Melbourne Salami Festa sausage festival

Stuart Forster looks at the origins of the Melbourne Salami Festa, a sausage festival and celebration of Italian heritage in Victoria, Australia.

The Melbourne Salami Festa is an annual sausage festival held in Victoria, Australia.

Carlo Mazzarella was a co-founder of the event, along with Marco Finanzio, and explains more about the Melbourne Salami Festa.

Making salami in Melbourne

“The festa actually began as a joke between myself and my good friend Marco Finanzio. Years ago Marco was at my parent’s home learning to make salami himself at our annual salami making day. Coming from Italian backgrounds, we knew that families that make their own salami often argue about who makes it better. So we saw an opportunity to create a competition that would settle these arguments and potentially start new ones,” says Carlo.

“We, of course, love salami but, more importantly, the tradition of the making that goes on all across Melbourne in garages and kitchens. It’s an ancient art form that essentially hasn’t changed for thousands of years and in a way is a culinary thread back to the past.

Lots of sausage fun

“We really felt that in addition to the fun of the competition it was important that all these makers were able to come together, share ideas and celebrate their hard work together…We found a venue to host the event and hoped with the families of the competitors coming, plus support from our own friends we’d get maybe around 150 to 200 people. We were shocked on the day of the festa; almost 2,000 people lined up outside to get in!” he recalls.

A ticketing system has been introduced so that nobody needs to hang around this year. Additionally, Northcote Town Hall can accommodate up to a thousand people at a time, so this year’s Melbourne Salami Festa promises to be bigger and better, and involve even more members of the city’s communities.

What makes a good salami?

Laymen, though, may not be able to tell apart one spicy sausage from another. So, then, what makes a good salami?

“A kabana should never get confused with a chorizo or a salami!” laughs Carlo.

“A salami is essentially a pork-based cured product that’s part of the larger salumi family of products. The main character of salami is created in the fermentation and ageing process,” he explains.

“There are many different types of salami and most are differentiated by the cut of meat, how it’s minced or chopped, but mainly it comes down to the ingredients used. Of course there are many different countries in Europe that produce salami in their own style, which gives you the chorizo style from Spain or the French saucisson.”

The essential ingredients of salami

“Pork and salt are the essential ingredients of salami as you can’t make it without them. If you are making salami yourself at home then the best thing is to not use any artificial preservatives,” he recommends.

The best salamis are judged on their aroma, colour, density, aroma and taste. The quality of ingredients will play a key role in impressing the experts who mark the scorecards for the Judges Choice Award.

“The quality of the meat and a well balanced and evenly cured product, right to the centre,” dictate the colour, explains Marco.

Making good salami

The density is down to the maker’s technical quality.

“There are certain points in the process that could affect the density of a salami; from the filling process, to the tying, to the conditions in which the salami is cured. If there are any gaps or holes in your salami it might still taste okay but it’s not perfect,” adds Marco solemnly.

People from all walks of life entered last year and there’s also a second award.

“The Salami Suburb Award is very much like the constructor’s championship in Formula 1. Sure you have your Vettel’s and Hamilton’s who win their individual awards but this award attempts to discover which Melbourne suburb makes the best salami by adding up all the points accumulated in the judging process. It’s really meant to be a fun award and a chance for people of that particular suburb to feel proud about their local community,” says Marco.

Melbourne’s foodie scene

“Melburnian’s love food. We’re known for the quality of our restaurants and foodie culture. Melbourne is a very multicultural city and all the different communities have all added layers to the city’s culinary offerings.  The Melbourne Salami Festa is just another one of those things that make Melbourne the centre of food culture in Australia. Melburnian’s also are mad for sport so the competitive element connects with Melbourne’s sporting nature,” explains the event’s co-founder.

Marco is proud of the support and interest the Melbourne Salami Festa is receiving from local communities.

“The majority of people entering in our first year were families with an Italian background and we had a Hungarian entry and a few Australians of British descent as well. Our aim is to appeal to all nationalities, outside of our Italian roots, and engage all the ethnic communities in Australia that make salami,” says Marco.

More information

Find out more about the event on the Melbourne Salami Festa’s website.

See the Visit Melbourne website for information on attractions in and around Victoria’s capital.

For further travel and tourism related information see the Australia website.

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