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Finocchiona: Tuscan Fennel Salami

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Finocchiona, a variation on salami, supposedly 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 and had become fit for the Gods. There are two kinds of finocchiona: sbriciolona, which is very fresh, and something of an acquired taste, akin to fresh sausage, and finocchiona proper, which is firmer. This is a recipe for the latter.


  • Lean Pork (amounts given below)
  • Pork fat
  • Dried fennel seeds
  • Fine-ground Sea Salt
  • Black peppercorns
  • Garlic
  • Chianti Wine
  • A Casing, 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) in diameter


To make a finocchiona weighing 11 pounds (5 k), you'll need 9 pounds (4 k) lean pork (shoulder, loin, ham trimmings, pork chops, etc), 2.2 pounds (1 k) pork fat (from the same cuts that yielded the lean pork will be fine), a casing, 2 teaspoons dried wild fennel seeds (figure a tablespoon if you're using domestic fennel seeds, again dried), 4 1/2 ounces (125 g; you want about 2.5% salt by weight) fine ground sea salt, an ounce (25 g) black peppercorns, half freshly ground, 1 large clove garlic, 1 cup Chianti aged 4-5 years.

Using your standard chopping knife, chop the meat quite finely, first the lean meat and then the fat, and combine them in a bowl (if you feel you must use a grinder you're better off making something else: since pork has a granular texture it will come apart in the grinder, separating into pulp and fiber; the resulting finocchiona will be horrid because it won't be firm).

Grind your garlic clove to a fine paste and combine it with the pepper, fennel, salt, and wine. Mix the seasonings into the meat and work the mixture thoroughly, until it begins to gain a certain degree of cohesion (this will take 10-15 minutes).

Next, take your casing and fill it, tamping the meat down to keep air pockets from forming. Press the filling down from the inside and squeeze down from the outside so as to obtain enough free casing at the top to be able to tie it tightly shut with strong string. To keep air from becoming trapped in the middle layers, puncture the casing uniformly with a fine-pointed tool known as a pettinella (little comb), and continue to press the meat to compact it as much as possible. At this point the casing has to be tightly tied, using the same string used to close off the end, tying both up and down and around.

To season it, put it in a cool (65 F, 18 C) draft-free place. It's vital that it not draw heat during the process, and the ideal thing would be to lay it in hardwood ashes in an isolated part of the cellar far from hot water pipes. It will be ready in about 4 months.

What wine to serve with Finocchiona? Fennel brings out the best in wines, and therefore any good wine will be nice with it. This is, by the way, known to Italian wine merchants, who say "buy with bread, and sell with fennel."

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