Stuart Forster interviews Carlo Mazzarella about the Melbourne Salami Festa, a sausage festival and celebration of Italian heritage in Australia.
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Melbourne Salami Festa
The Melbourne Salami Festa is a sausage festival held in Thornbury, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia.
was a co-founder of the event, along with Marco Finanzio. In this interview, Carlo discussed the origins of the event and why the Melbourne Salami Festa is held.
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 on 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,” said 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,” added the event’s co-founder.
Celebrating salami making in Australia
“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,” he recalls.
Yet on the day of the first Melbourne Salami Festa in 2012 almost 2,000 people lined up to get in.
A ticketing system was subsequently introduced so that nobody needed to wait around. The venue, Northcote Town Hall was able to accommodate up to 1,000 people at a time. Consequently, the Melbourne Salami Festa became bigger and better, involving even more members of the city’s communities.
How to make salami
Laymen, though, may not be able to tell apart one spicy sausage from another. So what makes a good salami?
“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 explained.
“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,” added Carlo.
“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 recommended.
The best salamis are judged on their aroma, colour, density and taste. Quality of ingredients plays a key role in impressing the experts who mark Judges’ Choice scorecards.
“The quality of the meat and a well-balanced and evenly cured product, right to the centre,” dictate the colour, explained Marco.
An Australian sausage festival
The density of the salami is down to the sausage 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,” added Marco solemnly.
People from all walks of life have entered the Melbourne Salami Festa.
“The Suburb of Origin 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,” said Marco.
The Melbourne food scene
“Melburnians 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. Melburnians also are mad for sport so the competitive element connects with Melbourne’s sporting nature,” explained the event’s co-founder.
Marco expressed pride in the support and interest in the Melbourne Salami Festa 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,” added Marco about the Melbourne Salami Festa’s broad appeal.
Travel to Melbourne
Emirates, Etihad, Qantas, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines count among the airlines operating flights between London Heathrow and Melbourne Airport.
See the UK Government website for up-to-date travel advice about Australia.
Hotels in Melbourne
Search for hotels in Melbourne via Booking.com:
Books about Salami making
Interested in making salami? You may find the following books useful:
Salami: Practical Science and Processing Technology by Gerhard Feiner:
Find out more about the event on the Melbourne Salami Festa’s website.
Thank you for visiting Go Eat Do and reading this interview about the Melbourne Salami Festa. If you enjoy sausages, you may also appreciate this post about the story of Goan sausage, an Indian delicacy.
Stuart Forster, the author of this post, is an award-winning food and travel writer. Stuart is based in northeast England.
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A version of this post was initially published on Go Eat Do on 7 September 2013.