Finocchiona, a Tuscan salami flavored with fennel seeds, allegedly 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 quite delicious.
Whether or not the story is apocryphal (it likely is), finocchiona is indeed a wonderful treat. There are two kinds of finocchiona: sbriciolona, which is very fresh, soft, and crumbly and can be spread over bread with a butter knife, and a cured, aged finocchiona, which is firmer. This is a recipe for aged finocchiona.
- 9 pounds/4 kg pork (lean, such as shoulder, loin, ham trimmings, or pork chop)
- 2.2 pounds/1 kg pork fat
- 1 large clove garlic
- 4.5 ounces/125 grams fine sea salt (the salami should be about 2.5% salt by weight)
- 1 ounce/25 grams black peppercorns (divided in half and 0.5 ounces, ground)
- 2 teaspoons dried wild fennel seeds (or 1 tablespoon dried domestic fennel seeds)
- 1 cup Chianti wine (aged 4 to 5 years)Natural sausage casing, 3 to 4 inches/8 to 10 cm in diameter
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 won't be firm).
Pound the garlic clove to a fine paste with a mortar and pestle and combine it with the salt, pepper, fennel, 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 to 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 the salami.
To cure it, place 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 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 your wine with bread, and sell it with fennel."