need to say no to a delicious Antipasto all’Italiana or, more colloquially, Tagliere di Salumi: a platter literally covered with a spectacular selection of cold cuts. To lower even more the salinity of the cured meats, just add fruit: the water and potassium contained in it favor the elimination of sodium. Imagine prosciutto cotto (cooked ham) and peach, mortadella and pear, salame and kiwi, culatello and figs: possibilities are endless and always very tasty.

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