You say salami, we say salumi.
Cured meats have a long history that dates all the way back to the mid 3rd century B.C. In ancient Rome, Cato the Elder, a military leader, wrote his De Agricutura, a farming manual that kept track of his own methods. His writings included a recipe that called for what we now know to be the curing of ham using salt and air.
Over the years, recipes and processes for cured meats in Italy have grown and varied, and whether you call it salumi (the term for salted and dry-cured meats) or salami (plural for salame, a cured sausage made from ground pork), it’s generally known for one thing: it’s intense, savory flavor.
The Chianti salami and spicy sopressa found in The Italian, one of the newest additions to the Panera menu, are made in the old ways by Volpi Foods, a St. Louis company known for its handcrafted meats and its long history of making Italian-style salumi.
The process begins with ground pork, fat and spices that is encased and hung to dry, then age for anywhere between 4–8 weeks in rooms specially monitored to maintain a specific temperature and humidity. During the drying process, mold grows on the outside of the meat—but before you cringe, this mold plays a very important role.
As the meat dries, moisture moves to the surface and mold grows, covering the outside of the sausage. This mold continues to absorb some of the remaining moisture, while protecting it from photo-oxidation and preventing the fat inside from going bad. Once the process is complete, the mold is removed and you’re left with a unique and savory flavor.
Spicy Hot Sopressa, a type of salame, originated in Northern Italy and is named because it is uniquely seasoned with Calabrian spices, and air-dried—an action that removes pockets of air and moisture and intensifies the meat’s flavor. Its coarse grind of pork gives it a unique texture and appearance as well.
What all the meats on The Italian sandwich have in common is that they adhere to Panera’s clean standards and are made with no artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors or colors from artificial sources, so you can feel good about every savory bite.